by David Cornelius
I missed the chance to review “Grandma’s Boy” while it played in theaters for a few weeks in January; it was unscreened for critics, and I wasn’t about to plunk down the ten bucks to play catch up. I did, however, get to see “The Benchwarmers,” a dreadful comedy from the same folks released a few months later. My critique of that movie got its co-writer/co-star, Nick Swardson, to write a deliriously snippy email to me (the report on it can be found elsewhere on this site), so when the opportunity arose to take a glance at “Grandma’s Boy” in honor of its unrated DVD release, how I could I resist?My wife wondered why I’d bother - it’s just asking for more trouble, she’d say. Fellow critic Scott Weinberg chimed in with a warning, calling it an unwatchable mess, one that makes “Benchwarmers” look like the original “Bad News Bears,” if I recall his comparison correctly. “Stay away” was the caveat of choice from everyone I knew unlucky enough to have seen it. “Oh, come on,” I’d reply. “How bad could it possibly be?”
"Finally, a comedy for people who don't like to laugh!"
You have to be careful when you make a comment like that, because life has a way of playing gotcha! with your understatements. For “Grandma’s Boy” isn’t so much a movie as it is a clumsy bundle of ineptly written situations and unbearably stupid clichés. It’s the kind of movie that looks like it was written in one booze- and pot-filled evening, with jokes that would only appeal to those writing them at four in the morning. Nothing in this film makes the least amount of sense. There’s no flow, no logic, no basic understanding of the general rules of comedy. It’s as if you sat down with a room full of retarded monkeys, told them the basics of a few lousy T&A stoner comedies of the 1980s, and then asked them to write a new one.
In this case, the retarded monkeys are Allen Covert, best known for cameos and uninteresting second banana roles in every Adam Sandler movie ever made; Swardson, the stand-up comic best known for his performance as “Gay Prostitute” on “Reno 911!;” and Barry Wernick, who is not best known for anything, although he was once a writer for the weak NBC sitcom “Boston Common,” if that tells you anything. Also along for the ride is Nicholaus Goossen, who rose from being Sandler’s gopher to directing this, a movie which was probably made just so Covert would stop pestering Sandler about making this “awesome” movie he has in mind.
Their premise is simple: a 36-year-old loser gets kicked out of his apartment and must live with his grandmother and her two roommates. The intended comedy, then, comes from him having to adjust his party lifestyle to the world of the Golden Girls. If you think that’s not really enough to carry a feature length movie, you’d be right. The writers know this, so they don’t make their movie about this at all, really. Oh, there are some jokes about granny learning to play violent Xbox games, or old women accidentally getting stoned (how clever!) and throwing a wild party, but not much else. For the most part, the 36-year-old loser (played by Covert, in the role he was born to fill, I suppose) is barely seen at his grandma’s house, and grandma is seldom part of the plot.
So how else can the gang fill 90 minutes? How about making the loser work for a video game company, so we can get long, clunky scenes of him at work? (Because hey, there’s nothing more fun that watching two guys play video games while other people stand around and yell a lot!) Still not enough? OK, how about there being a new woman at work, who can fall in love with the loser? Or, hey, how about this: the loser has a dorky rival who steals his idea? Yeah, that’ll fill a few minutes. And why not whip up a torturously unfunny party scene that can go on, like, forever? Hmm? What’s that? Peter Dante wants to be in the movie as a lame-brained, often naked pot dealer? Sure - but make sure we call his character “Dante,” or he won’t be able to figure out what’s happening on the set. Oh! David Spade called up and said he wants a cameo, so let’s write a scene where everybody goes to a health food restaurant, and Spade can be an offensive gay stereotype! Who cares if it doesn’t fit in anywhere? Making fun of them queers is heeelarious!
Sigh. “Grandma’s Boy” comes across like random scenes from seven or eight other unfunny movies, all mixed together with no effort to connect. Not even characters have any cohesion: the nerdy friend played by Swardson is, depending on the scene, either a soft-voiced virgin who still acts like he’s in grade school, a potty-mouthed jerk who loves tossing vulgar insults at everyone he sees, or a smarmy Ryan Reynolds type who laces every word with heavy sarcasm. It’s as if Swardson couldn’t decide what to do with the character, so he just did everything, and screw it if it doesn’t make any sense. Heck, sometimes he actually switches between the character types mid-sentence. Huh?
That said, at least he’s slightly less annoying than Covert, who’s so uncharismatic, so obnoxious, so lacking in the basic understanding of comic timing, that we understand why he has to get his buddy Sandler to give him work.
“Grandma’s Boy” is such a cheap comedy that the writers actually resort to having a character fart whenever they run out of jokes. And when that fails, they just point the camera at the cast as they light up and act stoned - no jokes added, just shots of actors being high, sometimes with a stripper in the background. Did they forget that few things are as unenjoyable as watching other people party? (Wait, one thing is: watching other people play video games. We get an awful lot of this, especially at the end, when we’re offered a video game contest that mimics the ski races that would wrap up such titles as “Hot Dog: The Movie.”)
But that’s what you get when you decide to film the first draft, I suppose. I actually felt sorry for the supporting cast - Doris Roberts, Shirley Jones, Shirley Knight, Linda Cardellini, all talented performers wasted on the dopiest of one-dimensional material and hackneyed almost-jokes. Heck, I’ll even toss a little sympathy to the likes of Kevin Nealon, who’s forced to retread his now-tired mellow New Age schtick.
No pity, however, is given to Covert, Swardson, Dante, Wernick, and Goossen, who together make the sloppiest, laziest, most incompetent comedy I’ve seen in a very long time. (And I’ve seen “Are We There Yet?,” “Boat Trip,” “Tomcats,” and “Freddy Got Fingered.”) These guys make zero effort in creating actual jokes - and when they do, it’s always the cheapest, blandest way possible, often forgetting that being vulgar and gross alone isn’t humorous, that you have to actually add comedy to the mix to make it work.
So yeah. I should’ve listened to everyone who told me to stay away. This is an awful, awful, awful movie.A note on the “unrated” edition: I didn’t see a single thing here that might have been viewed as “too extreme for theaters.” It’s likely that someone got paid a little extra to edit back in at random a few of the lame jokes that were originally cut, just so the studio could slap an “unrated” label on it and con a few more dick-and-fart-joke fans into forking over fifteen bucks at the local Target. The DVD is kind enough to include both the new edit and the original R-rated theatrical version, although the idea of owning two copies of “Grandma’s Boy” makes me throw up in my mouth a little.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=13713&reviewer=392
originally posted: 05/07/06 08:28:20