Why shouldn't there be an improv comedy movie about poker? It's more popular than dog shows and folk music, and it's just people sitting around a table so they can riff away. That's what The Grand is.
Movie Review: The Grand
Unfortunately, it takes forever to set up. They introduce the six main characters in depth with backround stories and skits. That takes the whole first half hour. Even still, the rest of the movie goes into depth with all the supporting characters, so you don't really get it going until the end.
The characters are funny in that contrived improv movie sort of way. One guy has 75 wives so every woman he meets is an ex. There's an antisocial nerd who speaks in monotone.
Cheryl Hines plays the only natural character, natural in that profanity itself is not a quirky trait. She's acting like a real person at a poker tournament and God damn, that hairdo makes her look even hotter than I already think she is.
The real poker guys hold up well to all the comedians. They're playing it straight which is really the only thing that can make this act funny. The in-jokes with the poker world are great, like showing up "Unabomber" with an even more outlandish mask.
The only laugh out loud bit is a character called Sob Story who's only in one scene. That actually plays with the poker dynamic in a creative way. The film needed to be full of moments like that, not just reveling in how crazy everyone could act.
The film does capture the stakes of poker and the tension of waiting for the cards. Some of the story is interesting, so if it's not hilarious, it at least has something to propel casino fans.
Celebrity Poker Showdown is funnier because that's just people being themselves and having fun because the stakes are only for charity. The Christopher Guest troupe couldn't have done it any better, because they would have just done the same contrived characters and uninspired bits. Maybe they would have had more footage to mine for some gems though.