Film Review: Bad Grandmas

The embarrassment a few fine, august actors have to go through in the name of "comedy" is lost on a movie that never warrants a single laugh.
Specialty Releases

It was a sad day when Florence Henderson died last November, because to many of a certain age she was the ideal of a maternal figure, thanks to her role on “The Brady Bunch.”

It’s sadder when an actor dies leaving behind unreleased work. While Harry Dean Stanton had another great movie in him, Henderson wasn’t so “lucky,” because her last movie is something called Bad Grandmas, whose title says it’s clearly trying to bring in older women looking to laugh at the exploits of other septuagenarians. 

Henderson plays Mimi, a Southern suburban woman who regularly hangs out with her friends, including Bobbi (Susie Wall), whose ex son-in-law Jim (David Wassilak) is trying to kick her out of her house. Mimi goes to Jim’s office to scare him into leaving Bobbi’s house alone, but accidentally kills him instead.

Mimi and her other friends, Virginia (Sally Eaton) and Coralee (Pam Grier), start to panic when a good-looking cowboy detective (Randall Batinkoff) visits them, looking into James’ disappearance. At the same time, Bobbi has been kidnapped by two men—one played by Judge Reinhold, no less—who want the deeds to her house, so her friends have to scrape together $200,000 to buy her back.

The simplest of plots notwithstanding, Bad Grandmas doesn’t offer a lot to anyone but the most bored and neglected of grandmothers looking for a way to kill time. (In that case, the movie might be slightly better than most of their reality-TV show options, but not by much.)

Director Srikant Chellappa probably meant well in trying to create a movie targeting older women, who usually have to count on a Dame to bring them into theatres. Bad Grandmas comes across like a pale imitation of “The Golden Girls” if it were merged with the recent Rough Night, which also involved an accidental death. But Bad Grandmas is never as funny as those two efforts.

Other than obvious jokes about falling in supermarket aisles, the inability to understand new technology and the obligatory pot-smoking scene, most of the characters are ridiculous stereotypes, with few of the actors doing much with any of them. All the very bad acting is countered by what seems like heavy improvising that mostly falls flat.

Other than the few moments when the ladies are trying to do something to move the plot forward, they’re drinking and having fun—Henderson even singing some Tammy Wynette—but there’s nothing particularly entertaining about their antics.

In some ways, it’s nice to see older women being given a voice against the younger men who might patronize them, but any message that might have surfaced is lost when the humor is more embarrassing than anything in the bigger-budget flop Going in Style. At its worst, the movie is ageist and even a little sexist at times, and it’s obvious Chellappa isn’t skilled enough as a filmmaker to make any of the different elements work together.

While it’s nice to see Henderson onscreen one last time, as far as swan songs go, Bad Grandmas is quite a tragic one.

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