Unlike Incident at Loch Ness, no knowledge of Werner Herzog’s career is required to fully appreciate screenwriter Zak Penn’s sophomore directorial effort The Grand. Respectfully sending up the professional poker tournaments that crowd ESPN’s various networks, Penn’s loose, semi-improvised story takes place at the titular contest, where a variety of colorful characters compete for a $10 million purse. It’s a familiar Christopher Guest mockumentary structure that Penn parlays into a series of uneven vignettes featuring a cast of notables, from Cheryl Hines and David Cross as competing siblings, to Ray Romano as Hines’ fantasy football-loving husband, to Dennis Farina as a suave old-school gambler, to Woody Harrelson as a drug-addled moron intent on using his winnings to buy back the Vegas casino that was bequeathed to him by his grandfather and which he lost in a haze of coke, heroin and LSD. The Grand’s ridicule is soft and its narrative proper is mere gossamer. Still, for every scene that goes nowhere – and there are more than a few – there’s some comedy gold lurking around the corner, in most cases courtesy of either Chris Parnell as a socially retarded, Dune-obsessed math wizard who talks in bizarre robotic cadences, or Werner Herzog as a frightening nutcase known as The German who claims that coffee is a “beverage of the cowards” and who explains, while cradling a white bunny on his lap, that he gains personal strength from killing an animal a day.