An Adam Sandler film sans Adam, “Grandma’s Boy,” unlike other Happy Madison productions, headlines no recognizable SNL alumni of the Rob Schneider/David Spade ilk (though the two contribute limp cameos as a sarcastic ethnic landlord and a flitty vegan waiter, respectively). Pic instead promotes second-stringer Allen Covert to top banana and otherwise fills the comic void with a plethora of Sandler semi-regulars and a trio of grotesque but lovable dotty old ladies — Doris Roberts, Shirley Jones and Shirley Knight. Even Sandler diehards may pass on this mostly derivative paean to compulsive computer geekdom and male sexual dysfunction.
A subculture of nerds and geeks aptly staff a videogame company, where they crassly insult each other and teach newcomers armpit farting. Odd-man-out Alex (Covert, who also produced and co-scripted), a 35-year-old ex-accountant turned videogame tester and nonpareil player, supplies the clueless virgins with a touch of vicarious post-pubescence, as evinced by his budding romance with the new program manager Samantha (Linda Cardellini of “Brokeback Mountain”). Alex’s sidekick Jeff (played by Covert’s co-writer and fellow Sandler stalwart Nick Swardson) still lives with his parents, wears bunny PJs and sleeps in a car-shaped bed.
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Alex’s lothario image (dubious at best, given his propensity to jerk off to Lara Croft action figures) is threatened when he loses his apartment and must move in with his grandmother (Roberts). Grandma lives with two contemporaries, Shirley Jones as a been-around comedian groupie who has not only given a hand job to Chaplin but nailed both Abbott and Costello and Shirley Knight as a vitamin pill-popping spacehead.
All the women in the pic are every nerd’s fantasy. Samantha, once out of her business suit, plays a mean videogame. Not only can she drink everyone under the table but her showstopper karaoke rendition of “Push It” provides one of pic’s relative highpoints.
As for the golden girls, their enthusiastic naivete and the nerds’ infantilism feed into one another, the insanity of the workplace invading grandma’s house and vice versa.
Alex, whose drive and ambition have gone up in smoke (enabled by Sandler regular Peter Dante as Dante, pothead extraordinaire), is inspired anew by the women in his life. He asserts his true hero status at the company when the videogame that he secretly and self-deprecatingly designed in his spare time turns out to trump the revered work of resident genius and superannuated child prodigy J.P. (Joel David Moore), who slinks around in black leather Matrix garb rechanneling old Conan O’Brien robotspeak.
Despite its generous quota of gross-out drug, flatulence and tits gags, “Grandma” plays more like a Sandler-starring pic than a broad farce in the “Deuce Bigalow” or “Joe Dirt” mode. But the Sandler-patented mix of the deliberately offensive and the blatantly sentimental loses something in the maestro’s absence.
Covert (who produced and co-scripted) may be a little too nice (lacking Sandler’s angry edge) and a little too — dare it be said? –intelligent-seeming for his own good.
The golden girls are in high sitcom gear, elderly gags proceeding equally from their addiction to “Antiques Roadshow” and their mistakenly drinking “tea” made from Dante’s finest Ethiopian. Roberts’ grandmotherly eagerness readily extends to kickass videogame playing, while Jones proudly flaunts her classy over-the-hill sexpot and Knight wanders around looking for her character’s motivation.
Recycled jokes are executed briskly by tyro helmer Nicholaus Goossen, and Mark Irwin’s lensing is a cut above average.