Maybe it’s that my expectations were so low that you couldn’t have found them with the aid of a minesweeper, but I didn’t hate this admittedly slipshod and silly offering from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions. Almost all the other critics tell me I’m supposed to, though at least one of these reviewers lost all credibility with me when it became obvious that he thinks that Charlie Chaplin didn’t extend beyond the silent era and that Abbott and Costello and Don Knotts were also from that era.
However, I suspect that my tolerance for and enjoyment (yes, enjoyment) of Grandma’s Boy stems from the fact that I number quite a few hardcore video-gamers, roll-playing gamers and stoners (sometimes combined in one person) among my friends and acquaintances. I know these people. They often mystify me in their passion for these things, as I likely mystify them when I get jazzed about the DVD release of a 1933 movie. Still, I can’t deny that Grandma’s Boy has pretty much nailed them.
When ueber-geek game designer J.P. (Joel David Moore, Dodgeball) passes up going out because he just got the latest season of Buffy on DVD and plans on spending the evening watching the “extras,” I knew the filmmakers knew of whom and what they spoke. But the thing that keeps the Grandma’s Boy afloat is the sense that the filmmakers are making fun of themselves — that the movie characters actually represent them and their friends. These guys really would stay in to watch the extras on a season’s worth of TV shows.
Grandma’s Boy is rarely mean-spirited, even at its raunchiest — and it can get pretty raunchy. The premise is simple. Game tester Alex (Sandler regular Allen Covert) gets thrown out of his apartment by landlord Yuri (a blessedly brief bit from Rob Schneider) because his roommate has been taking the rent money and blowing it on “Filipino massage therapists.” After a disastrous night bunking with a co-worker (Nick Swardson) that involves mistaking said co-worker’s mother for Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress, Alex moves in with his grandmother (Doris Roberts) and her two housemates: no-nonsense Grace (Shirley Jones), who won’t believe that Alex isn’t gay, and drugged-to-the-eyeballs Bea (Shirley Knight), who seems oblivious to anything.
Everything you expect to happen more or less does, but the film scores some points by being so scattershot and brazenly irreverent that it threatens to transcend its Harold and Kumar as 40-Year-Old Virgins concept. It never really does reach transcendence, but it comes close enough on occasion that it gets points.
I doubt the film’s lack of structure and its inclusion of wildly outre elements — from a martial arts chimpanzee to a drug dealer (another Sandler pet, Peter Dante) with a live-in witch doctor (Abdoulae N’Gom, George of the Jungle) to a romance between Shirley Jones and Nick Swardson — is a calculated attempt to make something different as much as it’s the result of throwing a bunch of strange and/or edgy stuff on the screen and hoping some it sticks. Some of it actually does, but even when it doesn’t, Grandma’s Boy is sufficiently oddball and the performers sufficiently likable to keep the whole thing from being painful. And when the film is good, it’s surprisingly pleasant — within its own limited aims. Rated R for drug use and language throughout, strong crude and sexual humor, and nudity.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke