Amid a recent cross-cultural debate on the artistic merit of video games sparked in part by esteemed film critic Roger Ebert, “Grandma’s Boy,” a screwball comedy that mixes video games with pot, partying and the respected elderly, is simply one of the most enjoyable comedies of the year.
The film, the latest from Adam Sandler’s production company Happy Madison, is video-game oriented, but, no, it’s not based on one like so many pitiful renditions (there’s always “Bloodrayne” if that’s your bag). It follows Alex (Allen Covert, “The Longest Yard”), a video-game tester with 10 years of experience. Like his youthful colleagues, he has a perpetual man-boy persona that actually endears him to the audience. Alex and his colleagues play games all day. They brag about making out with chicks (even though they never have), they still live with parents and they sleep in toy racecars. But they are not childish in the derogatory sense of the word – instead, they are stuck in a benevolent kind of arrested development that renders them perpetually innocent and goofy.
When Alex is thrown out of his apartment, he’s forced to live with his grandmother and her two friends. Doris Roberts (TV’s “Everybody Loves Raymond”) utilizes her simplistic maternal persona for good here, playing Alex’s grandma. Regardless of how irritating she and her friends might be, there’s a courtesy, care and appreciation they have for each other.
What differentiates this film from other recent comedies is that it successfully subverts and reinvents old cliches. Yes, gamers will always be universally regarded as dweebs (think “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”). But these gamers also happen to be well adjusted. They casually drink, party, communicate with others and, above all, love to get stoned.
So is this a stoner comedy? Well, yes and no.
Yes, they’re stoners, but what makes them unique is their ability to function quite highly. They aren’t too whacked out (“Cheech & Chong”), they hold down sophisticated jobs and can raise their dialogue to decent levels of discourse. Peter Dante’s (“50 First Dates”) super-stoner character, cleverly named Dante, is the ultimate cheap thrill, incorporating absurdity in all its familiar and stupidly funny forms. He’s the pot dealer, monkey owner, nudist and easy laugh. Also superb is Shirley Jones (TV’s “The Partridge Family”) as the elderly female lothario ready to brag about relations with Charlie Chaplin and Abbot & Costello.
In fact, there’s plenty of dumb-funny stuff to savor here. Much like the games that the characters enjoy so much, “Grandma’s Boy” is mostly mindless entertainment, in line with films like “Sorority Boys” or even “Detroit Rock City.” It’s a vacant romp we can all appreciate.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars