Director Jamie Babbit specializes in comedies about unlikeable women. While the films invariably appeal to a fairly select taste, they are almost always appealing.
Not today. Today she’s made the longest 2-hour comedy in history.
I felt myself age. I did not feel myself laugh.
The Stand In should be a by-the-numbers twist on All
About Eve, an evil twin kind of comedy caper. According to its promotion,
it’s “the story of a disaffected comedy actress and her ambitious stand-in
Eventually, that’s what it is. Candy Black (Drew Barrymore, better than this) hates her fame, her life and her career. It’s driven her to bottles of pills and liquor and finally, into reclusion. That reclusion has driven her stand-in Paula (also Barrymore, still better than this) to unemployment and homelessness.
So eventually, they switch identities. “Eventually” being
the key word because even though you can see where this is going from the film’s
opening scene, The Stand In takes a full 45 minutes to get there.
That is to say that Act 1 is 45 minutes long. And once you’re
there you realize you know where things will go from here, so why on earth did
you wait this long to just settle into a brazenly predictable if inexplicably lengthy
and surprisingly mean spirited trajectory?
It is not because you were so busy laughing you didn’t
notice the time.
Sam Bain wrote 2010’s magnificent Four Lions, a smart,
provocative political comedy that too few people saw. Babbit directed the
ballsy cult comedy But I’m a Cheerleader. Barrymore is likable, talented
and funny. What the hell went so miserably, soul crushingly wrong with this
A big part of the problem is a lack of commitment to tone.
Both director and writer have experience with satire, although this film fails
miserably at the wit or social commentary required. Moments of farce don’t
land, the romantic comedy angle—Barrymore’s bread and butter—is maybe its
Babbit’s film feels most at home as a belabored attempt at
dark comedy—dark mainly because every character is loathsome, so at least that
part is a success.
We want to thank Cati Glidewell, also know as The Blonde in Front, for joining us to talk through some of the best blond(e)s in horror. There’s a lot of names here, but I think we may have proved that—with a few really bloody exceptions—blondes do seem to have more fun in these movies.
6. Francis Dollarhyde (Tom Noonan), Manhunter (1986)
Tom Noonan’s entire career is defined by a mixture of tenderness and menace. It begins with his unusual physical appearance, including his almost colorless locks, and ends with performances that realize everything broken and horrifying about a character—especially Francis Dollarhyde. The terrifying chemistry between Dollarhyde and a blind Joan Allen’s is heartbreaking perfection.
5. Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm), Peeping Tom (1960)
Like Norman Bates across the pond, England’s Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) is an innocent. Boehm’s blank stare, his frightened mouse reflexes, his blond locks all contribute to a character so tender you can’t help but root for him—although it would be great if he’d stop murdering women.
4. Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano), Ichi the Killer (2001)
A bleach blond in a Japanese film will automatically draw the eye, but Kakihara’s not just here to catch your attention. Genius filmmaker Takashi Miike and Tadanobu Asano created this badass to upend your expectations. He’s the baddie, right? And man-child Ichi is the innocent? Or is Miike toying with you?
3. Gage (Miko Hughs), Pet Sematary (1989)
Get the Kleenex ready because the ridiculously cute Mike Hughs has a date with a semi. A toddler when he filmed this movie, Hughs really turns in a remarkable performance, whether he’s tugging your heart strings or slicing through Fred Gwynne’s Achilles tendon.
2. David (Keiffer Sutherland), The Lost Boys (1987)
Hubba hubba. The rock star duds. The homoerotic relationship with Jason Patrick. The mullett! Keiffer Sutherland’s bad boy David was so cool you couldn’t help wanting to hang out with him. Eating maggots seems like a small price to pay, really. Nobody said the cool kids’ table would be tasty.
1. John Ryder (Rutger Hauer), The Hitcher (1986)
There are those with a thing for bad boys, and then there are those with a thing for Rutger Hauer. He’s not a bad boy—he’s not even in the same zip code. His John Ryder will make you feel all kinds of weird things because he’s not your garden variety dangerous character. What he will do to you, to that nice family in the station wagon, to your new girlfriend, is more awful than anything you can think of.
