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Grown Ups 2

Critics of waterboarding say that its results are not conclusive and don’t prove guilt. This is due to an eventual degradation of the recipient’s willpower, to the point where they’re willing to say whatever the torturer wants to hear so they can gain a reprieve from their endless onslaught. It’s a criticism that can be levied at many torture tactics, but if that’s the desired effect, none are as potent as watching “Grown Ups 2.” Halfway through this thing, I was ready to admit guilt to any number of horrible atrocities, just so long as it meant the movie would end. Plainly put, this isn’t just the most unfunny comedy of the year. It’s one of the most unfunny comedies of all time.

While the first movie was certainly no gut buster, it at least had a script. It had a story for the characters to exist in and progress, even if minimally. Conversely, the sequel feels more like a sketch comedy show. It doesn’t have a story so much as it does a series of random encounters that put our characters in allegedly goofy situations. There are unconnected scenes that take place at a ballet recital where the beautiful, big breasted teacher overshadows the children on stage, a female aerobics class where the skeevy janitor pretends to be the instructor and gets the women to perform sexually suggestive maneuvers, a doctor’s office where the “hilarious” payoff results in the doctor pulling out a flask from behind his lab coat, a finale where the old timers face off against an invading frat led by a character IMDB refers to as “Frat Boy Andy” (Taylor Lautner) and more. Quite literally, none of these scenes have anything to do with each other.

Continuing in the tradition of such lowbrow comedies as pretty much any Adam Sandler movie in the last five or six years, “Grown Ups 2” is riddled with potty humor so misguided and poorly delivered that it does a disservice to the values of actual excrement. The very first joke in the movie involves a deer urinating in Lenny’s (Sandler) mouth and it’s all downhill from there. Simulated defecation while standing on a chocolate ice cream machine, actual defecation in a retail store toilet and “burp snarts” (when you start with a burp as a sneeze is coming out, which pushes out a subsequent fart) become the order of the day. And if you don’t find burp snarts funny the first time, you won’t the second time either. Or the third. Or fourth. Or fifth. Or when the film wraps itself up with one, the final joke in a movie so full of scatological humor like this that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the pages of the completed script were accidentally used as toilet paper and the filmmakers couldn’t tell the difference.

When the film can’t find an organic (used in every sense of the word) way to include a pee or poo joke, “Grown Ups 2” reverts to slapstick humor. If your idea of a good time comes from watching people fall over, get hit with any number of odd assortments, accidentally spray pepper spray in their faces and have their crotch eaten by a deer, then this is the movie for you. In particular, Nick Swardson, playing a character imaginatively named Nick, exists solely to inflict harm upon. He takes so much abuse in this movie, I actually felt bad for him. His career has plummeted so far (if you can actually find a peak somewhere, that is), that he is relegated to a literal punching bag, the lowest point of a movie that already sinks so low it passes by the bottom of the barrel and digs a trench under it.

For every joke that delivers the mildest of chuckles (which would total, if my math is correct, one), there are about 150 that are so bad, they actually diminish your faith in humanity, especially if the crowd you’re watching this abomination with is actually laughing. Frankly, if this is what we find funny, there’s no hope for the future of American comedy. With a runtime of an hour and 40 minutes, “Grown Ups 2” is about an hour and 39 minutes too long and is an absolute embarrassment for all involved.

Grown Ups 2 receives an easy 0/5


Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star

Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star looked dreadful. The concept, the trailers and the title character named after his gigantic front teeth promised a worst of the year type of event, but, much to my surprise, it’s not. It’s still a bad movie that I can’t recommend, but the fact that I only partially hated it rather than completely should be seen as a win for Happy Madison Productions.

The story is simple. Bucky (Nick Swardson, who co-wrote the script with Adam Sandler) is a small town Iowa boy who has never had a sexual experience. After discovering that his parents were big porn stars back in the day, he decides to travel to LA and become his own star in nude films. He’s not someone you would expect to be in porn, but his tiny, ahem, asset ends up giving hope to those who watch him. The guys become more confident in their size and the women become happy with what they have. No matter how pathetic their boyfriends are, at least they’re better (and bigger) than Bucky.

As if it needs to be stated after that plot synopsis, Bucky Larson is stupid. There’s no getting around it and no reason to. This movie embraces its inanity, fully aware of what it is. This is seen in one particularly humorous bit where Bucky, having just arrived in LA, buys a water bottle shaped like the Oscar statue and carries it around, framed front and center by the camera. It knows it’s not going to win any awards and mocks itself with this simple shot. Still, moments like this are few and far between; most of the humor is unfunny and juvenile. When the first gag in the movie involves a redneck smearing peanut butter on his testicles for his goats to lick off, you know what you’re about to see is going to be anything but sophisticated.

Much of the supposed humor develops from Bucky’s looks and the verbal abuse he takes from those around him—his buck teeth and bowl haircut open him up to a host of cruelty. Even the most inconsequential side characters who pop up for mere seconds take verbal swings at Bucky, making this one of the most mean spirited movies to be released in some time. The problem is we come to like Bucky. He’s a simpleton, sure, and his innocent ignorance can prove grating, but he’s too happy to hate. His spirits remain high even when things aren’t going his way and when they do, success doesn’t go to his head. He has his priorities straight.

The main priority in question is Kathy (Christina Ricci), a pretty waitress who seems to look past his looks and like him more for what’s on the inside. Ricci oozes loveliness and it’s thanks to her the movie works as well as it does. For what it’s worth, the romance is actually kind of sweet, though unrealistic, and despite following a common and predictable narrative trajectory, the ending is satisfying.

I feel like I’ve praised Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star more than some movies I recommend, but that’s only because this could have been so much worse. It’s still not worth seeing (and with the constant talk of masturbation and dialogue like “twang your wang,” why would you want to?), but it’s not all terrible either. It actually has some heart and an IQ level that isn’t in the negatives. Shocking, I know.

Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star receives 1.5/5