At The Movies With Josh: Quiz Lady

My wife often gives me a hard time when we leave a movie screening. We’ll be driving home and I’ll say, “There’s a scene in that movie that’s exactly like this ‘70s movie Hal Ashby made.” Or I’ll rattle off three movies a current film reminded me of. She’ll scowl and say, “Why do you act like the director was stealing something, or that everything has to be totally original?”

That’s not what I’m doing when I say those things, I’m just pointing something out. It’s not always a negative, but sometimes a fond memory that it brought back of a film I saw decades ago.

This movie we got to watch at home, so it wasn’t on the drive home when I said something like that. When Will Ferrell (who also produced) plays a game show host, that isn’t the least bit funny, I told her it reminded me of how hysterical he was playing Alex Trebek on “Saturday Night Live.”

Now I’m sure the filmmaker would tell you his character wasn’t supposed to be funny in this. He was playing it straight, as a cheesy game show host. Okay, that’s fine. Except…if you’re not being funny, in a comedy, what do you have?

I’m a big fan of Awkwafina (not just her movie roles, but find her hysterical rap “My Vag” and watch the video). I’m not the biggest fan of Sandra Oh (she just always looks like she smells something bad), although she was great in “Sideways.” Oh plays Jenny, the sister who always made the wrong decisions in life, and is now coming back to live with her sister Anne.

They play mismatched sisters, who for whatever reason, have to pay off their mom’s gambling debts. Otherwise, the pet dog will be killed by the thugs. Since Anne was always great watching the quiz show that’s on TV, big sister films her saying all the answers and puts it online. The shy sister then becomes an internet sensation.

Holland Taylor, an actress I always love seeing on screen or TV, is wasted as a grumpy neighbor that just wants to complain about packages left on her porch. 

Jason Schwartzman is wasted too, as the champ of the show who is a bit arrogant. Now he played an arrogant guy brilliantly in the underrated “Funny People.” Yet there isn’t much in this role to make us laugh.

Tony Hale was in this, but I can’t remember now who he even played. The movie is that forgettable. 

It is worth noting that Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman) made a cameo, which was filmed just weeks before his death.

Documentary filmmaker Jessica Yu (who won an Oscar), will probably be fine making the transition to feature films, if she’s given a decent script (and doesn’t go against type the way she did here). The horrible screenplay was given to us by TV writer Jen D’Angelo (Happy Together, Young Rock). 

It’s a shame such talent was wasted on this, because a lot of comedy can be derived from spoofing game shows. We got the dark comedy in the scenes in “Magnolia.” The scene with Rosie Perez on Jeopardy! In “White Men Can’t Jump.” It’s a shame this movie wasn’t even as entertaining as watching some old ‘70s game shows on the Game Show Network.

My wife and I felt like losers on a game show, for having to sit through this, and not even leaving with a consolation prize. And perhaps it’s time Ferrell starts reading scripts with a more critical, comedic eye.

At least you won’t have to waste your money at the theaters with this. It’s a Hulu original.

1 ½ stars out of 5.

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