REVIEW: Bad Grandmas [2017]

Score: 3/10 | ★


Rating: NR | Runtime: 92 minutes | Release Date: November 10th, 2017 (USA)
Studio: Parade Deck Films / WOWNow Entertainment
Director(s): Srikant Chellappa
Writer(s): Srikant Chellappa & Jack Snyder

“I’m nervous like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs”

Writer/director Srikant Chellappa and co-writer Jack Snyder aren’t fooling around when it comes to Bad Grandmas. We don’t meet their senior citizens as innocent grannies playing Rummy before watching them turn “bad.” No, Mimi (Florence Henderson) walks into Jim’s (David Wassilak) place of work, waits for the only other employee in the office to leave, and confronts him with gun drawn. Whether or not the trigger depresses accidentally, no tears are shed. Mimi is stone cold, chiding her victim for his role in his own murder before calling her BFFs to dispose of the body. And do they protest getting drawn into this ordeal? Nope. Virginia (Sally Eaton) wears a look of disgust, but she, Coralee (Pan Grier), and Bobbi (Susie Wall) follow their homicidal friend’s every word.

It’s an interesting way to tell this type of story because it ensures we have no sympathy for the women involved. Sure Bobbi is about to have her home taken away (Jim was her deceased daughter’s husband and therefore inherited the deed) and Mimi is merely trying to help, but I personally couldn’t care less about what happened to either without them showing one iota of remorse. The “Bad” of the title isn’t about crudeness a la Dirty Grandpa or Bad Moms—two recent films this romp seeks to piggyback. This “Bad” is pure psychopathic evil. One murder opens a flood gate to more as their solution to remaining out of jail hinges upon them killing anyone else that knows just a little bit of their unforgivable truth.

Luckily for them everyone else in this sleepy town is a moron. Whether it’s the detective assigned the case (Randall Batinkoff‘s oblivious with unearned confidence Randall Mclemore), his partner/lapdog William (Brian Jun), or Miriam Parrish‘s Ava (Virginia’s daughter for whom Mimi is quick to mock as a simpleton), these “grandmothers” (we never learn if Coralee actually has grandchildren and assume Bobbi doesn’t since she was ok disposing of the dead body that was her phantom grandkid’s last surviving parent) are untouchable intellectually. It would be one thing to let their assumed docility courtesy of arthritis and dementia achieve favor, but Randall senses something amiss from the start and simply proves too stupid to fit the pieces together. Chellappa and Snyder happily write their characters as stereotypical hicks.

The result is an at-times modestly funny and always inanely exploitative yarn for audiences that feed on gags. It could be the not so far-fetched to actually be hilarious idea that senior citizens would smoke marijuana for a buzz—complete with two-minute interlude of toke-induced giggles as local teen rolls joints despite life or death drama circling. It could be the misogynistic way that Ava’s sole purpose onscreen is to be a horny single mother trying to get the hot cowboy detective to stay when Mimi et al pray he’ll leave. Or how about the aforementioned teen laughing at these technologically challenged women because they don’t know a flash drive’s main function is to record video? (Sorry pothead, it isn’t. That’s its main function within the plot, not reality.)

Grier is a non-entity. Wall is tied up for a majority of the runtime. And Eaton is always shown as skeptical despite never even attempting to be a moral compass the others can either follow or ignore. Bad Grandmas is full of tiny details like this that go nowhere as though the filmmakers’ script had a deeper narrative they ultimately pared down into the uninspired, clichéd-ridden movie making its theatrical rounds. There’s one exchange wherein someone drops a bombshell about another’s death not being an accident only to never hear mention of it again. Was this an emotionally driven motivation Chellappa and Snyder forgot to scrub upon realizing they were moving to easy laughs instead of melodrama? Was it a hateful lie to earn a reaction? Who knows?

My assumption is they forgot to scrub it, much like a subplot involving Mimi and her estranged daughter Lisa (Jilanne Marie Klaus). They don’t speak anymore because the former was too much of a coward to stand up for the latter against an abusive ex-husband. We see a glimpse of this early, mostly forgetting it because the filmmakers do too until the end. The result of this arc makes it seem like the murders, blackmail, and shootouts were actually positive things that worked to empower Mimi and break her from a non-confrontational shell. Again, this would play if we ever saw her as non-confrontational. Meeting her with a gun in-hand and then watching as she excitedly devolves into a monster means this wannabe heartfelt evolution is rendered false.

The film therefore has one thing going for it: Judge Reinhold. Sadly his success is less about his character than his being cast against type. His role is Harry Lovelace, a badass ex-con bookie who becomes the main antagonist. The character isn’t flawlessly written or uproariously funny, but having Judge Reinhold as the impatient heavy barking orders to kill everyone in his way is highly enjoyable. He isn’t playing the part ironically; his good-guy doofy nature makes the part ironic. And for that I laughed a couple times. Pitting him against Henderson—herself a typecast goody-two-shoes courtesy of “The Brady Bunch”—is an appealing maneuver. I doubt Henderson ever thought her last film would be one where she plays a trigger-happy octogenarian without conscience.

But she did and this is. That type of legacy should give Chellappa’s comedy some appeal even if audiences seeing it to say goodbye probably will hate that it’s her finale. I guess one consolation should be that she looks as though she’s having a blast in the bossy role, telling everyone what to do while letting impulse rule the day. Mimi doesn’t earn the redemption she receives, but at least we get to hear Henderson swear with flowery Southern charm in the process. Anyone would be hard-pressed not to smile when anger pushes her character to say, “That just dills my pickle.” And while it wasn’t enough to hold my interest, I’m sure it will be for those who watched the trailer and legitimately sought out more.


photography:
[1] Florence Henderson in Bad Grandmas (2017)
[2] Pam Grier, Florence Henderson, Sally Eaton, and Susie Wall in Bad Grandmas (2017)
[3] Randall Batinkoff, Sally Eaton, Miriam Parrish, and Susie Wall in Bad Grandmas (2017)

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