Concert performance of Eddie Griffin that includes behind-the-scenes documentary footage detailing the stand-up comedian's personal life and family as he travels to a family reunion to reunite with the cast of characters who are the root of his comedy: his mother, an uncle who was an ex-pimp, and his Uncle Curtis, who pontificates on his career as a porno director.
When this comedy-concert film gives Eddie Griffin a chance to step out of the bag that has become a package of sure-fire, guffaw-forcing clichés for African-American comedians, it's worth paying attention to. "Family" follows Mr. Griffin to his Kansas City, Mo., home and spends a little time with his mother and two of his colorful uncles. George Gallo intersperses interview clips of Mr. Griffin's family with a documentary taping of the comedian's stand-up act. The intent of the footage of the relatives seems to be an attempt to position "Family" as more than just a concert film. This is a better idea than the illustrative sound effects ladled over Mr. Griffin's act; he's hardly so subtle that his routines scream for embellishment. In "Family," Mr. Gallo doesn't use much of the offstage material, which is too bad; it's just the right approach to offer insight into a stand-up like Mr. Griffin, whose cockiness is a dare, part arrogance and part fear. When his act gets interesting, he's drawing lines that he has to force himself to cross. His best material is autobiographical, like his assessment of Holy-Roller church services: "Church is a concert for old people who don't get out too much." (The high-firepower profanity of his act will probably send quite a few people to church.) Caught by his own jokes, he cackles in a high-pitched whisper, just like Michael Jackson, one of his idols. When he's hard on himself, Mr. Griffin mines the funk in "Dysfunktional Family." Elvis Mitchell
2003-04-04 | Elvis Mitchell | Read the New York Times Review of DysFunKtional Family