Tuesday, December 9, 2008
#117: The Grand
Directed by Zak Penn
Written by Matt Bierman and Zak Penn
Released April 4, 2008
To sum up The Grand is simple: think Best in Show or This is Spinal Tap or A Mighty Wind but replace their subject matter (dog shows, heavy metal or folk music, respectively) with a championship poker tournament. If you know those other movies, then you know you're in for some improvisational comedy with an ensemble cast.
While actors like Hank Azaria, Dennis Farina, Jason Alexander, Chris Parnell, Michael McKean and Woody Harrelson (in full Roy Munson mode) are all likely to put a smile on your face, the inclusion of Gabe Kaplan (the one and only Mr. Kotter) as the father of "identical twins" David Cross and Cheryl Hines really sealed the deal for me. Plus, in a truly inspired and oddball casting choice, you've got directer Werner Herzog as The German.
A number of small stories intertwine throughout this mockumentary, but the story revolves around casino heir Jack Faro (Harrelson) trying to win the $10 million tournament to save his family's casino.
Some of the gags don't work (like the fake instructional Werbe home video), but other material, like the Hines/Cross relationship and Parnell's borderline autistic character Harold, are fun to watch.
The Grand isn't great by any stretch of the definition, but it's a good time, especially if you're into poker or have caught yourself watching one of those late night Texas Hold 'Em shows. Actually, if you're not a fan or player of the game, you'll probably be out of the movie by the second half, when the players make it to the last table in the tournament. I won't tell you who makes it to the table, but it falls on these actors to keep the movie amusing and entertaining... not an easy feat for a game of cards.
In an interesting twist, director Zak Penn decided to make the final table of this fictional tournament a real game, so the winner of the game -- and the end of the movie -- was truly up for grabs.
For more on The Grand:
- Movie information at IMDB and Wikipedia.
- The official site.
- Buy the DVD.
The trailer for The Grand: