Should I mention that Bad Grandmas was Florence Henderson’s last acting gig? Do I have to?
Henderson, who passed away last year and was primarily known for being America’s Mom as Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch, gives it her all in Bad Grandmas. You can tell she’s having fun with an “anti-role” that knowingly gives her foul things to do, including the main crisis of murdering someone. With this clever meta-gag being paired with the perfect choice of actor, it’s a shame that writer/director/producer Srikanth Chellappa didn’t strike to satirize worn-out “gangster granny” jokes. It’s about time someone took Madea down a peg. Instead, the filmmaker contributes to tired stereotypes to gain cheap laughs, including repetitive gags featuring Henderson smoking weed from readily available joints rolled by “the kid down the street”.
Bad Grandmas is a wannabe of other madcap crime comedies starring inept amateurs. In this case, three seniors (Henderson, Pam Grier, Sally Eaton) team up to help their friend, Bobbi (Susie Wall), defend herself against her daughter’s ex-lover. The intimidating ruse planned by the ladies goes sideways, resulting in a nosy detective hot on their tail and high-strung thugs kidnapping one of the women and then struggling to maintain their higher ground against the ruthless ladies.
You’ve heard this kind of story before; either by Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo, Burn After Reading) or any of the competent Coen copycats on the indie circuit (Life of Crime, Austin Found, Netflix’s Shimmer Lake). The problem with Bad Grandmas, other than its disappointing unoriginality, is that its eye-rolling silliness is too much to handle. Chellappa doesn’t reign in the excessive fumbling-and-bumbling by the protagonists, and the stupidity of the villains (which includes an appearance by Judge Reinhold) never pushes these men into being true threats.
I can’t stop thinking about Florence Henderson in this movie though; it’s such an odd anomaly. From America’s sweetheart to graphically carving up a dead body, wrapping the body parts in cellophane, and storing them in her deep freezer. Let’s see Shirley Jones pull that off!
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie