"These are the people that made it happen."
I like Eddie Griffin. I own Undercover Brother and The New Guy, two films in which he gives "darn" funny performances. And now I've seen DysFUNKtional Family, a film that cements my opinion that he's one "heck" of a comedian. Eddie's hip, raw, and quick on the draw in his routine, meshing together the best of real life and news into a topical and funny performance.
This title, as it sat in my screener pile, confused me. The packaging makes this movie appear to be a documentary of Eddie's family reunion in Kansas City. That is not what this movie is about.
Facts of the Case
DysFUNKtional Family is an ingenious combination of one of Eddie Griffin's stand up routines and footage of Eddie visiting his family in Kansas City—with an occasional "man on the street" segment. As he goes through his material, the film cuts away to the reunion where we meet family and friends, and we learn how Eddie develops his routine (at least this one) from his life and his experiences.
The actual film is much better than the DVD packaging description, which I think terribly distorts what the viewer is about to get. But, besides that, this is a great idea that fortunately coincides with a great actor in a great performance. The whole movie depends on Eddie and his jokes. If they work, then you'll laugh and have a great time. You'll enjoy the quick cuts to his family, learning more about them and how they've influenced Eddie, and you'll walk away with a smile. If Eddie's material falls flat, then it all becomes a colossal waste of time. As I said, Eddie's a funny man and so this movie works.
Eddie's jokes cover quite a wide range of topics, but the beginning of his act hinges around the current war on terrorism, Osama bin Laden, and what happened with the planes on 9/11. Though this material could quickly skew into distasteful territory, Eddie never lets that happen. He always makes sure that his jokes are told in such a way as to not belittle the situation, but to make fun of some of the unusual outcomes: not finding bin Laden, new respect for blacks, and airplane passengers' sudden bravery. It's a well-crafted skit. The only problem is that this portion of the routine is very dated. In a few years, will we still find this stuff funny? I'm thinking that because of this, the material won't stand up to the test of time, thereby minimizing the long-term enjoyment of the film.
But once you get past the politically charged aspect of the routine, Eddie then talks about blacks and black culture. As Eddie talks about his culture, we learn more and more about his family. Besides his mama, Eddie's two uncles are the standouts of the set. They seem to have provided Eddie with quite an assortment of material, as one is fixated on porn and the other is an ex-con. We meet both, see a touch of their lives, and see it all flow into Eddie's act.
That's what I find quite clever about this film: jumping from the jokes to real life and back again. Eddie will start a joke, it'll cut to real life where he's hearing the joke, and then it will cut back to his routine. It's fascinating to have that touch of insight into where it all comes from.
I haven't yet mentioned that Eddie's language is quite frank and candid, or perhaps I should just say that he's not afraid to use a specific variety of colorful metaphors. I'll admit that I wasn't expecting his expletive-laced set after seeing him in his movies. His two favorite phrases seem to be the dreaded N-word and motherf***er. What I really liked, from my white boy point-of-view, was Eddie taking a brief second to explain his continual usage of the N-word: because its power is lessened the more it's used.
The disc itself is nicely crafted from the folks at Miramax. Presented in a pristine anamorphic transfer, DysFUNKtional Family, a movie about a comedy routine, looks better than many dedicated features out there. It's an excellent transfer with sumptuous colors and details all combining to produce a very life-like presentation. On the audio front, you are treated to a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that lets you hear Eddie loud and clear, and it really rocks when the random song comes on. Much to my surprise, this DVD also sports a few bonus features. They aren't much, but for the type of "movie" this is, I was impressed, leading me to give it a rather high score in my book. The first extra item is a brief (3.5 minute) featurette called "A DysFUNKtional Premiere." As the name implies, this gives you a little look at the opening night of the movie. The second extra is a collection of 18 deleted scenes. These are not all simple deletions, but also scene extensions. Unfortunately there isn't a "play all" feature, but the scenes clock in at about 50 minutes. You get a lot more funny for your money. Lastly, there is a handful of trailers for Comedian, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and Cool and the Crazy.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
If you're a "delicate flower," then this routine won't appeal to you. Think classic Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy for the type of routine to expect.
I really found myself enjoying this movie. Eddie Griffin puts on a great routine, which is only augmented by the "behind-the-scenes" look at his life and inspiration. He really does have quite the eccentric family, but I'm sure all of us have an odd uncle out there somewhere. My only worry about the disc is the dating of the humor. Because of that, I'm not going to recommend this disc for purchase. I believe your best bet is a rental. You'll get a solid night's entertainment from it, and, if you really like it, then you can pick up your own copy.
DysFUNKtional Family is hereby found not guilty of the charge of lewd behavior in public. Mr. Griffin is free to return to the stage at his discretion.
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Scales of Justice
• A DysFUNKtional Premiere
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