6. Chris Hargeson (Nancy Allen), Carrie (1976)
When De Palma launched the ultimate in mean girl cinema, Nancy Allen delivered the ultimate mean girl. Chris Hargeson’s bloodthirsty princess energy has to convey something horrifying if she is to properly offset what poor Carrie White has to content with at home. Luckily for us (not so much for Carrie), she does.
5. Tomasin (Anya Taylor Joy), The Witch (2015)
Watching The Witch, you realize that writer/director Robert Eggers chose everything: every sound, every image, every color. And while Tomasin’s family looked like gaunt, hard working, colorless cogs in God’s wilderness wheel, Thomasin did not. Even as we open on Anya Taylor Joy, confessing her sins and begging forgiveness, she is lit from within. A beacon. It’s just that her light has caught the wrong kind of attention.
4. Casey (Drew Barrymore), Scream (1996)
The genius Wes Craven and his producer Drew Barrymore pulled an incredible and soon-to-be endlessly copied sleight of hand with Casey—the spunky female played by the biggest star in the cast. With this character, Craven introduces the meta-movie-commentary that defines this film while simultaneously upending our own unconscious investment in those tropes by killing Casey off in Act 1.
3. Carol (Catherine Deneuve), Repulsion (1965)
We went back and forth. Would it be Deneuve as gorgeous seductress Miriam in Tony Scott’s 1983 vampire film The Hunger, or innocent driven to madness Carol in Polanski’s Repulsion? (He does know how to torture innocent young women, doesn’t he?) Deneuve’s performance in Repulsion is so compelling and difficult—playing primarily alone for about half the film—that it won out, but either way, she’s a blonde to be reckoned with.
2. Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), Friday the 13th (1980)
The OG Karen (to steal a phrase from this episode’s co-host The Blonde in Front), Pamela Voorhees has a plan and she’s sticking to it. This funny business among the camp counselors needs to be addressed, corrected. Enough is enough. Betsy Palmer’s performance is spot-on, so comforting and in control before it goes completely batshit. Jason may get all the love, but Mrs. Voorhees took care of business first.
1. Carrie White (Sissy Spacek), Carrie (1976)
Like his idol Hitchcock, Brian De Palma had a thing about blondes—what that fair hair represented, what it could mean. For De Palma, it might be the bombshell of Angie Dickson’s character in Dressed to Kill, or the innocence of Carrie White. Of course, Sissy Spacek’s Oscar nominated performance in the film was what really sold this sheltered, shell-shocked little lamb, but you can’t deny she had that look.
In 1998, Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore and director Frank Coraci made The Wedding Singer, one of Sandler’s more charming comedies. While Barrymore’s meandering career path has had its hits and misses since then, Coraci’s films have gotten progressively worse. Meanwhile, Sandler’s produced two Grown Ups installments, Jack and Jill, and That’s My Boy, among other affronts to both cinema and good taste.
Can a reunion with the romantic lead and creative drive behind an earlier, moderately enjoyable film rekindle enough chemistry to craft another passably entertaining flick?
Sandler plays Jim, the schlubby but loving widowed father of three girls. Barrymore is Lauren, divorced mom to two boys. As the film opens, Jim and Lauren are on a blind date. They do not like each other at all.
I know – where could this possibly be going?
Do you suppose Jim’s daughters need a make-over…er…I mean mother?
And what about Lauren’s boys? Who will teach them to hit a baseball?
But wait! What if both families wind up accidentally sharing a suite in a South African resort – and during that resort’s Blended Families Celebration?
Do you believe in magic?
If you look beyond the ludicrous premise, and the themes that were relevant in the Seventies, and if you’re not too bothered by the mildly racist depictions of the hotel staff…all right, it’s no gem, but it’s no Jack and Jill, either.
Barrymore’s effortless likability helps a lot, as do relatively sharp cameos from Kevin Nealon, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Jessica Lowe.
Perhaps more importantly, there are no cameos from David Spade, Kevin James or Rob Schneider, so we can at least be thankful for small mercies.
You won’t laugh, but you might offer an anemic chuckle here and there. The film’s heart seems to be in the right place, more or less.
Seriously, did you see Jack and Jill? It’s really hard not to be grateful for Blended.