Review: Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish are lost and confused in mediocre 'Here Today'
Courtesy of Sony
Billy Crystal is a name synonymous with breakthrough comedy as is Tiffany Haddish who exploded on the scene with an award worthy turn in “Girls Trip.” Putting the two comic heavyweights together makes perfect sense, and when you see Crystal is taking over the mantle as director, it’s easy to root for the success of “Here Today.” But how quickly things change after watching twenty minutes of a movie that doesn’t understand its own identity, let alone two pros who bomb for almost two hours. Never have I seen Crystal throw his name on something this incredibly mediocre.
“Here Today” wants to teach its audience life lessons about family, friendships, and forgiveness, and while those preachy messages will cater to older demographics eager to glaze over Alan Zwibel’s inept screenplay because of their love of Crystal, “Here Today” is a long, tough road to nowhere. Humans don’t act or behave like real humans, more like carbon robots who wouldn’t know how to screw a light bulb on unless the script demanded it, and jokes which fall painfully flat. This coming from Crystal - who shares a screenwriting credit with Zwibel - whose performance in “When Harry Met Sally” had range and layers. Here, he plays prolific comedy writer Charlie Berns, who pens for a “Saturday Night Live” knock-off sketch series called “This Just In!” who is struggling with early onset dementia. Nevermind the film doesn’t offer a silver of insightful dialogue on the subject, just awkward interactions where Crystal tries to muster tears that never come.
Charlie meets Emma (Haddish) on a whim through a charity auction giveaway, and in one of the film’s initial stabs at physical comedy: Emma has a severe allergic reaction to seafood and is carted into the ER looking like that iconic scene from “Hitch.” Feeling a sense of loneliness and detachment, Charlie continues hanging out with Emma because his children want nothing to do with him. When he calls his granddaughter (Audrey Hsieh) to confirm an appointment, his daughter Francine (Laura Benatnti) acts like she’s not there. Meanwhile, Charlie’s day job as a writer is on the rocks and in one of several undeveloped subplots, takes a young intern (Andrew Durand) under his wing, a symbolic passing of the torch.
But as “Here Today” continues down its Lifetime riddled plot with underserved narrative mechanics and strained performances, it becomes a nauseating, hard to swallow experience. Crystal wants audiences to laugh and weep, yarking back to his glory days, but those infections feelings never arise. Considering “The Father” redefined the medium in which dementia can be presented on screen, “Here Today” takes a backwards approach and undermines Haddish abilities as a performer (sidebar: she can sing!)
“Here Today” works overtime to be poignant and sensitive, but for a movie that focuses on funny people with actual comedians steering the ship, it’s painful watching generic one liners crash and burn. Which is ironic considering Charlie spends most of “Here Today” complaining about unfunny jokes that could benefit from a rewrite. The film is stuck in its own sitcom aesthetic to the point of parody, the only elements missing are laugh tracks and canned studio applause.
HERE TODAY opens in theaters Friday, May 7th