In "Grown Ups 2," Adam Sandler returns as Lenny Feder, a successful Hollywood agent who moves back to his small hometown to raise a family and hang out with old friends. Like the first movie in 2010, the sequel is selling a combination of comfy-cozy Americana, broad humor and nostalgia. It all seems well-intentioned enough. So why does "Grown Ups 2" feel so relentlessly unpleasant?
The talent is certainly here. Reprising their roles are Kevin James as amiable Eric Lamonsoff, Chris Rock as cable-installer Kurt McKenzie and David Spade as still-partying Marcus Higgins. The jokes tackle seemingly can't-miss topics like spouses, jobs and children. But something is missing. I mean aside from Rob Schneider, who played a serial divorcé in the first film. And aside from a script. And aside from respect for women (Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph and Salma Hayek, as various wives, all jiggle and wiggle.) What "Grown Ups 2" is missing is a heart.
For all its warm and fuzzy notions of family and community, "Grown Ups 2," directed by longtime Sandler cohort Dennis Dugan, has a desperate reliance on nasty jokes about pee, poo and -- with surprising frequency -- gay panic. The film opens with a deer urinating on Lenny, moves on to a chocolate ice-cream gag (Colin Quinn returns as soft-serve peddler Dickie Bailey) and repeatedly shoves straight male faces into same-sex genitalia. Nick Swardson, a highly unwelcome addition, plays a mentally ill bus driver who tongue kisses a dog.
When the movie succeeds, it's in small ways that only make the larger picture seem dimmer. Taylor Lautner, shedding his sulky "Twilight" persona, is a bright spot as a hopped-up frat-boy; Shaquille O'Neal is appealing as a fun-loving police officer; and Rock's lazy cable-guy ("some time between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.") scores.
Steve Austin, as former bully Tommy Cavanaugh, is the unlikely source of the only glimmer of genuine emotion. For one funny, touching moment, "Grown Ups 2" feels like the movie it could have been.
PLOT A sequel to Adam Sandler’s 2010 hit about old friends who never change (PG-13)
CAST Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade
BOTTOM LINE Lots of below-the-waist humor, but very few laughs, in this uninspired retread