Movie Mind Says:  Add to Online Rental List

If You Like This You Should Watch:  Best in Show, Scary Movie
Better Than:  Lucky You, Stuey
Worse Than:  Rounders

The Grand

Starring: Woody Harrelson, David Cross, Cheryl Hines, Chris Parnell, Richard Kind

One thing I cannot say about The Grand is that it is a typical poker movie. We figure out early on that there is something different about this film, and as long as the viewers can embrace that, you may find it enjoyable. For one thing, it cannot be taken seriously. It is a spoof movie, or in the more traditional sense, a “mockumentary”. The reason I thought it was worthwhile is because it takes a nice stab at a professional (and amateur) poker-world that takes itself way too seriously. So I guess if you can’t appreciate that sense of humor, you might be one of the people it is mocking.

Every one of your typical “poker personas” is represented within this film, some more entertaining than others. I do like that there were a few cameos by real poker players who were able to show that contrary to popular belief, they may have a sense of humor (ie. Phil Helmouth). From the very start of this film, it is clear that the goal was to make a complete mockery of the annoying poker subculture which has managed to show the world that you too can be successful in spite of not having a personality, any athletic ability, a good heart, or any redeeming quality about you. It’s a group of people who needed to be poked fun at, especially with the recent influx of new poker films who threw out drama and suspense in place of awkward pauses and “bad beats”.

Some of the characters here are brilliant, while others are successfully annoying. Nonetheless, they are all caricatures of real players, or the typical amateur player who fits the bill.  At the center of it all is Woody Harrelson as One-Eyed Jack Faro, former owner of a small casino off the strip called the Rabbits Foot. When his grandfather owned it, they used to hold the top poker tournament there (ie. WSOP) but Jack later pawned it off for cash to support his drug habit (can someone say Binion’s??).  Everyone loves Jack, including all of his 72 ex-wives. He is the Vegas stereotype that won’t die, and he plays it well. The hotel-tycoon that loaned Jack the dough is Steve Lavisch (ummm…Steve Wynn anybody?) played by a hilarious Michael McKean. He is an egomaniacal scatterbrain who plans on building the largest casino on the strip…except the whole thing is only “one” room.

Dennis Farina is the old-timer who longs for the Vegas of old, and resents these young punks. Richard Kind plays the naive internet-poker qualifier who appears to be clueless in a live game, and Chris Parnell (Harold Melvin) is the poker player we all love to hate. He has no personality, thinks he knows more than everyone else, lives at home with his mom, and makes snide comments at the table which make you want to smash his snidely little face in. In other words, he is perfect in this role. I think he was probably the best character snapshot of all the players. It is someone we all know or at least have played against.

The other intriguing interaction was between pro poker players (and brother and sister) Lainie and Larry Schwartzman (Cheryl Hines and David Cross). Their overbearing father, Seth, sees no wrong in Lainie and Larry cannot do anything right. Larry is the poker badboy, but looks and acts more like a bitter son who never got a pat on the back by his dad. In the mix of it all, is a brilliant Ray Romano who plays Lainie’s husband Fred Marsh. She didn’t take his name in the marriage which only serves as the tip of the iceberg as to who wears the pants there. The only thing Fred has going for him that is not his wife’s, is his fantasy football team and an idea for inventing a round beach towel. The line of the movie may have been, “Honey what a night! You won 10 million dollars and I got Manning!” Pure gold. 

As for the storyline, don’t pay much attention. That wasn’t the focus here so it shouldn’t be yours. If you are looking for an amusing film that goes against the grain in a subject that has been asking for a slap in the face, this is it. If you are not a poker player or fan you may not get the same enjoyment out of it as those who play or watch on TV. Then again, if you do watch poker a lot on television, you may not understand that you are one of the people it is making fun of.
Submitted 9-2-08

Interesting Cameo Appearance:  Ray Romano (aka Ray from Everybody Loves Raymond) as Fred Marsh, Cheryl Hines’ husband with a manhood complex.
Memorable Quotes:
Larry Schwartzman:
If people played correctly, I would win every single hand, ever.

Harold Melvin: It is apparent that you have no concept of pot odds. There are a number of books available in the gift shop that explain it quite thoroughly. Also, you have corn in your teeth.

Billionaire Steve Lavisch: I myself despise nostalgia, because it’s so old.

Seth Schwartzman: I think if you tell one kid that you don’t love him as much, believe me, that kid is gonna try harder.

Harold Melvin: You should have gone all in three hours ago when your stack still meant something.

Harold Melvin: I was a two-to-one underdog, and the pot paid me 11 to 1. Not a bad risk return ratio. You played poorly.

Harold Melvin: Ruth, if I were a food critic, I would give your cooking five stars — five stars that had each collapsed into a black hole and merged to form the largest black hole in the universe.

Larry Schwartzman: I can psych the shit out of people. I don’t need cards to beat you. I can literally have no cards, and I would still beat you. You think that’s not playing fairly, or that’s not the way a gentleman plays? I would fight you over that.

Phil Gordon: I’m Phil Gordon, and joining me in the booth is Mike Werbe.
Mike Werbe: And I’m Mike Werbe.

Phil Gordon: I think that’s a terrible mistake, Mike.
Mike Werbe: He’s coming from a different generation. Imagine if Abe Lincoln showed up with a stovepipe hat. The electric lights alone are gonna throw him off.

Renee Jensen: Dad, can I just get my job back, and we can move on from this?
Billionaire Steve Lavisch: Look, two things. First, you don’t call me “Dad” unless it’s Thanksgiving or your birthday.
Renee Jensen: . . . my birthday. I know. What’s the second thing?
Billionaire Steve Lavisch: Thanksgiving . . . or your birthday. That’s two.

One Eyed Jack Faro: Yes, I did get thrown out of my own casino, I’m not sure how exactly that happened, but they do say that I gave the order.

One Eyed Jack Faro: So I wanna keep the Rabbit’s Foot. It’s my dream and my passion, and I think.. I have to…
Billionaire Steve Lavisch: As I listen to you, it occurs to me that maybe you’re requesting something of me, and you should know I never answer requests in the positive. Ahh, it’s just, it’s just not what I do.

The German: To feel alive and to get this energy, it is essential for me to kill something each day. It doesn’t have to be a large animal. I squish an ant once in a while, or spiders, they come very easily. I’ve shot stray dogs. Goose.. is a very, very troublesome animal. I’ve had a goat. To strangle a goat, that makes you feel really alive.

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