Grandma's Boy

Grandmas boy PosterStay with me for a moment. Yes, I’m reviewing Grandma’s Boy, the lowbrow comedy produced by Adam Sandler five years ago starring Allen Covert. Yes, its connections to video games is loose, but when I started reviewing movies a few years ago, I didn’t just want to write about crappy game-to-movie adaptations (see Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life). I also wanted to write about movies about video games, even if they’re just used as a backdrop and MacGuffin (see Grandma’s Boy).

But buried beneath all the gross out humor, pot smoking, and before-he-was-famous-but-still-fat Jonah Hill, there’s actually quite a bit of video gaming in Grandma’s Boy. Some of it is flat-out hysterically wrong, but a small chunk is actually interesting video game history.

So here’s my review of Grandma’s Boy, focused mostly on the relevant video game aspects of the film, without forgetting Freaks and Geeks’ awesome Linda Cardellini.

Grandma’s Boy is undoubtedly the only movie in existence where the main set is a video game development studio. Allen Covert is the star game tester of Eternal Death Slayer 3, apparently a successful series developed by a single developer, J.P. The developer to tester ratio is like a dream come true for a studio as there are about 50 testing guys supporting a single genius developer.

So that’s a bit silly, especially since developer J.P. is crazy and even with 50 testers they’re still the bottleneck. So the story introduces one of those kick-everyone-into-gear characters to ship the game on time in the form of the lovely Linda Cardellini. Surprisingly, she plays against most of the archetype tropes and not only gets along with everyone from the start, but also enjoys video games. She’s also not overly sexualized and quickly becomes one of the guys. Nice characterization, in my opinion, anything else would have just created false drama in a movie that doesn’t need a lot of drama.

Grandmas boy Linda Cardellini Allen Covert GamingEternal Death Slayer 3 is criminally under-described. As the game they’re testing throughout the movie, it would have been nice to at least get an idea of what genre it was. Instead, we get vague lines about how they need to test levels 10-15. Speaking of, the entire movie name drops completely ignorant game phrases like: “I like what you did with the bump-mapping. Very Miyamoto.” Yuck. Grandma’s Boy isn’t a video game developer minstrel show, the writers just did not do the research (as they were probably high).

The game we do get to see a lot of is Demonik, Allen Covert’s own game he’s been developing... covertly. For the last three years, in between smoking, drinking, sleeping, and working, he’s been hard at work at a pretty complete looking 3D action game for the Xbox (Grandma’s Boy takes place in a world where a single person can completely develop a modern 3D blockbuster from start to finish). Anyways, this is where things get a bit interesting.

Demonik is a real game, or at least, was a real game before it was canceled. Deveoped by Terminal Reality, the same studio responsible for Ghostbusters and BloodRayne (we have now exhausted every possible game-to-movie relationship with just this dev), lent some demo footage of their game Demonik to Grandma’s Boy. There’s quite a bit of the game featured throughout the film, and if Demonik had actually been released, it would have made for a decent stealth advertisement.

Grandmas boy Demonik GameInstead, Demonik was canceled by publisher Majesco for budgetary reasons (mostly because Psychonauts bombed at retail, so sad). For even a bit more surrealness, there was also apparently a Demonik movie in the works written by Clive Barker. So in conclusion, Demonik is a game based on a movie (or movie based on a game?) developed by a studio popular for developing games translated to movies and games based on movies, featured heavily in a movie sort of about video game development. Reminds me a bit of the convolutedness behind the Jumper game.

Many other real games are featured and played throughout the film, including Dance Dance Revolution, Halo 2, Guilty Gear X2, and Resident Evil 4. There’s also a giant Naked Snake statue in the office that semi-defeats my theory that this film is completely game-ignorant. Scattered throughout the film are a few lunchtime gaming scenes where fellow testers challenge our hero to one-on-one matches in a game of their choice. The studio seems like a fun place to work, at least.

As for the actual movie surrounding the gaming references, well, it’s okay. The characters are hit and miss, and the fake drama created is just ridiculous. The older women Covert moves in with are not as heavily featured as I expected (you know, the Grandma played by Doris Roberts, who would be played by Betty White now), and most of the humor is about sex or drugs. I’m fine with these types of jokes on a late night when I should be sleeping, and as the movie reigns itself in at around 90 minutes, it’s more than tolerable.

Grandma’s Boy isn’t essential comedy, and it does a rather poor job of representing the video game development industry, but it has its moments. It does manage to place itself in a time capsule of mid ‘00s gaming and centers the little story it has around a canceled video game, so it succeeds in immediately irrelevanting itself.

But you will probably laugh at its stupidity, grimace at its attempted use of game lingo, and smile at the bit of charm that surfaces whenever Linda Cardellini is onscreen, so here it is: watch Grandma’s Boy. Didn’t expect to come to that conclusion.

Grandmas boy Doris Roberts Allen Covert Gaming