Jean Burnet is back at 10YA for a look at the “shit sandwich of a movie” that is Happy Madison’s Grandma’s Boy.
Simply put: we are all fucked. Seriously! In the past year I’ve read like twenty articles about how online dating is turning us into a horde of unfeeling robots, we use a thing called a “Fitbit” to track our every waking motion which is approximately one step away from being nano-chipped, and now I hear people get paid to let other people just watch them play video games at home. Come on, world! It’s like you’re not even trying anymore!!
I remember the first time I watched Grandma’s Boy. Let me set the scene: It’s my first year of college, and I’m the only woman in this room covered in Natty Light cans from last weekend’s epic beer pong tournie, and everybody is stoned. Then one guy starts laughing, and then the other one’s laughing cause he’s laughing, and then another guy’s laughing because the second guy started choking on the drag he just took from his bong and so now he’s choke-laughing, and then everyone’s laughing, and then I’M laughing because I. NEED. TO. SURVIVE. THIS. TIME. OF. MY. LIFE. SOMEHOW.
Why did I pick this sad sack of a movie to re-view? I honestly don’t know. I guess I have some unresolved issues with it.
A product of Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions, Grandma’s Boy features gamers and grannies, partying, boobs, bongs, more parties, and a Tae Kwon Do Master chimpanzee. It’s also a movie so bad that even Adam Sandler wouldn’t cameo in it. (At least this is what I assume, not having spotted him anywhere.) It’s actually worse today than when I watched it ten years ago, and I’ve watched a lot of bad movies since then. For this alone I am astounded.
The mitigating event that launches this turd rocket into motion is simple: Instead of diligently paying rent with the money Alex (our protagonist) has been giving him for the last six months, his roommate has spent all of it on Filipino “massage therapists.” This results in a prompt eviction. Alex then commences to bumble through his increasingly weird friends as he tries to find somewhere to crash.
His friend/co-worker Jeff, for instance, is one of those weirdos. We know he’s weird because when he answers the door he’s wearing footie pajamas, and also, he sleeps in a plastic car bed in his parent’s house. Jeff lets Alex crash on his bedroom floor. Alex can’t sleep, so in the middle of the night, while Jeff slumbers peacefully in his vehicle/bed hybrid, he vigorously masturbates in the bathroom to a half-dressed female action figure before being unceremoniously surprised by Jeff’s mom and… um… “excreting” all over her. Understandably he gets kicked out. This all happens within the first 15 or so minutes of the movie. (Note: Jeff aka Nick Swardson is actually the funniest human in this movie and possibly paid someone off to get all the best lines.)
Alex ends up at his Grandma Lilly’s house, where his two other roommates include some additional geriatrics: one a pill-addled basket case, the other basically Samantha from Sex and the City when she hits 70-something. (She also may or may not have had sexual relations with Charlie Chaplin.) I’m not sure why the Partridge family mom and Shirley Knight signed up for this, but maybe they owed Adam Sandler a favor.
We learn Alex’s day job is working for a video game company called Brainasium. This is fascinating to me because… I don’t know. Because Seattle! Is this what it’s like, guys? Because it looks like it’s a smelly playground with no women except for the one conveniently hot one that just started as a project manager for their next big game (played by Freaks and Geeks’ nerd-hot Linda Cardellini).
Here we see the beta boy in full: this office is jam-packed with dudes living with their mothers, dudes who need to get laid (but can’t), dudes who measure themselves against the other by their video game prowess—dudes who simply at some point missed the train headed toward “getting it together.” Before you start to think I’m imposing this sad stereotype on them, more than one of them declares from his own mouth just how much he hates himself outside of the context of this video-game-bubble-world. Why is everyone so miserable here?! I’m pretty sure working for Valve is just like free massages and lunch every day. Right? Am I wrong?
The unhappiest among them is also our villain, Grease Hair, a child prodigy that designed some super popular game at 13 but lost his ability to connect with humans in the process. He dresses like he’s in the Matrix and listens to loud techno. I know he’s supposed to be the villain, but why doesn’t anyone like him? He seems pretty harmless and clearly thought about his outfit and—oh, I see, he makes a weirdly insulting robot voice when he can’t handle his shit. God, even his annoying quirk isn’t that interesting?
The boys and hot project manager Samantha go out to dinner to celebrate for some reason I can’t remember—they finished the big game I guess? David Spade makes a great appearance as a sassy vegan waiter. I would watch a movie about him instead.
During the course of the night the boys make lewd jokes and Samantha loves it! Wow, turns out she’s a lot cooler than they all thought she was! Because she’s not a girl’s girl—she’s just one of the guys! I bet she played flag football. She eventually confirms this in a heart-to-heart with Alex: “Growing up, other girls were playing with Barbies—I was beating my brothers at Super Mario!” Excuse me while my eyes roll so far back into my head I can watch my hair grow.
I can’t get on board with the Sam/Alex thing because not only is she way out of his league (seriously way out of his league), but because she starts out as a badass project manager in a male-centric field only to be validated as a character when she wants to party with the guys. Even then, she’s still just the hot girl. Just the cool hot girl. At least Grandma knows the power of female friendship, even if it is with two batshit crazies.
More on Grandma (played by Everybody Loves Raymond’s bitchy matriarch Doris Roberts): she is the OG cool girl. She is good at video games. She defends her grandson. She drinks weed. She plays pranks. She’ll stay up all night watching Antiques Roadshow just because she can. She does almost all of this obliviously, but Grandma don’t give a fuck!
I’m not saying Alex should date his Grandma. I’m saying he should aspire to date someone like his Grandma, who doesn’t need to extricate herself from her womanhood in order to gain social currency amongst this swathe of dudes.
Honestly I totally zoned out during the middle part and did my laundry instead. The grandmas all get high as fuck somehow, then Alex/Sam and the boys invite their overly tan dealer over, who invites a bunch of people, and they have a strange house party where Jonah Hill ends up sucking on some lady’s boob for 13 hours. In many ways the whole movie is like trying to follow a joke someone said while they were stoned which you thought was really funny at the time because you, too, were stoned.
I know this is a predecessor to such classics as Superbad and Pineapple Express, but where it truly fails is in giving us a protagonist we want to see win. Sure, Alex eventually manages to wield the technology that’s likely been a succubus on his ability to become a fully-formed and functioning citizen to at last produce something creative and fully his own with his new video game—but he just kinda sucks. He’s not even the one that saves the day; it’s Grandma that does the legwork for him by beating Grease Hair in the final battle royale of gaming.
Alex’s redemption isn’t really a win for the whole team either—while he gets the hot girlfriend, successful video game, and presumably a new place to live, the rest of his dude compatriots seem to be stuck in the same mode they started in: watching somebody else take the victory.
The fact that I hate this movie so much more now than I did then probably has a lot to do with the fact that I would no longer willingly sit in a room full of people I half-like watching something I hate in order to seem cooler than I am. I don’t even have to pretend to like this movie anymore. I hate it. If anything, I recommend showing this film to anyone who needs a reminder about the dangers of living a passionless, stunted life where technology’s potential for good is outweighed by its demon power to destroy us. (Side note: I once dated someone who played a lot of WoW—this might explain my review in its entirety.)
This movie feels dated as hell and the stoner comedy connoisseurs amongst us demand better. In the immortal words of Jeff, “Your shit’s weak! Wizzeak!”
Final Verdict: Exasperated shrug