Directed By:Zak Penn
Starring: Woody Harrelson, David Cross, Dennis Farina, Cheryl Hines, Richard Kind, Chris Parnell, Werner Herzog
The Grand Championship of Poker, a winner take all battle for $10,000,000. Contested by the unlikeliest bunch of misfits ever to sit down at a poker table.
The Grand, the Superbowl of the poker world has drawn an eclectic bunch of competitors, the best of the best in professional and amateur worlds of poker. There’s Luck Jack Faro, Woody Harrelson, a third generation gambler and world class addict. Lainie, Cheryl Hines, and Larry Schwartzman, brother and sister competitors whose father, Gabe Kaplan, instilled a fierce sense of competitiveness in them from childhood. Harold Melvin a poker savant with the social skills of a poker chip. Deuce Fairbanks, Dennis Farina, and the German, Werner Herzog, a pair of old school gamblers who would like nothing better to humiliate this new generation of players or barring that take them out to the desert and bury them in a shallow grave. Then there’s Andy Andrews the unknown amateur from the Midwest who stumbled his way to the table via an online tournament he came across while searching for antique fireplace pokers.
The tournament is announced by Phil Gordon, playing Phil Gordon and Mike Werbe played by Michael Karnow. Phil played straightman to Werbe who is a horribly incompetent colorman who has written a series of books on Poker of dubious expertise and everytime he opens his mouth proves he is in way over his head.
Some of them are playing just because that’s what they do a few of the players though have a lot riding on the game. Jack is in hoc for seven million dollars to a developer who plans on demolishing the Rabbits Foot, the casino Jack’s Grandfather left him that he has managed to run into the ground. If he loses the tournament he loses the casino. Larry has always been overshadowed by his sister who has always had the support of there father who practices a strange form of tough love with Larry. Andy Andrews just wishes to win enough money to move him and his wife from the frostbite capital of the world to somewhere warmer.
The movie has many funny moments and I had a lot of fun spotting cameos and sight gags in the sets, but it just never really seems to come together.The movie starts out in the vein of a mockumentary, but it soon seems to swing into more of a spoof of a sports drama. It kind of vacilitates back and forth to one degree or the other through out the movie never really fully convincing in either mode. All of the characters, except for maybe Lainie start out as over the top caricatures, as the movie progresses the actors do a great job of filling them out. Even so the characters started so far out in orbit they never really come back to earth.
The video is presented in widescreen format. It looks great, maybe too good. The filmmakers used a lot of Photoshopped faux archival photos as well as some beautiful cut scenes of Las Vegas to fill in the backstory. It all looked great. There were a few scenes were I noticed some blooming but I never noticed any other artifacts. The focus is deep on nearly all the shots which is fortunate because there are a lot of sight gags hidden in the sets.
The audio is presented in your choice of Dolby Surrond 5.1 or 2.0 English only. There are no subtitles but there is closed captioning. The sound mix is fine and the score is great moving back and forth between a high power generic sports theme and a whimsical personal pieces for the more character driven moments.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
(The DVD comes with a cardboard slipcover for the standard amaray keep case. The artwork is inventive and attractive with a bold color scheme and typeface. This carries over to the menu screens as well which are well laid out and humorous. There is a generous offering of extras. A commentary track by the Writer/Producer/Director Zak Penn, the Writer/ Executive Producer Matt Bierman and Actor Michael Karnow. It’s informative and often more entertaining than the film. There are two alternative endings which will be ineteresting to anyone who found the film remotely enjoyable. There are deleted scenes as well as some more commentary for selected scenes with Woody Harrelson, Cheryl Hines, Ray Ramano. There is a trailer and a TV spot to round out the special features. Quite a haul really and all of pretty good quality
In a way this is a very frustrating movie. It got gobs of talent, there are to many cameos to count, the characters while over the top are charming for the most part. There are a lot of funny gags, but it just doesn’t gel. I never could get a handle on whether this was a mockumentary or a spoof of sports drama and It just was not bold enough to cut through and forge it’s own genre. It’s an entertaining movie and while it is ultimately disappointing it still a fun watch, for the gags and laughs and spotting the cameos.
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10
The Movie 5/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10