18th Oct2018

‘Bad Grandmas’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Florence Henderson, Pam Grier, Judge Reinhold, Randall Batnikoff, Susie Wall, Sally Eaton, David Wassilak, Randall Batinkoff | Written by Srikant Chellappa, Jack Snyder | Directed by Srikant Chellappa

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Bad Grandmas recounts the misadventures of senior citizens Mimi (Henderson), Coralee (Grier), Bobbi (Wall), and Virginia (Eaton), whose quiet life is upended when Bobbi’s son-in-law, Jim (Wassilak), cons her and she loses her house. Mimi, the unofficial leader of the group, decides to take matters into her own hands but things spin out of control, and Jim is inadvertently killed. It isn’t long before local detective Randy McLemore (Batinkoff) begins to investigate. Adding further complication, and danger, is Jim’s criminal associate Harry Lovelace (Reinhold), who’s on the hunt to collect the money his partner owes him.

It’s been a while since we’ve an “old person’s” crime caper this solid and this funny – the last great example being The Maiden Heist, which had Morgan Freeman, Christopher Walken and William H. Macy in the key roles. Which is list of performers a world away from the cast of actresses here. Though, a least for Americans of a certain age, I’m sure former Brady Bunch mum Florence Henderson is held in the same high regard. And with good reason.

Even though she’s acting against type here and is, unfortunately, in her last role before her death – Henderson shows just why she was the cornerstone of such a beloved show as The Brady Bunch and also shows that, had she embraced a different side to her “good-girl” persona, and been given a chance to extend her range and NOT be pigeonholed by her most famous character, then Henderson could have become something of a character actor, rather than just “TV mom.” For it’s Henderson that holds this film together, Henderson that puts the shine into a script that, oftentimes, feels like a Coen Brothers wannabe without the budget, and it’s Henderson that holds the audiences interest, and brings the best out of the rest of the cast.

Can we just talk about that title for a moment? Bad Grandmas. Obviously inspired by the likes of THAT Jackass movie and De Niro’s Dirty Grandpa, as well as the success of Bad Moms and its sequel, Bad Grandmas is a terrible choice of title. It connotes juvenile humour, gross out gags and general slapstick – none of which could be attributed to this film. The original title (which actually flashes up on screen for a few frames thanks to bad editing) was Grandmother’s Murder Club which – whilst sounding more like a Lifetime/Hallmark movie title – fits this film a lot better than the moniker is currently has!

As previously mentioned, the script – from director Srikant Chellappa and co-writer Jack Snyder – feels very much inspired by the likes of the Coens and perhaps also the old-school Ealing comedies of the 40s and 50s: films in particular comedies like: Hue and Cry, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Ladykillers. Films that featured deceptive, duplicitous characters, sometimes doing despicable things, yet never feeling like “bad guys.” Which accurately describes the seniors in Bad Grandmas – yes they kill people but those people are bad guys, not these sweet old ladies. Right? Right?

A dark, yet somewhat madcap, comedy Bad Grandmas is a surprisingly sweet, warm-natured tale of murder; very much an old-school comedy of errors set in the same quirky, off-kilter world that the Coen Brothers love to inhabit – filled with odd characters, odder situations and a whole lot of knowing winks to Florence Henderson’s “butter wouldn’t melt” persona. In other words, this is a fun romp that’s well worth a watch!

Bad Grandmas is out on DVD, in the US, now from Parade Deck Films. The film is set for a UK release on January 28th 2019, courtesy of High Fliers Films.

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