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The Grand
DVD disk
06.17.2008 By: Jason Adams
The Grand order
Director:
Zak Penn

Actors:
Woody Harrelson
Cheryl Hines
David Cross

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Six colorful competitors enter a $10 million winner-takes-all poker tournament, mockumentary-style.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Improv can do wonders to make a comedy both great and rewatchable, but it can also be unbearable if not handled properly. THE GRAND falls somewhere in between; I wanted to like it a lot more given the talent involved, but the whole thing just never came together for me.

Writer/director Zak Penn was at least smart enough to bring in some very funny people to flesh out his rough story outline—dependable performers like Woody Harrelson, David Cross, Cheryl Hines, Dennis Farina and the seriously underrated Chris Parnell. Then there’s the unending onslaught of cameos from people like Michael McKean, Judy Greer, Hank Azaria, Jason Alexander, Shannon Elizabeth, and the amazing Werner Herzog (who seriously steals the movie). Hell, even Brett Ratner shows up to illustrate how he probably gets most of his directing gigs. The celebrity-spotting can be fun, but as you can imagine most get one or two lines max, which feels like a waste.

And that’s probably the biggest issue with THE GRAND…it feels wasteful. The characters are set up well, but rarely pay off with anything more than a chuckle thanks to the sheer number of players. Parnell is hilarious as a DUNE obsessed, social misfit (his showdown with Herzog had me rolling), but nobody else really stood out. Farina’s foul mouthed a-hole (pretty much the same character he always plays) had potential but was only used in a few scenes. Meanwhile, Cross, Hines, Romano and “Mr. Kotter” Gabe Kaplan were tied up in a family crisis storyline that was as pointless as it was boring. Even the poker playing itself was unscripted, which should’ve added an exciting unpredictable element to the film, but the final tournament was almost an afterthought and felt so rushed that it destroyed any possible tension.
THE EXTRAS
Commentary by writer/director Zak Penn, writer Matt Bierman and actor Michael Karnow: The three friends have plenty to say but they really weren’t that funny, which a movie like this sorely needed. And because of the style, they’re relegated to making comments like “Elizabeth Shannon really brought a lot,” when she says five words in the movie.

Select Commentary with Penn and Woody Harrelson, Cheryl Hines and Ray Romano: The actor’s comments fare a lot better than the full commentary. Too bad they only get a few short scenes.

Alternate Endings: I won’t say the two alternate winners here, since that would give away who actually does win, though neither were any better than the original ending.

Deleted Scenes: Six scenes with commentary with Harrelson, Romano, Hines and Penn. The only really worthwhile bits are the ones with the sadly misused Dennis Farina.

Players Profile: Some unused takes for seven of the characters (and one on all the real poker player cameos).

A Trailer and TV Spot.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Fans of Christopher Guest style improv comedy and poker might enjoy THE GRAND, but remember not to get your hopes to high once you see the cast.

Extra Tidbit: Ben Affleck was originally going to play Woody Harrelson’s character but probably decided to stay home every night with Jennifer Garner. Don’t really blame him.
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