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Dysfunktional Family

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Eddie Griffin pleads for applause.

© 2003, Miramax
All Rights Reserved

OK, now it's official: Eddie Griffin is not funny. I've been waiting a long time for this confirmation.

"Dysfunktional Family" (IMDb listing) is Griffin's answer to the obligatory stand-up comedy film. A mixture of Griffin's wild stage routines, intercut with the comedian's journey to his St. Louis, Missouri childhood home, "Family" is meant to find the connections between what Griffin does on stage, and the community who gives him his material. Director George Gallo (who worked with Griffin on the painful 2001 comedy "Double Take") follows Griffin as he visits his mother, his porn-addicted uncle, his former-junkie other uncle, and the middle-school where Griffin first caught the performance bug.

The main portion of the film is Griffin's stand-up, and boy does Gallo screw the film up here. Whether or not Griffin is a funny man is truly up for interpretation. I have yet to like any of his starring vehicles, and his comedy here lacks the tight satire or wit of his contemporaries. Griffin touches on some pretty tired subjects (slavery, crazy white people, drugs, female shoppers) without ever presenting punch lines, only every conceivable variation on the F-word and the N-word (which must set some type of record here). Even if there are no laughs to be found in the material, the way Gallo shoots the film is the real travesty. Instead of letting the concert play out as normal, Gallo needlessly quickens the pace by cutting the downtime between jokes. Because of this, he has to insert canned laughter into the soundtrack to sell the audience's reaction, and it sounds extraordinarily fake. Griffin comes off as a rapid-fire joke teller with no idea how to let a gag breathe, thus ruining anything sustainable in the yuks department. Gallo also cuts in audience reaction footage that doesn't match the jokes told. He shows urine-soaking-pants laughter coming from the crowd after Griffin simply smiles, or nods his head in a slightly funny way. I don't buy it. Nothing corresponds correctly, with the filmmaker underlining the process instead of focusing attention on the performer. Gallo has never directed a concert picture before, and it shows with every last awful frame presented here.

Unless you are a die-hard Griffin fan, I wouldn't go near this film. Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and even the recent Martin Lawrence release "Runteldat," showed clearly that this format can be done with hilarity and competent direction, two things "Dysfunktional Family" is sorely lacking.

Filmfodder Grade: D-

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