[Alright Alright Alright Movies] Grandma’s Boy (2006)

Director: Nicholaus Goossen

Cast: Linda Cardellini, Allen Covert, Peter Dante, Shirley Jones, Shirley Knight, Joel David Moore, Kevin Nealon, Doris Roberts, Nick Swardson

Screenplay: Barry Wernick, Allen Covert, Nick Swardson

94 mins. Rated R for drug use and language throughout, strong crude and sexual humor, and nudity.

 

Hey, it’s April 20th, and we could all use a laugh right about now, so in honor of this most blessed day, let’s take a look at Grandma’s Boy, the 2006 stoner comedy from Happy Madison that kind of went unnoticed upon first release only to resurface a few years later as a dumb piece of pop culture. I remember hating the film on first release, so let’s see how we are sitting on the film today.

Alex (Allen Covert, 50 First Dates, Murder Mystery) is a stoner video game tester who’s just been booted from his apartment. With nowhere to go, Alex moves in with his grandmother Lilly (Doris Roberts, Christmas Vacation, TV’s Everybody Loves Raymond) and her two friends. Alex doesn’t want his friends to know he’s living with his grandmother, so he starts lying about his three crazy wild roommates, and it works…until the lie is undone.

I wasn’t lying when I said this film went unnoticed. It only grossed about $6 million in its theatrical run but went on to bring in $50 million in home video sales. Why was it popular? Perhaps because it’s so damn stupid. No, that’s not exactly a criticism. The first priority of a comedy is to entertain and make you laugh or, at the very least, smile. In a stoner comedy, those moments are usually derived from stupidity, and yes, there is stupidity abound, and some of it really works. Then, there are chunks of the film that do not. Let’s talk about the parts that worked for me first.

I felt that Linda Cardellini (Scooby-Doo, Avengers: Endgame) was great as Samantha, Alex’s new “boss” who has been sent to oversee final touches of Eternal Death Slayer 3, the video game Alex and his coworkers are working on. The overall character arc conceived for her is terrible, but she makes the most of it and is a fun presence onscreen.

I also really enjoyed Peter Dante (The Waterboy, Grown Ups 2) as Dante, the stereotypical stoner drug dealer who tries to buy a tiger in the movie. That’s pretty much all he does in the film, but everything that comes out of his mouth is hilarious. Same thing with Nick Swardson (The Benchwarmers, Airplane Mode), who plays Jeff, Alex’s very childish friend. Swardson can’t really lead a film, but he works really well in a supporting role. Even Doris Roberts, who is very funny in the film playing a similar character to others but in a completely whacko movie.

But none of that, absolutely none of it, matters if the film isn’t funny. Thankfully, the guffaw laughs are far more prevalent than the eye rolls. Yes, there are a few eye rolls, but some truly funny lines, scenes, and characters exist within the frames of Grandma’s Boy. Without a doubt, this one is very funny.

So there you have it. It’s 420, and now is probably the best time to watch this stoner comedy. Yes, it’s really dumb and some of it is nonsensical and they completely waste Jonah Hill early on in his career, but it is undeniably funny for a number of scenes, and while it may not work for everyone, it will work well for its demographic.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

Director: Michael Chaves

Cast: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Vasquez

Screenplay: Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis

93 mins. Rated R for violence and terror.

 

I had one major question about the marketing for this movie before I went in, and I left with that same question: why the hell did they not market this film as a part of The Conjuring Universe? It states on most of the material that the film has the same producers and studio as The Conjuring, but not once in the marketing is expressly stated. I just don’t get it. This film is not like Captain Marvel or Aquaman where you have the understanding going in that it naturally connects to a shared universe, so why the hell not use that angle in your marketing?

The Curse of La Llorona, based on Mexican folklore, follows Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini, Avengers: Age of Ultron, A Simple Favor), a widowed social worker and mother of two who is searching for foul play in a tragedy involving a case she has worked for some time. As she probes for information about the tragic events, her family begins to see supernatural horrors in the form of a weeping woman called La Llorona who has now targeted her kids. When the church is unable to help her, Anna turns to Rafael (Raymond Cruz, Alien: Resurrection, TV’s Major Crimes), a mystical former priest who believes he can stop La Llorona before the weeping woman claims Anna’s kids for herself.

The Conjuring franchise has struggled with quality in their spin-off films, and The Curse of La Llorona is no exception. I applaud it for choosing to hit its horror very early but that leads to a sacrifice in character development. We don’t get to know much about Anna’s kids and so our only fear from them comes from the fact that they are children and because the audience understands Anna’s love for them. Outside of that, though, they are tremendously underdeveloped.

Raymond Cruz gives great work here but I didn’t like that screenplay from Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis (Five Feet Apart) gave his character so much comic relief. After a bulk of the film contains virtually no comic relief, getting it at the end from a character the audience is supposed to look to for safety is an odd choice.

The Conjuring Universe has been trying this interconnected thing and it’s probably the second-best cinematic universe right now outside of the MCU juggernaut, but I haven’t been a fan of their forceful shoehorning of references in their films. In this film, there is stock footage of Annabelle to show how Tony Amendola’s character connects these two stories and it couldn’t have felt more forced if the director had paused the narrative and stepped out in front of the film to proclaim, “Here! Look here! This is how they connect!” The film doesn’t need that to thrive. Just have Father Perez reference the Annabelle doll like he did and let that be it. It will not alienate people who did not see the first Annabelle film and for those that get it, it will be all the more fun.

