Steven Gold is a stand-up comedian who is flat broke and has recently dropped out of medical school. He and several others work regularly at the Gas Station, a New York comedy club. The ... See full summary »
Steven Gold is a stand-up comedian who is flat broke and has recently dropped out of medical school. He and several others work regularly at the Gas Station, a New York comedy club. The wages are lousy and everybody hopes for the big break. Lilah Krytsick is housewife with an ambition to be a stand-up comedian, however she doesnt seem to have the talent. Steven takes her under his wings and teaches her the art of comedy and humour. But when a TV station arranges a comedy evening at the club, Steve sees his opportunity for fame and stardom. Their friendship seems quickly forgotten and now it's every man and woman for him- or herself! Written by
Mattias Pettersson <email@example.com>
It's hard to envision a time in Tom Hanks' career where he had roles in 5 critically panned, as well as commercially dismal films. While I find Joe Versus the Volcano to be a genuinely remarkable and unique film, and Turner and Hooch to be a K-9 ripoff that is a lot more fun than any James Belushi vehicle, Punchline falls flat in too many ways to even get an A for effort.
Hanks is woefully miscast as a guy who's supposed to come off as a selfish jerk (it doesn't help that I can't help but imagine Tom asking viewers to donate to a WWII veterans memorial). When he borders on the icy cold determination of someone who believes they are bound for greatness but are relegated to mentor and also-ran, the movie and Hanks hint at greatness. But ultimately the role should have gone to someone more adept at playing selfish jerks: I imagine a young Kevin Spacey or a world-wearied Richard Belzer.
The real problem is the utter flatness of Sally Field's crowd-winning "jokes." Was I the only one groaning in horror at her Z-rate, HBO late-night schtick? The idea that she's a stunning new talent in the cutthroat world of 80s stand-up is unthinkable (I can't remember what documentary it was, but I saw an excellent collection of comedians talking about the desperate need to be the "next Eddie Murphy" and later the "next Roseanne/Seinfeld"). That's where the movie fails: it suggests that Hanks is just too unrelentingly cruel and embittered to attain stardom, while Fields good-natured "hilarious" insights into real-world pressures make her a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Neither fully embody their roles convincingly, and the writer just doesn't know good comedy.
Jay Mohr described the creative nadir in comedy: when the typical comedian was bland guys sporting a neon blazer, standing in front of brick walls blurting out tired clichés like "you ladies know what I'm talking about." It's obvious that David Seltzer (writer of the gut-busting Omen series and The Other Side of the Mountain) thinks the world of these garden variety hacks, and without convincing leads, remarkably funny stand-up routines, or the proper balance of convincing drama and humor, the movie just falls flat in every way. I'm giving it a four based on the gleam of promise in Hanks' otherwise unconvincing turn and the faint hope that he could actually portray a genuinely unlikable character in the future (though I doubt it considering a similar misstep with Bonfire of the Vanities and his lovable hit-man in Road to Perdition).
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