Grandma’s Boy

One thing almost all movies have is a plot. Good movies, bad movies, average movies, most of them have stories of some kind. They may be bad stories, or illogical ones, or boring ones, but they are stories. Why, a story is such a basic element of filmmaking that one would almost consider it a prerequisite.

Yet here is “Grandma’s Boy,” a movie that does not have a story. Oh, things happen in the movie, sure. Most of the scenes serve to advance one of several threads — the ongoing rivalry between this character and that one, this guy’s unusual living situation, that guy’s weird fondness for jungle animals, and so forth. But none of these can really be called a plot, let alone THE plot of the movie. It’s just random stuff happening.

Written and directed by Adam Sandler’s buddies and starring a few more of them, the film is about a 35-year-old video-game tester named Alex (Allen Covert, one of the writers) who gets evicted from his house and moves in with his grandmother (Doris Roberts) and her two housemates, senile Bea (Shirley Knight) and randy Grace (Shirley Jones). He tells his buddies at the office that he’s staying with three hot chicks, and implies he’s having sex with them, when the real reason he’s tired every day is that Grandma wakes him up at 6 a.m. to do chores.

A young-ish pot-smoking bachelor who has to live with his nana? I’ve seen good movies with worse premises than that one. Yet for some reason, it’s ignored. The movie isn’t “about” Alex’s uncomfortable living arrangement. In fact, apart from having to do chores, it’s only occasionally an annoyance.

So what IS the movie’s conflict? I mean, all movies need a conflict, some obstacle that’s preventing the protagonist from achieving what he wants. But that would require the protagonist to want something, and “Grandma’s Boy” is above that. Alex doesn’t want anything, and thus there are no conflicts. I’d call this defiance of basic movie conventions “experimental” if I didn’t know it was actually due to sheer incompetence.

Alex has a friend and co-worker named Jeff (Nick Swardson, another co-writer) who lives with his parents (whom he calls his “roommates”) and wears footy pajamas when he sleeps in his racecar-shaped bed. Alex and Jeff have a pot dealer named Dante (Peter Dante) who is really tan and walks around naked sometimes. Alex and Jeff get a new supervisor at work, Samantha (Linda Cardellini), who has flown in to make sure the new video game gets done on time. The game creator, J.P. (Joel David Moore), is a Matrix-dressed nerd who sometimes talks like a robot. The vice president of the company (Kevin Nealon) does yoga and talks about the “energy” in the room.

All of these are perfectly reasonable elements to add to your quirky stoner comedy. But you don’t want them to be the focus. No, no, sweetie, you want them to be interesting flavors to complement the overall taste of your story. But what’s that? There IS no story? You’ve put all these ingredients into the stew pot but neglected to add a broth to keep them together? Well, then you’ve wasted everyone’s time. I hope you’re proud of yourself.

There’s a bit of obligatory gross-out humor near the beginning, but then the movie settles into a fairly affable routine of slacker jokes and juvenile put-downs. Since there is no central storyline to progress, I assume each scene is in the movie simply because someone thought it was funny — which is puzzling, because most of them aren’t. There are funny moments, yes, and I laughed several times over the course of the film. But as I look back, I can’t think of any entire SCENES that are funny, only individual lines or events in them. It’s a movie of supporting paragraphs but no thesis.

(Warning: This film contains Rob Schneider and David Spade.)

C (1 hr., 36 min.; R, abundant harsh profanity, some very strong sexuality, some nudity, a lot of pot-smoking.)