Though best known for playing Danny Tanner on the TV sitcom Full House and hosting America’s Funniest Home Videos (remember that one?), Bob Saget’s creative tendencies on the whole veer into far darker territory. His stand-up comedy is coarse and full of F-bombs, and he famously parodied himself to shocking effect on TV’s Entourage. Saget also has a sideline career as a director, with titles like Dirty Work with fellow comic Norm MacDonald and the full-tilt piss-take Farce Of The Penguins. Benjamin is his most ambitious film yet, and like his very career itself, it walks a fine line between sentiment and outrageous political incorrectness. Driven on by the script from Joshua Turek (making his feature debut after a host of shorts), Saget doesn’t hold back on this comedy about a bizarre case of family fracture.
When the harried, anxious Ed (Saget) discovers drug paraphernalia belonging to his quiet, near somnambulant teenage son Benjamin (Mark Burkholder), he does what any parent would do: he stages an intervention, and invites over seemingly everybody he knows. There’s his cocky brother Rick (Kevin Pollak); his best friend, also Ed (Rob Corddry); his personal assistant come lover Jeanette (Mary Lynn Rajskub); his daughter Amber (Clara Mamet) and her two boy pals; his ex-wife Marley (Peri Gilpin); and two distant relatives (Cheri Oteri, Dave Foley) who proceed to lift all of his removable possessions as soon as they arrive. Once in place, the intervention soon takes second place to the bizarre interactions between this truly strange collection of characters.
With its single location, heavy reliance on dialogue over action, and uninhibited ensemble cast, Benjamin feels curiously like an adaptation of a stage play that never was. Its insularity, however, is exploded by the inherent kookiness of the script and the inventive performances of the cast, all of whom are more than happy to “go there.” Featuring quite possibly the (intentionally) worst man-on-man fight scene ever filmed and an amusingly loose approach to subjects like drugs, cross-dressing, infidelity, and family relationships, the very funny (and often very wrong) Benjamin is another appropriately original entry in the career of Bob Saget.