Sunday, January 25, 2009

Movie #38: The Grand

Shot in a Christopher Guest-esque mockumentary style, The Grand aspires to be the poker version of Best in Show, but it ultimately fails to deliver a sufficient number of laughs. Although there's countless attempts at wacky and bizarre humor, director Zak Penn tries too hard to make the film something more than a straight comedy. It's probably revealing that I was moved about as much as I laughed---which wasn't often. A lot of the humor derives from improvisation and, while sometimes it works, too often it's just dull and redundant. This is why movies have scripts.

The resulting movie is one suffering from a split personality. In the same movie where poker scenes are meticulously constructed with surprising realism, you also have the famous movie director Werner Herzog playing a German poker player who needs to kill a living animal each day to maintain his edge. It's a combination of extreme fantasy and extreme realism which, in theory, would be a fascinating approach to film making. Except it's not. The Grand likely would have succeeded had it opted to be a true comedy, and perhaps even if it had decided to be a true poker drama, but the straddling of the line simply doesn't work, leaving much to be desired on both sides. Chris Parnell of Saturday Night Live proves to be the most successful character in this odd blend, believably playing a math nerd who lives at home with his mother and who looks to Frank Herbert's Dune novels for inspiration. His character alone saves the movie from utter boredom.

Grade: 4/10


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