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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: Grown Ups 2

GROWN UPS 2 (Two  Stars)
U. S. Dennis Dugan, 2013


Some movie guys never grow up. But then, why should they, if the audience won’t grow up either? Adam Sandler—the Harold Lloyd of toilet gags, the Buster Keaton of dick jokes—strikes again in Grown Ups 2, a been-there-crapped-that sequel to the astonishingly successful 2010 buddies-gone-wild comedy Grown Ups. In that world wide smash hit, you’ll remember, Sandler played Hollywood superagent Lenny Feder who returned to his New England home  town to hook up again with his best buddies and fellow middle school basketball teammates—smarty-pants Kurt McKenzie (Chris Rock), affable Eric Lamonsoff (Kevin James), sneaky Marcus Higgins (David Spade) and  elusive Rob Hillard (Rob Schneider)  to say goodbye, at a put-the-“fun”-in-funeral service to their beloved recently deceased old coach, and later restage their championship hour of triumph by replaying the team they beat. (Sandler, as I recall, took all the shots.)

Accompanying the guys, occasionally, were their wives—Lenny’s feisty Roxanne (Salma Hayek), Kurt’s talky Deanna (Maya Rudolph), Eric’s tolerant Sally (Maria Bello) and Rob‘s Golden Girl Gloria (Joyce van Patten). Marcus was a bachelor—though sometimes, we learn here, a backsliding one. There were also  numerous children, in-laws, townspeople and other colorful characters, plus a zillion or so jokes, good and bad, from writers Sandler and Fred Wolf and Happy Madison house director Dennis Dugan.

Sandler’s humor is often rough, if a little Jerry Lewis-ishly sentimental by the end, but Grown Ups, which was about infantile guys reliving the past but also growing up a little, was both congenial and even a little sweet—and it mopped up at the box-office, while displeasing many critics (who don’t pay for their tickets anyway), me included. Now comes the sequel—minus Rob Schneider. (I‘m not saying this is a loss comparable to the disappearances of  Richard Castellano and Robert Duvall in the sequels to The Godfather, but Schneider should have done the movie.)

Anyway, they can’t play the big game again, so writers Sandler and Wolf and Tim Herlihy have subbed a battle of the generations between Lenny’s gang and  a bunch of bullying cutie frat boys led by Taylor Lautner in full smirk, plus a big ‘80s nostalgia party, along with comical chases monitored by huge local cop, Officer Fluzoo, played by real-life basketball great Shaquille O’Neal. (The part was written with all the flair with which Shaq once shot free throws.) At the ’80s bash, Lenny dresses up as Bruce Springsteen—and Lautner’s  ab-happy frat pack show up, along with Stone Cold Steve Austin. An unseemly brawl ensues.

In other words, it’s just another silly Sandler movie, with a lot of silly gags about unmentionable body parts and secretions and what Chuck Berry once called “My ding-a-ling”—followed by a nice little bit extolling the virtues of  family life and friendship — when, the way the movie was going, you might have expected a nice little bit extolling the virtues of poo-poo, diddly-dwot and Number Two.

Grown Ups 2 is a movie, after all, that begins with a scene in which Lenny awakens in his halcyon mansion of  a home to the sight of  an elk prowling around his bedroom and eventually whizzing in his face and then running off to wreak more elk havoc. It’s a movie whose the most memorable (unfortunately) gag (and I do mean gag), involves a frozen yogurt guy fixing the chocolate spigot on his machine, but shot at such a suggestive angle that the brown  syrupy substance dribbling past his legs seems to be not chocolate but something else—something that rhymes with pap and Hialeah. This is a movie that actually coins a new word for bodily functions, and a new kind of bodily function: to “burpsnart”—or to burp, sneeze and fart all at the same time. This is a movie where one (secondary) character picks and eats his own belly-button lint. This is a movie where no bodily fluid is sacred, no joke too crass and no breast too big.

Adam Sandler has made his share of bad movies (this one among them). But he’s a funny guy (and so are his friends), with an ingratiating doofus smile that takes the sting our of some of his more sadistic and malodorous gags. I‘m not ashamed to admit that Sandler has occasionally made me laugh and probably will again, even at his bad movies, which are most of them. He’s a rare combination of leading man and doofus, stud and stooge, as if Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis had been cloned or mind-melded together. And his movies tend to be sports, show biz, buddy and/or sex fantasies with good cinematography (Theo van de Sande here), which is why audiences, especially male audiences, respond to them. But his shows too often soar off into silliness, and they also tend to wear on you. (Exceptions: Punch Drunk Love, The Wedding Singer, Funny People.)

Recently he’s become one of the more reliable bêtes noire for movie reviewers—attacked for his infantile jokes and general tastelessness. It’s almost become a cliché, but  if he really wanted to seal the deal for the bad review crown, he ought to team up with Michael Bay. Think of it: They could contrive a horror movie, where Sandler and his buddies ran around pursuing women with big mammaries while huge monstrous erector set robot toys, who are mysteriously capable of massive burpsnarting and sharfpiddling and boogerbucking, march into some poor city, probably New York again, and proceed to barf and crap and pick their noses over everybody and everything, while telling awful jokes and eating belly-button lint. Now there’s a movie that would really generate active hostility in the audience—and maybe inspire a lot of reviews full of really bad jokes.

Meanwhile we can only wait and anticipate the inevitable “Grown Ups 3: The Beginning,” in which a band of insane movie moguls invade Lenny’s town, kidnap him and his friends and forcibly chain them into huge cribs and huge malfunctioning diapers—while outside Rob Schneider rises from the dead, zombified and runs amok, demanding his part back. I don’t actually believe anyone would make a picture like that, but these days, you never know. This is the End? Anyway, who cares? It’s all just a lot of  bullsharfart. Or elk doody.

Other ratings:

PACIFIC RIM (Three Stars)
U. S.: Guillermo del Toro, 2013

THE HUNT (Four Stars)
Sweden/Denmark: Thomas Vinterberg, 2013

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon