Dysfunktional Family is a stand-up-comedy concert film featuring Eddie Griffin, complete with outtakes from the comedian's personal life.
In Eddie Griffin's raunchy Dysfunktional Family, the comedian inserts documentary footage from a family reunion into a stand-up-comedy concert film. The result is a voyeuristic and somewhat disturbing look into the root of Griffin's comedy that includes a Jack Daniel's swilling grandfather, a porn-addicted uncle and mother who has no qualms about chasing down her son--with a car. Griffin's upbringing in Kansas City, Mo., where this show takes place, was far from idyllic and makes for some the of the comedian's strongest material. ''You can't be staying here and not contributing, so you're gonna have to learn a little hustling,'' his Uncle Bucky once told a 13-year-old Griffin. But the comic doesn't stop with his family: He also pokes fun at Michael Jackson for alleging his father beat him. ''I wish I did have a father like that who whupped my butt into fame.'' But the concert film looses steam when Griffin goes into hackneyed diatribes about shopping with his wife and the difference between men and women. Some of Griffin's material is also offensive, as demonstrated in a clip where he yells, ''Hey, bin Laden!'' to a passing Sikh on the street. The comedian also makes hateful remarks about gays that are simply ignorant.
Griffin, 34, did not always lead a charmed life. He opened a dance studio at the age of 15, and by the time he was 18, he had already been a father, married and divorced. After stints in both the U.S. Navy and jail, he headed for Los Angeles, where he went on to secure a spot performing at the legendary Comedy Store. Griffin was discovered, and landed a starring role in UPN's hit series Malcolm & Eddie, where he served as writer, producer and director of select episodes, and recently starred in the spy spoof Undercover Brother. Dysfunktional Family, however, presents us with the real Eddie Griffin. On stage, Griffin has irrepressible energy as he comfortably ad-libs most of his material. His impersonations are priceless, especially the one of his uncle shooting up heroin while sitting on the can: the junkie pre-jitters followed by the mechanics of the injection and finally, the euphoric high. Here, his stage antics are balanced with scenes of visits to his old school and neighborhood, showcasing Griffin's personal trials and tribulations.
Dysfunktional Family is directed by George Gallo, who worked with Griffin on Double Take. Gallo does a good job fusing together footage from Griffin's concert film, family reunion and his man-on-the-street bit from his hometown of Kansas City. Griffin's account of his mama trying to run him over with her car, for example, is intercut with his mother's version of the event, proving that his schtick really isn't just an act. But the film fails to consistently deliver laughs and is plagued with unfunny and often hurtful jokes. Arsenio Hall once said that if you're doing comedy and you haven't stolen from Richard Pryor, then you're not doing it right. And while Pryor's influence is apparent in Griffin's concert film, so, unfortunately, is Andrew Dice Clay's. Griffin's has some really funny and original material, especially the bits that pertain to his family, but the rest of his routine just doesn't put him a step ahead of the crowd.
If you think your family is dysfunctional, think again: Griffin redefines the meaning of the word. But while the film has some hilarious moments, it is also plagued by elements of racism and homophobia.