Movie review: ‘Grandma’s Boy’

I hadn’t planned to review “Grandma’s Boy” because it is an out-and-out stoner film – and pretty much glorifies marijuana. However, since I bent to the inevitable and reviewed “Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay” recently (click here to read it), I thought, “what the heck,” and I’d visit “Grandma’s Boy.” Well, today’s the day. It’s a truly funny film – albeit a bad one – and you might overlook the drug content and just enjoy the humor. “Grandma’s Boy” was made through Adam Sandler’s production company and its star and co-writer Allen Covert haTrashs been involved in a number of Sandler productions. If you’re offended by this type of humor, don’t bother. If you’d like to take a chance on a little-known film, then give “Grandma’s Boy” a shot.

‘Grandma’s Boy’
(2006; 94 minutes; rated R; directed by Nicholaus Gossen and starring Allen Covert, Linda Cardellini and Shirley Jones)

GRANDMA CAN HEAR HER HAIR GROWING!

(NOTE: I expanded this review with additional opinion and trivia, noting the death of a key actor and the updating of links on Aug. 23, 2018.)

I’ll tell you up front that you’ll only enjoy “Grandma’s Boy” if you like puerile humor suited to teenagers (or college students on a long weekend) mostly wrapped in marijuana. If you’re easily offended; subscribe to conservative tenets about what should be on screen; or cannot admit that most of this behavior is more common and is truly funny … then don’t watch it. However, if it’s a go for you, then enjoy because it is out-and-out hilarious.

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Grandma’s Boy” is a drug-themed film that should have gone straight to video. It was a total bomb at the box office and made only $6 million on its $5 million budget, according to Wiki. However, it became an almost instant cult classic on video because of its stoner roots and hauled in an astounding $50 million in video sales, according to IMDb.com. See, not everyone is offended by the film that can only be classified in the “stoner” genre.

At an acting level, it does offer hilarious turns in totally out-of-character roles for three veteran actors: five-time Emmy winner Doris Roberts (she’s “Grandma”), Oscar winner (not for here) Shirley Jones and two-time Oscar nominee Shirley Knight as the three elderly women who take the title character into their home.

You just cannot imagine what Roberts and Jones will say and do. Roberts because she’s so endearing when she’s stoned or helping her grandson and Jones because of the astoundingly sexual comments her hyper-sexed character makes (you’ll fall down for the Charlie Chaplin remark). Also, Knight’s character isn’t very verbose because of her incredible level of prescription medication.

In short, “Grandma’s Boy” is the story of an older video game tester (he’s in his 30s while it’s those in their late teens and early 20s setting the standard in that arena). Circumstance brings him to live with his grandmother and her two friends: He gets bounced out of his apartment when it’s revealed his roommate has been spending the rent money on hookers. Ultimately, he introduces the elderly ladies to cable TV and they especially enjoy “Antiques Roadshow.”

In a parallel storyline, he works at a video game company where a new offering from the boy genius is planned and it’s having problems. At the same time our leading man is developing his own game as he brings some excitement (and marijuana) into his grandmother’s life.

Well, his game idea gets stolen by the genius who’s not so smart; and his grandmother winds up in a video duel with the young man to save her grandson’s honor. Well, that’s a slimmed-down version of the plot – but it doesn’t matter; it’s the humor that’s king here. I’ll give a quick rundown of the main cast:

