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August 14, 2006

Video Reviews

I reviewed Brick when it was out in theaters, and now it's out on DVD and probably pay per view too. I raved about it then; check it out, if the idea of a Sam Spade mystery mixed with a John Hughes high school pecking-order comedy appeals to you.

Maybe it doesn't sound like a mash-up that can work, but it does. It really does.

I'm bumping this post because I just remembed V For Vendetta is now out on video, too. In the interests of sparing you $4.79 and two hours and ten minutes of your life that you'll never get back, I'll direct you to my evisceration of this metrosexual terrorist-friendly fantasia, which I call "Brokeback Batman." It's a long review, and will take you six minutes to read, but trust me, six minutes of my review is better than 130 minutes of V For Vendetta.

Also out now on Pay Per View is Grandma's Boy, which I tried to get in a couple of videostores but it was out and/or missing. It's a gonzo comedy, like Zoolander or Happy Gilmore, where there is absolutely no worry about the suspension of disbelief when it comes to a good gag. If a joke requires a "karate monkey," well, verismilitude be damned.


It's by Allen Covert and other familar hands at Adam Sandler's production company, with a lot of the faces from his other movies, and a lot of the cameos by SNL regulars often appearing in Happy Madison movies (Rob Schneider, David Spade, Kevin Nealon). Alas, no Steve Buscemi, Christopher Walken, or Adam Sandler himself. (Actually, I bet he's in there somewhere in background, but if he is, I missed him.)

It was recommended to me as being a film about the Ace of Spades Lifestyle (TM), and, in many ways, it sadly is. It's about a 36 year old pothead loser perennial underachiever working with ultradorky teenagers as a videogame tester -- not a developer, but one of the low-paid Sega-monkeys who just play videogames all day, checking them for bugs.

While I often don't like pot humor -- finding it dumb, and the sort of thing only stoned people find funny -- I laughed at all of it here. Like when two guys are deeply stoned and the phone rings, and one picks it up and says, worriedly, "It's for you. I think it's The Devil." And the severe social dysfunction and dorky eternal virginity of the characters was funny, if also sadly resonant.

One odd thing is the title and the marketing campaign. When you go to see, say, Click, you know the major premise -- the hook, the high concept -- is a magical remote control giving Adam Sandler the power to rewind and fastforward through life. And that most of the movie is about that.

The title Grandma's Boy suggests that the fact that this loser underachiever with a dream must move in with his Gradma after his loser loser roomate spends all of the rent money on Vietnamese hookers is the major, main, high-concept premise of the film, and that most of the movie is about that. It's actually not. The Grandma thing is best described as a major comedic premise, but not the main premise, and in fact most of the movie has nothing at all to do with the Grandma. Most of the movie is set at the videogame company, headed up by a New Age imbecile played by Kevin Nealon, or in the basement apartment of the main character's pot-dealer (played by Peter Dante, the guy who does the odd (foreign?) accent in, for example, Little Nicky).

I'm not sure, but I think the title was suggested by the studio, thinking that was the big hook. I would have just called it High Score or something that more accurately summed it up. (I realize that's not a great title; I just think it's more accurate.)

Allen Covert's nemesis is an even huger dork named JP, a "genius" game developer by his own frequent self-decription, who dresses in a Matrix trenchcoat and seems to have a barely-repressed Gollum-like secondary personality of an, ummm, Evil Robot, most likely a Dalek from Doctor Who.

"I'm sorry... the music was too loud."

JP: "Does the music frighten you?"

"Umm, no... I just don't like techno.

JP: "You would if you had robot-ears."

"What?"

JP: "Nothing."

This (CONTENT WARNING) scene should give you a taste of it. It's flagged video on YouTube, so you have to be a subscriber to view it. And it's not safe for work or, probably, even the home. The set-up is Allen Covert's character, sleeping over at his dork-virgin's friend's house, can't sleep and so goes on a brief porn-hunt. He comes up not with actual porn, but a sexy action figure of Lara Croft from Tomb Raider, and, well, it's off to the races... until he's interrupted by his friend's mom.

It's a scene intended to be the movie's Something About Mary "I can't believe they're showing this" moment. Not quite as shocking as the infamous "franks and beans" shot of Ben Stiller's zipper, but, well, pretty cringe-inducing just the same.

Again-- a lot of this is both funny and heart-rippingly real.

(PS: There is both an unrated and R-rated version of this movie. I'm almost certain that the biggest cut to the R-rated version is in this scene. I doubt they show much of this at all in the R-rated version.)

The only completely bullshit part is that this guy not only lands Linda Cardelini -- the heart-breakingly cute hottie from ER, and also "Velma Dinckley" from Scooby-Doo -- but he doesn't even have to try all that hard. I'm not sure he even really had to try at all. That is definitely not part of the Ace of Spades Lifestyle (TM). Although it's nice to think that maybe it could be.

In the interest of disclosure, this review is kind of compromised for one reason or another, but I don't really think I'd've reveiwed it differently were I not compromised. I had a worry at first I wouldn't like it, but within the first three minutes I relaxed and said, "This shit right here is pretty friggin' funny." There are a lot of scenes from it up at YouTube, one of them calling it "the best movie ever," so I don't think I'm prejudiced too much in its favor. It seems to be a bit of cult hit, propelled by word of mouth (now overcoming, I think, the studio's mismarketing of the movie).

I'd've liked to have linked the rip of JP's line about "robot-ears," but the idiots who uploaded that taped themselves watching it, with their own annoying commentary, saying the lines with the characters. Yeah-- we really want to hear you saying the lines. Nice directorial choice.

Anyway, it's pretty damn funny. It's got a good mix of frequent chuckles and the five or six big laughs. I don't know if it's a classic like Anchorman, which had a lot of sneaky jokes that only become funny on successive views, but maybe this movie just needs a couple of views to pick up on sneaky jokes too.

A Reader's Review: Patrick says:

I just finished it on PPV and if anything Ace is underselling it. I got more laughs than from any Adam Sandler movie. Absolutely hilarious.

I think Sandler's latest movies have, for economic reasons, been attempts to please very broad audience, both his idiot male fan base (like me) and a broader date movie sort of audience he picked up from The Wedding Singer, taking him away from the anything-for-a-laugh days of Happy Gilmore and The Waterboy. Grandma's Boy is in spirit with the earlier Sandler movies, where they're basically writing off the date movie demographic completely and going right for the monkey and masturbation jokes.

digg this
posted by Ace at 12:28 AM

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