Coming of Age

film 1 of 5

Grandma’s Boy

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 21, 2015

Harold, Harold…

This film’s gags and gag sequences tend to be resourceful in conception, precise in execution, and kind of short on inspiration. That’s how I experience a lot of Lloyd’s films these days, though you should definitely feel free to see them for yourself and disagree with me. For me, though, Grandma’s Boy is sweet and sincere, it huffs and it puffs, and by the end it has become strained and even a bit strident.

(Interlude: pretty girl, that Mildred Davis. Those are two really ugly antagonists!)

Grandma’s Boy is a comedy, but it has got an axe to grind, or at least a story to tell. It’s a you-can-do-it coming of age film, though that basically sums up most all of Harold’s films, at least by the time he hit his stride in late 1919 and early 1920. The difference is that this one has much more melodrama, much more pitched and polarized character conflict. Lloyd isn’t just climbing buildings or scoring touchdowns here. He actually ends up fighting for his life, or at least his soul, and there’s real power in the process.

Like Lloyd’s later The Kid Brother (1927, and his masterpiece, by my estimation), Grandma’s Boy really resembles Henry King’s superb Tol’able David, released just the year before. Comparing isn’t always helpful, but these movies are a matched pair. May I? I find King’s film to be so much better! His bad guys are forces of nature, or symbols of malice. These ones are just threadbare clichés, such that Harold’s eventual prevailing loses much of its heft and resonance.

Some, but not all. Like King’s landmark film, and like The Kid Brother too, the excess of violence at this one’s conclusion does leave a powerful impression. All things considered, it’s a pretty mixed bag. Grandma’s Boy leaves me a little impatient. But you should probably see it and decide for yourselves!