George Gallo, who directed Eddie Griffin in the intermittently amusing 2001 movie "Double Take," puts the comic actor center stage in a one-man show modeled on Richard Pryor's concert films and Eddie Murphy's "Raw." Griffin isn't untalented, but he seems unpolished, not quite ready to carry the weight of a 90-minute concert film. Griffin's material is raunchy and not nearly as edgy as he thinks it is.
Peppered with the n-word from start to finish, Griffin's routines don't go far enough when he turns to topical material about race or terrorism - although a bit about Michael Jackson turning so pale that he's become invisible, making him well suited to fighting terrorism, will get some laughs. Griffin's occasional comedic sparks are eclipsed by jokes that fizzle. He gets mired in predictable macho posturing, with extended riffs on oral sex and homophobic quips about gay men.
In a refreshing departure from stage-bound concert films, Gallo mixes documentary-style footage with his act, which makes for entertaining stuff. Griffin clowns around in his dressing room, visits his Kansas City high school where he first began performing, and chats with students on a bus. There are interviews with members of the extended Griffin clan - the titular dysfunctional family - including one uncle who is an ex-convict, reformed drug addict and pimp, and another with a penchant for porn. Gallo handily intercuts scenes of these relatives with Griffin's comic jabs and dead-on impersonations of them. Griffin's affection for his family, particularly his mother, is touching.
The frequent shots of Griffin's mother and other family members in the audience during the show offer an interesting glimpse into their dueling discomfort and pride at having their family laundry aired. But after Gallo's umpteenth cut to the crowd, it wears thin, just like much of Griffin's routine.
In one scene, he delivers a close-to-the-bone account of meeting his biological father that hints at the comic Griffin might become if he continues to plumb his own life. But in "Dysfunktional Family," his act never quite makes a transformative, Pryoresque leap from biography to art. Griffin may well get there, but he's not there yet.
2 stars (out of 4)
Directed by George Gallo; written by Eddie Griffin; cinematography by Theo van de Sande; edited by Michael R. Miller; music by Andrew Gross; produced by Griffin, Paul Brooks, David Permut. A Miramax release; opens Friday, April 4. Running time: 1:24. MPAA rating: R (strong sexual content, language and drug-related humor).
Movie review: 'DysFunKtional Family'
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