If you’re wondering why I would even bother to review this movie, then you haven’t been listening to The Worst Idea of All Time podcast. Which you should because it’s so damn funny. The hosts, Guy and Tim, are watching Grown Ups 2 every week for a year, analyzing the movie, and slowly going insane.
After listening to 40 episodes in the last week, I bit the bullet and finally watched it. Here are my thoughts, my absolutely dead-serious, not at all tongue-in-cheek thoughts.
This is Sandler’s foray into experimental filmmaking. He’s in unchartered territory and in over his head, but you have to admire the bravery– he’s experimenting with anti-narrative and anti-humor but packaged in a completely commercial vehicle (even the excess of product placement is a joke in itself).
Look at the hard, unmotivated cuts, the unexplained actions, the furious randomness of the whole thing. He’s trying to tell us something about the world–something that he tried to tell us (presumably, I haven’t watched it) in Grown Ups that we just didn’t listen to.
And the joke is on us–he set out to break the comedy genre and the expectations around it and then was squarely rewarded for it, for all the wrong reasons. If that’s not a meta-commentary on our society, then I don’t know what is. This is not a man failing at comedy, this is a man asking the question “why is comedy?”
The obvious comparison is Godard’s Weekend. A non-linear or non-existent plot. Unmotivated cuts. Bizarre, unintelligible characters. Violence without motivation or consequences. Horrific accidents that happen for no reason, with no effect on the plot and no empathy evoked.
The climactic party scene, with all its fantastical elements (Shaq’s blue pee, a dog bonging a beer, and the surreal violence to name a few) and characters in costume, is a clear nod to Weekend’s fantastical use of famous historical figures showing up in the woods.
Let’s delve into the big party scene. It has all the trappings of a major climax–action, noise, excitement, proximity to the chronological end of the movie. But it’s a cargo cult, it’s empty. You think this is a failure of execution but no, you’re dead wrong. It’s exactly what the film calls for–an anti-climax, a charade. It’s as if to say “this is not a traditional story! look how empty it is!” And you, by not seeing it, are empty too.
Which brings us to the question: is Sandler content with genre-bending or is he actually trying to say anything? I say yes. The film wrestles with (sometimes literally) the changing notions of masculinity, sex roles, father- and motherhood, and the sometimes heartbreaking struggle of children trying to grow up with well-meaning but obviously not-up-to-the-task parenting. If anyone is going to deliver that message and get people to listen, it has to be Sandler himself, the poster child (no pun intended) for men-children everywhere.
In this case, the title says it all: Grown Ups 2. It’s about adults in America and the prognosis is not good. Perhaps the surgeon does not wield the knife with skill, but he surely sees that the patient is sick.
The fight scene at the party really brings this home. The only character who fits the “real man” archetype, Tommy Cavanaugh (played by Steve Austin), chooses to sublimate his raw physical strength to make the man-child (Lenny Feder/Adam Sandler) feel better about himself. But it’s a sacrifice he makes not for Feder, but for his children.
And so here we have masculinity turned on its head– the dumb meathead is the only man who in the end actually A) thinks more than 5 minutes into the future and B) is willing to sacrifice anything for a child–in his case, it’s his entire identity sacrificed for the sake of another parent’s child.
Not only would none of the other adults in the movie make this sacrifice, the thought would not even occur to them.
He called you out, parents, and not only did you hand him a pile of money, you brought your kids. You think they’re laughing at a guy who burps, farts, and hiccups at the same time. But they’re laughing at you.
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