Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Grandma’s Boy

This pretty much sums up the entire movie.

Film: Grandma’s Boy (2006)

Director: Nicholaus Goossen

Starring: Allen Covert, Nick Swardson, Doris Roberts

Written by: Barry Wernick, Allen Covert, Nick Swardson

 

There was a summer in my life in which my friends and I watched this film at least once a day, and the routine never grew old.  This isn’t necessarily because Grandma’s Boy is the greatest film ever, but it’s more of a comment about target audiences.  For a group of sarcastic and surly twentysomethings man-children – some of whom were pot smokers, all of whom were videogame freaks, and every last one a lover of karate monkeys – it’s hard to name a more appropriate film.

The main plot involves perennial Adam Sandler henchman Allen Covert starring as a video game tester in his late 30s.  After getting kicked out of his apartment because his roommate spent all their money on Asian hookers, he runs out of options and ends up staying at his grandma’s place.  Crazy old lady hijinks ensue.

But really, this isn’t about plot.  The reason one watches this film is to take in the bizarre characters and ridiculous situations which splatter across the screen.  Grandma’s Boy is little more than a series of high slapstick and comedy Rorschach, but somehow it incorporates all of its chaotic elements into a likeable, if not entirely coherent, mass.  This is a film in which an African witch doctor will suddenly show up, say a few ridiculous lines, and fade into the background to allow some other absurdity to follow, and somehow the viewer can roll with it.

Covert works great as the story’s tenuous anchor, bringing a wry and grudging enthusiasm to the proceedings.  His sidekick, played by Nick Swardson, is even better, cutting loose as a wide-eyed, cougar-hunting adult infant.  But the scene-stealer in Grandma’s Boy is the villainous J.P., an arrogant yet inept video game prodigy played by Joel David Moore.  J.P. is about as great a nerd as can be imagined, and his woeful attempts at asserting authority over his game testers is undermined by the fact that he honestly believes that he is a robot, and acts accordingly, down to his jerky movements and electronic voice.  Moore is an absolute treasure in this role, though you’d think that such a role would carry the danger of getting typecast as an uber-nerd.  Then again, Moore ended up starring in Avatar, so if he is to forever be a film geek, at least he’s been well compensated.

Grandma’s Boy may not be for grandmas themselves, but for the modern nerd it is fine tomfoolery.  Someday, when my generation ships out to the retirement homes and spends its last moments popping pills and playing videogames, I’m sure this film will be even more fitting.

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The Designer’s Drugs: Ace of Base – The Golden Ratio

Medium: Album

Stimulus: Ace of Base – The Golden Ratio

Anno: 2010

 

I try to avoid having guilty pleasures, but it wouldn’t be far off to describe Ace of Base as my one musical pleasure which is most surprising.  Though I tend to loathe much of the band’s best known work – “The Sign” in particular makes me grate my teeth – Ace of Base was really my first serious introduction to electronic music.  The clubbed-up B-sides of the band’s debut album drew me in, and its follow-up, The Bridge, is a mature stripe of Europop that stands as my favorite example of the style.  Of course, most people only know the singles, and as such I get a villainous glee when busting out Ace of Base upon the unexpected.

It’s been eight years since Ace of Base released their last album, and for some time it seemed as though the band had packed it in.  The gradual departures of the band’s two female singers, Jenny and Linn Berggren, seemed to be the final straw, but instead of calling it a day, the two remaining members decided to crew up, recruiting two new girls to sing their songs.  The result is The Golden Ratio, and while there are some good tracks to be found, this version of Ace of Base doesn’t match the original.  There are two big reasons why this is the case, and both have to do with Ace of Base trading in what made it unique for more conventional pop fodder.

First, the new vocalists sound like every other female pop vocalist on the scene.  Their voices crack with girly vulnerability at all the right moments, their lyrics profess all the expected heartbreak and whimsy.  They’re props, and serve their purpose.

But the more pressing problem with The Golden Ratio lies squarely on the shoulders of the band’s tenured members.  The band doesn’t completely abandon its reggae-tinged pop roots, and the strongest example of the old style, “Mr. Replay,” is one of the album’s best tracks.  Yet there is a strong sense that the band is trying to keep pace with everyone else instead of being itself.  “Southern California” is the worst offender, a lifeless grab at moody American girlpop.

But what’s worse, the opening track, “All for You,” sounds like every other electropop group from Ace of Base’s mid-90s heyday, and it’s only the most glaring evidence.  Trading in Ace of Base’s electropop for the La Bouche/Snap!/Culture Beat conglomerate is not a good move.

Still, there is one very bright moment on the album, a flamenco guitar led dirge titled “Who Am I” in which every aspect of the new group comes together perfectly.  If every song on The Golden Ratio was as well-orchestrated as this, it would have been brilliant.

Yet as it stands, I’d have recommended that this new group have started with a clean slate and a new name.  The Golden Ratio is no Bridge.

 

(As a bonus, one of the worst music videos ever!)