Movie Review: The Grand

by , Mar 29, 2008 | 8:47 pm

The GrandRating: A-

This is one of the best comedies I’ve seen in a long time. I laughed myself to tears during several parts of the movie. I walked into the theater with low expectations and left thinking about seeing it again.

The casting was brilliant, as many of the actors are experienced improv comics and had no problem adding their own flavor and likely varying quite a bit from the original script. From Woody Harrelson to Ray Romano, from Richard Kind to Dennis Farina, and from David Cross to Chris Parnell, most everyone took their characters to the highest level. Even Cheryl Hines surprised me – only because I’m not terribly familiar with her work – in her deadpan scenes.

Numerous poker players were strewn throughout the film, like Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Laak, and Antonio Esfandiari. Gabe Kaplan had a main role, which wasn’t tremendously impressive but an integral and sometimes funny role nonetheless. Phil Gordon played a recurring role throughout the movie as the tournament commentator, and he was fantastic. Some of his lines were the best of the movie.

It is highly likely that many of the characters in the film were based on some of the better-known poker players on the tournament circuit. However, when trying to nail down some of the impersonations, it was difficult. All of the main characters each seemed to be mimicking two or three real life poker players rolled into one. For example, Werner Herzog played “The German” who had some similarities to David “Devilfish” Ulliott, but the character was so extreme that it was difficult to determine which other players were combined to create the character. Jason Alexander played Dr. Yakov Achmed perfectly as a Middle Eastern player – a cross between Freddy Deeb, Eli Elezra, Sam Farha, and maybe others – whose country of origin was supposedly unknown to anyone in poker.

Much of the humor was dry and dark. (Think Neil Simon’s Murder by Death.) It was necessary to pay attention at all times, especially as a person in the poker world looking for recognizable faces and scenes, in order not to miss a word, but it paid off in the hilarious one-liners and references.

I’ll be honest. Non-poker fans might find this a mediocre comedy at best. There are numerous references to poker life, terms, and players that will only be funny to those with some knowledge of these nuances of the game.

And poker fans who are looking for the next Rounders won’t find it with The Grand. This is not a film that will make anyone fall in love with poker or want to learn the game. Undoubtedly, that was not the intention of Director Zak Penn.

Some of the characters do things that are exaggerated for comedic effect and certainly not meant as a reflection on true poker life. If the viewer is unable to laugh at himself/herself and some of the craziness that is the poker world, or doesn’t grasp dry humor, the wit may fall on deaf ears.

The only thing that brought the rating down to an A- was the few scenes toward the end of the movie that seemed to slow it down. In addition, Michael McKean’s role as the Vegas entrepreneur was odd and only funny for the first minute or so of his first scene.

Overall, for poker enthusiasts and those who appreciate a niche improv comedic effort, The Grand is a must-see film.

(View clips, synopsis, cast, and show times and cities on the schedule at

4 Comments to “Movie Review: The Grand”

  1. Grunkzzz

    Thanks for the review

  2. DanM

    Is this your movie, Grunkzzz? I couldn’t find you on IMDB

  3. Grunkzzz

    Uhm, no I was the one begging for a review earlier

  4. Grunkzzz

    So redzero and I went to see the movie finally. It had some funny parts, but it took too long to build up the characters. They even developed characters that didnt do anything really which was a waste of time. Redzero stated he thought there would be more “poker jokes”.

    I don’t think it was worth going to simply because I had to go to the magnolia which is a pain in the neck to go to for me.

    Definitly didnt suck.. I would say it was ok and compaired to some other poker movies was done well.