Film Reviews

DYSFUNKTIONAL FAMILY

By • Apr 4th, 2003 •

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Be forewarned, it’s raw, vulgar, and very, very funny. I actually had to quiet down the audience around me. And yes, I was the white woman who later lost it and shouted at the screen-“You’re right, Eddie!” I’m a big fan of stand up comedy films. Last year offered us Margaret Cho’s stunning NOTORIOUS C.H.O. THE MOVIE. Martin Lawrence followed his run of unfunny movies with the terrible RUNTELDAT. I thought Lawrence was only killing comedy, but apparently he’s intent on killing stand-up as well. Now comes Eddie Griffin (UNDERCOVER BROTHER), who, unlike Lawrence, let a skilled director breathe fresh life into the comedy concert formula. Griffin’s stand-up act is the centerpiece, but it is his unapologetic family and his white light look at his childhood that frames the movie and gives it an emotional connection to the audience. Directed by George Gallo, DYSFUNKTIONAL FAMILY doesn’t celebrate a real family, it just presents one more honestly than we have ever seen.

Michael Jackson does look like Ari (Helena Bonham Carter) in Tim Burton’s PLANET OF THE APES. And I strongly agree with Griffin-Why is Joe Jackson constantly blamed for pushing his five sons to superstardom? Does anyone have any sympathy for Michael Jackson? Griffin’s angry retort to Jackson was cheered. “With $100 million dollars, you can afford to get some fucking therapy.” Isn’t this what we all want to say to Michael?

Eddie Griffin struts onstage for his performance in his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri in tight black leather pants and red-lined jacket. He’s sexy, tough-talking, and uses language his audience is intimately familiar with. Yet Gallo doesn’t keep this facade up. He cuts to Eddie as a kid and to Eddie’s mother, aunt and uncles talking about him. Eddie goes back to his high school and talks to people on the street. He’s not a movie star here, just a little guy walking around the old neighborhood in a baggy red sweatsuit. His conversation with locals, where he casually mentions he just got out of prison, are hilarious.

Griffin’s mother raised him alone and when he got unruly she used a switch on him. He says she whipped him out of going to the penitentiary, but apparently, according to Griffin, not good enough. Some black kids were beat into wealth, international lifelong fame, and owning the $600 million dollar Beatles music catalog.

Griffin’s comedy may be objectionable to some (though not an offended soul was in my audience), yet his unconditional love for his mother and family completely humanizes him. You can’t help but like Griffin when he gives his mother such a prominent role in his life. And there’s not enough of Griffin’s two outrageous uncles: The deliciously frank, funny Uncle Curtis, a fat man in overalls who proudly displays his photo album of female genitalia and homemade porn movies starring himself, and Uncle Bucky, a former heroin user and hustler. Now wouldn’t you say Griffin raised the bar for tolerance and accepting people for exactly who they are? And then, he puts them in his movie.

As unlikely as this may seem, this personable expose is inspirational. Eddie Griffin, disadvantaged without a family member in show business and raised by a hard-working mother, made it.


Credits:
Director: George Gallo
Producer: Eddie Griffin, David Permut, Paul Brooks
Screenwriter: Eddie Griffin

Cast:
Eddie Griffin

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