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Two Comedies from Fox

Grandma's Boy (April 30/06)

There've been a lot of mediocre comedies released under Adam Sandler's Happy Madison banner - ie Joe Dirt, The Animal, etc - but Grandma's Boy surely represents the proverbial bottom of the barrel. While star Allen Covert is engaging enough, he's been surrounded by a surfeit of juvenile gags and woefully underdeveloped characters (the majority of whom are about as authentic as the film's premise). Covert plays Alex, a video-game tester who's forced to move in with his grandmother and two elderly roommates after being thrown out of his house (it goes without saying that much wackiness ensues). Grandma's Boy's been directed by first-timer Nicholaus Goossen, who - along with screenwriters Barry Wernick, Nick Swardson, and Covert - peppers the movie with one puerile, thoroughly unfunny joke after another; there comes at point at which it becomes abundantly clear that nothing within the film's too-long 94-minute running time is going to elicit any laughs. And although Goossen and company have packed the cast with some genuinely talented folks - including Linda Cardellini, Shirley Jones, and Kevin Nealon - they're generally underutilized and forced to participate in exceedingly silly bits of comedy. Even the most indiscriminate Sandler fan will find little here to embrace, and - if nothing else - the film proves without a doubt that it's a lot more difficult to create a comedy that's actually funny than one might have imagined.

out of

The Ringer (May 16/06)

The Ringer is a silly yet surprisingly likeable comedy revolving around a schlub named Steve Barker (Johnny Knoxville), who finds himself in some serious financial trouble after a friend loses three fingers in a mowing accident. Steve's sleazy uncle Gary (Brian Cox) comes up with a surefire plan for the two to make some quick cash, wherein Steve is to assume the guise of a mentally-handicapped athlete named Jeffy and enter himself into the Special Olympics (the idea being that Gary, knowing that Steve will probably dominate his competitors, can place an exorbitant bet on Jeffy). Directed by Barry W. Blaustein and written by Ricky Blitt, The Ringer generally suffers from a deficiency of laughs - although there are admittedly a few genuinely humorous moments here and there (Cox's reference to Michael Clarke Duncan's character from The Green Mile as a "monster 'tard" is certainly a highlight). By developing the characters and storyline, Blitt effectively ensures that the movie's success never hinges on whether or not the various jokes are funny (unlike, say, Grandma's Boy). Knoxville's warm, believable performance goes a long way towards keeping things interesting, while Cox easily steals each of his few scenes as Steve's hilariously opportunistic uncle. Even the requisite sequence in which Steve's deception is discovered is handled fairly well, all things considered (likewise, his fake breakup with love interest Katherine Heigl isn't nearly as interminable as it could've been). The Ringer is far from a comedy classic, but there's no denying that it's a whole lot better than one might've expected.

out of

About the DVD: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment presents both films with widescreen transfers, along with a host of bonus features (Grandma's Boy: two commentary tracks, featurettes, deleted scenes, and an unrated cut of the film; The Ringer: a commentary track, deleted scenes, and featurettes).
© David Nusair