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 »
Lawrence is a rich kid with a bad accent and a large debt. After his father refuses to help him out, Lawrence escapes his angry debtors by jumping on a Peace Corp flight to Southeast Asia, ... 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
One of two pictures first released theatrically in 1988 starring Tom Hanks with the other being 20th Century Fox's Big (1988). Columba Pictures CEO Dawn Steel decided to release Punchline (1988) after the box-office hit Big (1988) had first been in theaters. See more »
When Steven and Lilah are riding the #7 subway, the Manhattan terminus of the line is shown as Lexington Ave. The actual terminus should be 42nd St./ Times Square. See more »
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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