REVIEW: Grandma’s Boy [2006]

Score: 6/10 | ★ ★ ½

Rating: R | Runtime: 94 minutes | Release Date: January 6th, 2006 (USA)
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Director(s): Nicholaus Goossen
Writer(s): Barry Wernick and Allen Covert & Nick Swardson

“Sweetie, don’t curse. You’re better than that.”

Looking at the list of films Happy Madison Productions has made since 2006, I can honestly say dramatic oddities Reign Over Me and Funny People prove to be the only entries more watchable than the unbridled insanity of Grandma’s Boy. And this is coming from someone who ignored the comedy for six years before watching it less than a week after the excruciatingly horrible That’s My Boy almost forced me to swear off Adam Sandler‘s shingle once and for all. It’s stupid, crude, obnoxious, and utterly pointless, but it never attempts to be anything more. With a climactic scene pitting a senior citizen against a leather jacket-clad über nerd inside a brutally violent Xbox videogame titled Demonik, it’s easy to realize fun was the ultimate goal. Too bad Sandler’s production company has tried too hard recently to give its mindless entertainment vehicles sad excuses for plot.

The debut from director Nicholaus Goossen—a Sandler staple helming music videos and website shorts—the film is pretty much a glorified excuse for friends to laugh in front of the camera in hopes an audience will too. Written by Barry Wernick and lead actors Allen Covert and Nick Swardson, Grandma’s Boy becomes the showcase for Sandler to expose his fans to the humorous antics that made these boys a part of his entourage and background cast members in the Happy Madison universe. Covert is a regular of ex-frat brother Sandler’s features—Happy Gilmore‘s homeless caddy and The Wedding Singer‘s best friend/Michael Jackson wannabe amongst others—while Swardson befriended the comedian when cast in his music video for “Secret”, (directed by Goossen), after Adam saw Nick’s 2001 Comedy Central special. Neither had yet been given the opportunity to carry a film on their own.

Taking place inside the world of videogame testing, Alex (Covert) and Jeff (Swardson) spend their days with a controller in hand to either help fix programming bugs or eviscerate their young coworkers in whatever game they’re challenged to play. The ‘grey bushes’ of the office, both languish within their fantasy job by more or less being the stereotypical geeks we assume those who play games all day would be. Alex, recently got evicted from his apartment after learning his friend spent the last six rent checks on hookers, grossly ruins his chance of crashing with Jeff and his ‘roommates’—Mom and Dad—through a masturbatory mishap. Relegated to taking his Grandma Lilly’s (Doris Roberts) offer of a room alongside her elderly friends, Alex does his best to shield this latest hiccup in life by telling his fellow gamers he’s shacked up with three wild and crazy girls.

Once household chores and a six o’clock alarm drain him of the energy necessary to finish getting the company’s newest game into production and not sleep at work, Jeff, Barry (Jonah Hill), and Kan (Kelvin Yu) begin to idolize his tiring libido. Add the desire to date new production manager, Samantha (Linda Cardellini), and you know it’s only a matter of time before Alex’s ruse ends. Until then, however, we can bask in the fantastic lifestyle-based humor on behalf of Grandma Lilly, senile Bea (Shirley Knight), and feisty Grace’s (Shirley Jones) exposure to cable TV’s “Antiques Roadshow”; the hazy existence of drug dealer Dante (Peter Dante) and his cravings for a wild jungle pet; the earthy eccentricity of boss Mr. Cheezle (Kevin Nealon) adding some vegan flavor; and the schizophrenic robot-voiced J.P. (Joel David Moore) taking socially awkward to brand new levels.

Grandma’s Boy is all about the characters. They come and go with differing frequency but never waste an opportunity for laughs when onscreen. Jokes like Jeff’s room being a ten-year old boy’s may be obvious and easy, but Swardson’s deadpan reactions are not. These comedians exist in a silly world yet traverse it with an authenticity of self-parody because they understand the insanity around them. Alex, Jeff, and Samantha mock J.P. and Mr. Cheezle as much as we do and the fact Abdoulaye NGom appears as though transported from Africa onto Dante’s couch isn’t lost on anyone. The lead characters riff on the awkwardly strange that become the default ‘antagonists’ of a film without a need for villains. No one’s trying to save the world here—they just want to smoke weed, get laid, and have as much fun as possible in the process.

Speaking of marijuana, the comedy reaches its peak once Roberts, Knight, and Jones accidentally brew some leaves. These three pull no punches through giddy laughter and fantastic prop work as they drink hard, crush cans, and put the moves on the ‘young studs’ partying in their house. A highlight where the relationship between Alex and Samantha is concerned too, this party gets the whole gang together and lets them go wild devoid of workplace constraints. Probably seeming like a changing of the comedy guard upon release, Cardellini on the karaoke machine, Hill on a prostitute’s chest, and Dante constantly adding pigtails to his hair are all more memorable than throwaway cameos from “SNL” alums Rob Schneider and David Spade. Besides Hill, though, the others continue to remain in Hollywood’s background while washed up familiar faces rule.

I’m not saying someone like Covert is an acting genius, but he definitely has appeal and shows some nicely light and sarcastic chemistry with the cute Cardellini. Nick Swardson has found himself a niche at present; the resulting overexposure just may not be the best thing for his brand of comedy. Whether they somehow find a way to top it or not, though, they’ll always have the legacy of Grandma’s Boy. Showing how star-power isn’t what makes these stupid comedies successful, comedic gold is earned through fun writing, a visible onscreen rapport, and actors willing to go for broke. Never to be seen as more than a guilty pleasure, such a label is not meant as a slight. It should be worn as a badge of honor.

[1] Alex (Allen Covert) and Dante (Peter Dante). TM and © 2005 Level 1 Entertainment LLC. All rights reserved.
[2] Kane (Kelvin Yu), Barry (Jonah Hill), Dante (Peter Dante), and Dr. Shakalu (Abadoulaye N’Gom) enjoy the party. Photo Credit: Darren Michaels. TM and © 2005 Level 1 Entertainment LLC. All rights reserved.
[3] Alex (Allen Covert) and Samantha (Linda Cardellini). Yu), Barry (Jonah Hill), Dante (Peter Dante), and Dr. Shakalu (Abadoulaye N’Gom) enjoy the party. Photo Credit: Darren Michaels. TM and © 2005 Level 1 Entertainment LLC. All rights reserved.

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