The life of a standup comedian is something of a peculiarity. These people, ranging from the famous, the somewhat famous and those no one has ever heard of, can be found in cities and towns, both big and small, performing nearly every night admirably trying to make people laugh.
Of course no one will ever know exactly what makes them tick, and every standup comedian obviously has their own reasons for grabbing that microphone, standing in the spotlight, and being equally prepared for success as well as failure, hecklers, and generally making a fool of oneself. Some hope to make money, others want to make it to "the big time," while the rest just like entertaining audiences.
Various movies have tried tackling the issue of what motivates such people in releases such as 1988's "Punchline" with Tom Hanks and Sally Fields and 1992's "Mr. Saturday Night" with Billy Crystal. Now we have "Foolish," a reported loosely based autobiographical look at the life of real-life comedian Eddie Griffin.
More a filmed standup comedy routine than anything remotely resembling a noteworthy or even interesting movie, this film has its moments when Griffin is on stage doing his routine, but otherwise is a complete waste of time. With an unconvincing, lame and poorly executed drama wrapped around the standup bits -- and used to fill out the rest of the less than ninety minute runtime -- it's of no surprise that Artisan Entertainment declined to screen this movie for critics before it opened.
Like the above films and even pictures like "Purple Rain" (that tried inserting drama in and around some fabulously staged musical numbers by that guy who used to be Prince), this one attempts to build a drama around the comedy, but it just doesn't work. Much of that fault lies with rap entrepreneur turned filmmaker Master P, a.k.a. Percy Miller, who financed this film and evidently wrote himself into it (the press kit lists Griffin as the writer while the film's on-screen credits list Master P as its writer).
While he's obviously a smart and successful businessman, Master P ("I Got the Hook Up") can't act to save his life, a point reiterated aloud by several attendees at our screening -- especially in scenes where he tries to get emotionally dramatic and spouts lines like "I changed my whole life for you." While he did put up the money to have the film made, Master P should have stayed behind the camera.
Unfortunately, he didn't, and the film thus has an unconvincing and unnecessary subplot of him being a gambling debt collector (although we never see any of that) who gets in trouble with a high level gangster played by Andrew Dice Clay (the "bad-boy" comic who appeared in "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane" at the height of his popularity) who does his normal, tough guy routine.
As abruptly as that "dilemma" is solved (with an ultra convenient bit of blackmail), the film then has Master P's character wanting to put on his own comedy revue -- an element that suddenly pops up out of nowhere from a line of dialogue as if we're already supposed to be aware of that new plot direction. It only, but fortunately, serves to lead us back to Griffin on the stage.
There, Griffin (TV's "Malcolm & Eddie"), in the tradition of comedians who paved the path for him such as Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, is often quite funny. His material, however, and like that of those other comedians, is often quite raunchy and profanity laden, but should entertain the film's target audience.
From joking about various sexual matters to doing impressions ranging from Prince to Brando, Griffin obviously has the gift and knack to become a big success, but this film certainly won't do much for his fledgling cinematic career.
In the end, the film should just have been Griffin's standup material organized in a storytelling fashion with the entire dramatic part being completely jettisoned. Although his brand of humor obviously isn't for everyone, it's often quite funny, but the times when he's not doing his thing, the film grinds to a complete halt. Less a movie than bits and pieces of an irreverently funny comedy routine, the film gets a 1.5 out of 10 simply because it made me laugh several times.