  • Allen Covert plays “Alex” and he’s a former accountant who loves video games and has his dream job. He enjoys smoking contraband and does a good job communicating his role, which straddles generations with the teenage set. Covert, who was Adam Sandler’s caddy in “Happy Gilmore” (click here for my review), is the co-writer of the film and the obvious driving force. He has also been in the “Anger Management” movie. He also had a tiny but effective role in “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” (click here for my review).
  • Roberts is truly WAY out of character here as “Lilly.” She unwittingly makes tea with Covert’s marijuana and proceeds to get high while watching a Spanish variety show on TV. In the classic line from the film, she tells Covert, “I can hear my hair growing!” It’s a wonderful step out of character for the veteran actor who was so special and won four Emmys and was nominated for three more for TV’s “Everybody Loves Raymond” and is a grandmother in the outstanding “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (click here for my review). Her other Emmy was for an episode of “ Elsewhere” and her other nominations were for work on “American Playhouse,” as a regular on “Remington Steele” and a single episode of “Perfect Strangers.” Sadly, Roberts left us in 2016 at 90 after suffering a stroke.
  • Jones, who has been nominated for four Golden Globes, plays the totally over-sexed “Grace,” who seduces Covert’s friend (who is about 40 years younger). Her dialogue is distinguished by its erotic nature (especially what she did to Chaplin) and not much like the TV mom she played on “The Partridge Family.” I don’t believe there’s any other actor of her generation who could have done as convincing a job as Jones in this one. Jones won her Oscar for “Elmer Gantry” from 1960.
  • Knight, who plays “Bea,” doesn’t have much to work with here, but you gotta love her just being there. She was nominated for Oscars for “Sweet Bird of Youth” and “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” in the 1960s. A couple of her more recent films include “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” and “As Good as it Gets.”
  • The very funny Nick Swardson plays “Jeff” and he’s Covert’s best friend who is seduced by Jones and winds up making out with her on a conference table during the video showdown at the company office. Swardson is part of the new generation of excellent comedy actors making a name for themselves and he’s truly a funny man. He was equally good in “Just Go With It” with Adam Sandler (click here for my review).
  • Linda Cardellini plays “Samantha” and she’s brought into the company to ride herd on the development of the new game. She becomes the love interest of Covert and is the only woman in the primary cast under the age of 65. Cardellini does an acceptable job, but it’s difficult to judge her talent here – she’s affable, smart and holds her own … but it’s not a good part for her resume. She was nominated for an Emmy for her work in eight episodes of TV’s critically acclaimed “Mad Men” and has been in “Legally Blonde” and was “Velma” in “Scooby-Doo” from 2002.
  • Joel David Moore plays creepy young game designer “J.P.” and gives an under-appreciated effort here. Moore captures the internal creepiness of a truly gifted nerd with a mental disorder. Moore was also in “Avatar” as well as the TV series “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
  • My personal favorite character is “Dr. Shakalu,” who is played by Abdoulaye N’Gom (he has since dropped the apostrophe in his last name). He dresses like a witch doctor and has a hearty laugh and is friends with Covert’s pot dealer. I just cannot get enough of him. N’Gom was also in “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” as a bead salesman on the street (click here for my review).
  • Peter Dante plays “Dante” and is Covert’s pot dealer. He is so addled he puts up his Christmas tree in July (while naked) and buys a lion which gets loose in his neighborhood (and a resulting appearance on the TV news). Dante is affable, fun and a loyal friend to Covert. He has been in several Adam Sandler films including “The Waterboy.”
  • Jonah Hill, whose career would skyrocket after this, has a small part as another game tester who looks up to Covert. He’ good here, but it’s not much of a part but he does his best. Hill has also been in the “Jump Street” movie franchise and is a two-time Oscar nominee for “Moneyball” and was over-the-top in the spectacularly over-the-top “The Wolf of Wall Street.” He gave an effective turn in a tiny role (you saw most of it in the trailer) for the Coen brothers’ “Hail, Caesar!” (click here for my review).
  • Saturday Night Live” veteran Kevin Nealon plays “Mr. Cheezle,” who is the CEO of the video game company. He affects this Eastern religion kind of aura and is very good at being pretentious. You get just enough of him so that the effect of his affect isn’t ruined. Nealon, who was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for writing on “SNL,” has also been in “Blended” with Adam Sandler.

Two excellent comedic actors have small but effective roles here. Rob Schneider is “Yuri,” who is the landlord who tosses Covert out because of his roommate’s indiscretions. He does the accent thing well and was also in “Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo.” David Spade is much funnier in his own small role as the server at a health-food restaurant. He verbally spars with Swardson and holds his own. He was also in “Tommy Boy” with Chris Farley.

It’s nice to note that “Grandma’s Boy” did beat out “Little Children” (No. 180  in 2006 with $5.4 million), which is a Kate Winslet stinker and didn’t benefit at the box office from her having sex on a washing machine. Unlike “Grandma’s Boy,” the Winslet bomb has terrifically disgusting parts to its plot and, of course, was therefore nominated for three Oscars – including one undeserved for Winslet and one totally deserved for the creepy work by Jackie Earle Haley, who was in the original “The Bad News Bears.” FYI – Haley’s character sets a new standard as a sleazy perv character in cinema in that one and he’ll never do a better job of acting.

Grandma’s Boy” was the 176th ranked film of 2006 with $6 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. The No. 1 film of the year was “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” with $423.3 million. Here are the other films from 2006 that I’ve reviewed:

Assorted cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):

  • Roberts’ character is insulted at one point by being heckled that she watches TV’s “Murder, She Wrote.” Roberts did two episodes of the popular series four years apart with the first being in 1990.
  • Directly from IMDb.com: “The car Kane (Kelvin Yu) drove is a heavily modified Toyota Supra. The exact car he drove was featured in the beginning of 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003).”
  • I have to quote IMDb.com on this one: “According to Nick Swardson in the pot smoking scene, Peter Dante was was given fake weed. Peter then decided to get his own weed. So for each retake of that scene, he was lighting up real bong hits. Swardson stated that Peter, after the takes, said he “couldn’t feel his legs” and that he needed to go to the hospital.”
  • Finally and directly from IMDb.com: When Alex comes out of Samantha’s office J.P. is standing facing the wall and you can see a poster that says Gay Robot (2006), a TV-series written by Nick Swardson (Jeff) and a character from a sketch of the same name from Adam Sandler‘s 2004 comedy album ‘Shh… Don’t Tell.’ There is also a small poster for ‘Gay Robot’ on the shelf behind the desk in Mr. Cheezle’s office.”

© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2015, 2018.
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