Sunday, July 15, 2012

Happy B'day, Eddie Griffin: DysFunktional Family

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 57 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux


DysFunktional Family (2003)
Running time: 89 minutes (1 hour, 29 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong sexual content, language and drug-related humor
DIRECTOR: George Gallo
WRITER: Eddie Griffin (head writer)
PRODUCERS: Paul Brooks, Eddie Griffin, and David Permut
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Theo van de Sande
EDITOR: Michael R. Miller
COMPOSER: Andrew Gross

DOCUMENTARY/CONCERT

Starring: Eddie Griffin

The subject of this movie review is DysFunktional Family, a 2003 documentary film, concert movie, and stand-up comedy film starring actor and comedian, Eddie Griffin.

I’ve actually gone to a theatre on five occasions to see a concert film; four of movies were concert films by comedians (the fifth was Prince’s brilliant documentary Sign ‘o’ the Times, chronicling his concert tour of the same name across Europe). I’ve seen two hilarious Richard Pryor films, Richard Pryor Live on Sunset Strip and Richard Pryor Here and Now, brilliant works that showcased the flourishes that made him the funniest man on the planet and that revealed his personal tragedies in poignant, yet humorous stories. Along the same lines was Eddie Murphy Raw (currently the most successful concert film at the box office in film history), which was very funny and very revealing about Eddie Murphy’s family and his personal views on relationships. Martin Lawrence’s You So Crazy dismayed me; it was partly funny, but mostly just long, boring, and vain.

Comedian Eddie (Undercover Brother) Griffin’s DysFunktional Family is quite similar to those four works in several ways. Griffin is stylistically similar to Richard Pryor in his delivery and his storytelling and in the kind of stories he chooses to tell. Like Eddie Murphy, Griffin brings a harder and meaner edge to the kind of family and personal storytelling that makes up his act than even the very blue Pryor brought to his. However, like Martin Lawrence, Griffin’s act is filled with too many dry spots were the comedy isn’t humorous; it’s just vulgar and strained, but I have to say that Family is far funnier than I remember You So Crazy to be.

Griffin’s material is quite vulgar, not just in the explicitness of the language, but also in the harshness of the subject matter. Family was filmed during Griffin’s return trip to his hometown, Kansas City, Missouri for a concert. The film mixes concert footage with documentary footage of various members of Griffin’s family and of childhood landmarks. Director George Gallo uses footage from family get-togethers to introduce each subject or topic in Griffin’s act. For instance, film footage about a particular uncle would lead into Griffin’s routine about that uncle.

Griffin’s family is, as the say, “something else.” I found myself both laughing at and being repulsed by his family’s behavior, but I guess that we all have bone yards in our respective family closets. I know that my closet doesn’t include my mother trying to run me down in the street with her car, an uncle who directs and films homemade pornographic movies, or a junkie uncle who shoots up in front of me; still, none of us are perfect.

Griffin, at times, is absolutely hilarious. Some of the stories are quite entertaining, and some of his impersonations are dead on. Some of his social commentary is succinct, while much of it is dated and has been said before by lesser talents, especially the observations about white people. A lot the concert was just hardcore vulgar, and Griffin uses the words “nigga” and “nigger” so much that he literally takes way the impact of those two words. In fact, he states that he thinks the more you say those words, the less power they have. I can understand that using harsh language might represent the natural flow of his speech, but when he’s trying to entertain, he has to be able to communicate his message or story to his audience. Sometimes the overuse of profane and vulgar language just gets in the way. The listener just can’t capture the essence of the story if he has to spend all his time picking through the foulness.

For the most part, I like what Griffin brought to the stage. He just doesn’t seem to have much control over his material. It’s like both he and his act are forces of nature that clash against each other and what results is the cacophony of a potty-mouthed man in need of therapy, perhaps because he allegedly improvises on stage instead of having a prepared script. There’s some funny stuff here, even some belly laughs, but the delivery is so foul that I’m not sure if the end results justify the means. DysFunktional Family is for people who like it raw and shitty.

5 of 10
B-

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