The first time I took note of Eddie Griffin was in John Q. Then there was the generally unfunny The New Guy. At the time I wrote: “And then there’s Eddie Griffin, a performer of sufficient charm and magnetism that he manages to seem funny, even when the material is wanting — and here it’s wanting more than it’s not. Griffin was the one bright spot in the manipulative John Q, and he similarly illuminates The New Guy.“
And though Griffin’s first starring vehicle, Undercover Brother, was a disappointment, Griffin still came across as a likable, gifted performer. So now we have Eddie Griffin in DysFunKtional Family — a combination of his stand-up routine and a trip down memory lane, documentary-style, into his childhood.
Well … as a personality, Griffin still has enough quirky charm that he’s not quite in the repellent realm of Martin Lawrence, but the film — look fast, because this stinker’s setting attendance records to rival Soul Survivors and Glitter — is just awful, as is Griffin’s material. According to Roger Ebert’s predictably glowing review (what happens to that man at this type of movie?), Griffin uses the “n” word 382 times in the course of the movie.
I didn’t count the number of times the word cropped up, but that seems like a conservative estimate. Supposedly this is meant to blunt the word’s power. That’s as may be, but Griffin sticks the word in so often and so inappropriately that it calls attention to itself — like some bizarrely specific speech disorder.
But maybe that’s not surprising, since the bulk of his material is very much in the Martin Lawrence mode — racist, misogynistic and homophobic. There’s the usual quota of anti-Arab invective (typically applied to anyone wearing a turban). There’s the usual amount of turning women into sex objects. And Griffin’s take on homosexuality is especially enlightened — he has nothing against gay people, but if he had a gay son, he’d lock him in a room with a hooker until the boy learned to like it.
Considering that this is coming from a man who believes having his mother bludgeon him in the head with a telephone and try to run over him with a car is the height of good parenting, I suppose it’s actually pretty mild. Griffin obviously thinks he’s the new Richard Pryor, but much like Martin Lawrence, he can’t tell the difference between merely being offensive and actually being daring. Offensive is easy. Daring takes brains. And brains seem to be in short supply here — almost in as short supply as laughs and audiences.