Spoiler alert: the very last joke of “Grown Ups 2” involves a character passing gas on Salma Hayek. This is Salma Hayek, one of the great actresses of international cinema, a global star in multiple languages, one of the most beautiful women in the world, and an Oscar nominee. This is Salma Hayek, who has served on the Cannes jury and has produced and starred in several boundary-crossing Spanish language films, where her consistency has become almost taken for granted. And here she is, in “Grown Ups 2,” where she exists in order to model low-cut trash fashion that spotlights her chest, and then eat a mouthful of flatulence as the final punchline to a vanity project by some of our most famous, laziest American comedians. This is the way our film culture ends: not with a whimper, but with a fart.
Somehow, director Dennis Dugan and the Adam Sandler team have managed to make a non-movie that plumbs even further depths than the original “Grown Ups.” This sequel is even more plot-less, even more conflict-less, even more, more, more, of less, less, less. It is the perfect realization of a comedy desert, an endless path of jokes, and nary a laugh to be found, most of them centered around sub-Benny Hill ogling of women and repeated moments of pooping children and vomiting adults. Basically, it’s a film made for brainless grunts who like to hang out all day making sub-literate jokes about boobs and gays while watching the game. No wonder the first movie was such a success.
With the exception of Rob Schneider (who must have died in between films in a boating mishap so horrifying no one ever talks about him), the whole gang is back, and they’re welcoming former visiting Los Angeles citizen Lenny (Sandler) back home to the suburbs. This entry seems focused on the more mundane aspects of the characters’ lives, specifically centered around their children beginning to grow up, facing the same issues the gang encountered in their youth. Judging by the advice they pass down, and how it benefits the kids, this gang must have had the easiest collective childhood in the world: every problem each child encounters is miraculously fixed thanks to random last minute interventions. “Grown Ups 2” might have the greatest absence of tension of any studio film made in the last twenty years, as our heroes never once fall prey to indecision or fear, and generally get their way, even when their disapproving, nagging (but stunningly gorgeous) wives get in the way.
Because someone needs to get in the way of someone else, a dispute is invented out of thin air, a territorial tussle with the local frat boys who claim the land because frat boys are always yelling and pounding chests. Taylor Lautner, who spreads doubt that he’s in on the joke, leads this crowd with a series of flexing postures and acrobatic flips that suggest seizing the opportunity to show off his physicality to all the producers in Hollywood who missed out on “Abduction,” which was once a thing that happened. The men dodder after their young brood and wax nostalgic, but when it comes time to throw down with kids only slightly younger, this group has no qualms about throwing a few elbows and delivering hits that would cause brain damage in any other film. Sandler movies: teaching an entire generation that not only can you punch your way out of problems, but it will also be funny!
There’s a point to be made about these guys being over-the-hill and no-longer-with-it, especially as they have second guesses about throwing a massive third act party centered around '80s fashion. Of course, this isn’t a compelling question because it’s not a question: these guys are desperately boring. Eric (Kevin James) has a vice that essentially finds him skipping out on his wife to spend time with his sweet elderly mother. Kurt (Chris Rock) celebrates a newfound marital freedom by drinking non-diet Pepsi. And Higgins (David Spade), the noted lady-killer of the bunch, just seems to follow the entire group around like a lapdog, which proves beneficial when they go to their local hangout: not a bar, not a lake, not even a church, but a goddamned K-Mart.