I feel like we should talk about the actual horror in the film. This is an angry spirit who, for the most part, has two major elements to her scares: her voice and her shock value. The voice is a really strong part of her character. There’s one scene in particular that works really well in the film where we don’t even see La Llorona but we hear her crying and then her scream just filled the atmosphere, putting all the candles out in the dimly lit home. It’s a great moment that we don’t get enough of. The other scare, though, is done all too often. This film is full of jump scares. La Llorona barely has buildup when she appears outside of the sound of her weeping. Most of the time, though, director Michael Chaves (The Maiden, TV’s Chase Champion) doesn’t let his film breathe enough to develop the scares. It’s something I really hope he learns to do before he gets behind the camera for The Conjuring III.

Overall, The Curse of La Llorona is very similar to The Nun. Both films have strength in their spiritual mythologies, but they both struggle with building their horror and rely all too often on jump scares. I think this will appeal to fans of The Conjuring Universe, and it’s a breath of fresh air for a series that has relied so heavily on the Warrens and the main Conjuring film mythology. I surely had a lot of fun in this theater experience, so if you see it, do so on opening weekend with a good-sized crowd.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Corin Hardy’s The Nun, click here.

For my review of David F. Sandberg’s Annabelle: Creation, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s The Conjuring, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s The Conjuring 2, click here.

For my review of Michael Chaves’s The Maiden, click here.

Green Book (2018)

Director: Peter Farrelly

Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini

Screenplay: Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly

130 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic content, language including racial epithets, smoking, some violence and suggestive material.

 

Peter Farrelly (There’s Something About Mary, TV’s Loudermilk) kind of came out of nowhere with Green Book. The director, known for working with his brother on low-brow comedies (some of which are quite good), really showed up to bat on his latest film, a solo venture about two men in the 1960s who couldn’t be more different on the surface. It’s quite something.

Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Captain Fantastic) is a New York bouncer without a job after his latest club shuts down. He ends up with a job he never expected, driving Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, TV’s House of Cards) on a tour of the Deep South for eight weeks. Given the racial tensions of the Deep South, this proves to be a difficult job that brings these two men closer.

Green Book is one of the most interesting and enjoyable tales of friendship put to film in recent memory. It all boils down to the relationship formed between our two central characters. Tony is a smarmy low-brow guy who cares deeply for his wife, played by Linda Cardellini (Brokeback Mountain, A Simple Favor), and only seeks to do right by her. When he takes the job with Shirley, he is able to look introspectively at himself, see his flaws, and seek to better himself. The whole film, he is looking at Shirley through racially-tinted sunglasses, seeing only what his limited, and incorrect, perception of the culture is.

Mahershala’s portrayal of Dr. Shirley is a proud man, one who sees his placement in the broken American machine, and he seeks protection on his tour of the South. What he finds is the ability to find joy in moments and appreciation for who Tony is. He also has secrets that he wishes to keep and sees those secrets as faults. He is a multi-layered character and Ali is worthy of the performance.

Outside of their relationship, Green Book is pretty straightforward. Farrelly has no bells and whistles and just lets the camera focus on the two leads, and that’s a good call. It doesn’t really delve too deeply into race of the 1960s, and I will leave that open as to whether or not it was the right call, but it doesn’t injure the film’s central focus.

Green Book is a fascinating tale of friendship set against the backdrop of a difficult time in America. It’s led to two amazing performers who consistently left me smiling with their interactions. It’s a joyful film and a thought-provoking one that left me hopeful for the future.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s Dumb and Dumber, click here.

For my review of Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s Fever Pitch, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Daddy’s Home (2015)

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Director: Sean Anders

Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini

Screenplay: Brian Burns, Sean Anders

96 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, crude and suggestive content, and for language.

 

Will Ferrell (Step Brothers, Zoolander 2) is a polarizing comic actor. To most, he creates comedy gold, but his comedy makes no apologies and doesn’t try to win over his detractors. I, personally, enjoy Ferrell more than chastise him, so what did I think of his newest flick with Mark Wahlberg (Boogies Nights, Entourage)?

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Brad Whitaker (Ferrell) is happy to be a father. Well, er, stepfather. His beautiful wife Sara (Linda Cardellini, TV’s ER, Avengers: Age of Ultron) has two children, and since Brad can’t father his own, he is more than happy to be a surrogate parent to them, but just as Brad is beginning to win them over, the family receives a call from actual father Dusty (Wahlberg), who is coming to town. Afraid to lose his family, Brad attempts to stand his ground with Dusty, but can Brad be the tough guy that Dusty? Can he be the real daddy?

Daddy’s Home is a simple premise, one that is fairly relatable. The problem is that it can’t decide what type of comedy it wants to be. When a film runs on for some time before making me laugh, I had a tendency to count the number of times I actually chuckle. Four. Four times. The movie just isn’t funny. I admire the comedic elements of the script, but they just don’t work for Ferrell’s comedy chops, and Wahlberg falls flat on every joke. There isn’t a ton to like here.

Linda Cardellini is a funny actress, but she has nowhere to play here, and the cast is joined by Thomas Haden Church who appears to pick up his cell and is actually phoning in a performance (okay, not really, but did he even learn his scenes?).

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Daddy’s Home has elements that work; there are just too many other elements that don’t. I want to like it, but the sad truth: director Sean Anders (Horrible Bosses 2, That’s My Boy) just can’t seem to find a funny bone, and the film suffers from it.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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