Since we were not initially allowed to blog a review of Grandma's Boy when we watched it last month, and since the film's not gonna be shown to critics (generally a sure sign that it's crap), we will attempt now to write about what we do remember from our preview nearly a month ago.
By way of introduction, a precept. When a joke is told, timing is important. The comedian must allow for a few beats of silence before proceeding with the dialog, or laughter will cause people to miss what follows next. Good movies time their comedy well, being careful to leave enough space after a big joke for the punch line to air out. Bad movies don't do this well. At several points early on in Grandma's Boy, a "joke" is told and the obligatory pause follows, except that nobody in the theater was laughing. Instead: crickets, pin drops, and a few uncomfortable coughs as people glanced at their watches.
Ironically, it's these early moments in which a joke bombs horribly that save the film from complete failure. Because these bombs happen near the beginning, the moviegoer's expectations are set to rock bottom pretty darned quickly. Once you're at bottom, ain't no place to go but up, setting the stage for some surprise attacks of humor that appear out of place, they're so good. There are some fantastic, tears-from-your-eyes moments, the best of which involves an illustration of onanism so extreme that the Roman Catholic church must surely object.
The film also succeeds in skewering those egotistical game designers who have developed god complexes, but few great games after an initial success. (Must resist the urge to insinuate a link to Romero in this paragraph, so will instead point out a divergence from the creator of high-profile flop Daikatana: the game designer who is the movie's chief villain proves incapable of landing his own Stevie Case look-alike.)
Other good stuff
- The movie is occasionally very, very funny. Tears streaming down the face funny. (This doesn't mean it's good. A good funny movie is a movie in which the spread between bad and good is relatively narrow and the movie is consistently funny. This one rollercoasters from high to low.)
- According to Joystiq's very own Chris Grant, who granted us an exclusive post-movie interview, the movie "succeeded in one arena that almost every movie involving video games fails at miserably: it captured much of gaming culture pretty well to varying degrees of accuracy." The actors used real controllers and played real games with them. Easier said than done, as so few movies get it right.
- The movie is curiously infatuated with drugs. We had to sit through the credits to see if they listed active sponsorship from the Cannabis Grower's Association. Perhaps the movie's myriad marijuana mentions are intended as a signpost, reading, "WARNING: WATCH SOBER AT YOUR OWN RISK." Drug references are fun when they're funny (as in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle), but they just seem clumsy here.
- Occasionally, some of the game-related dialogue reminds us of the way that the mainstream press mangles video game patois, as when Kevin Nealon's game company CEO character says, "Wow, nice bump mapping. Very Miyamoto." What the hell does that mean? Then again, his character is intended to be ridiculous.
- The way we see it, there are two audiences for this movie. Potheads and hardcore gamers. If you're the former, there are better ways to spend $10. If you're the latter, there are better ways to spend $10. If you're both, well, go see it. It's not like you'll remember to come back here and flame us for recommending it to you.
Overall rating within the entire universe of films: 4.0 / 10
Rating within the subset of movies significantly about video games: 9.5 / 10