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A sad-sack comedian finds his life upended and becomes a kindergarten teacher in The Stand Up, which despite its central character’s profession and melodramatic storyline manages to convey neither humor nor emotion. Although writer/director David Wexler largely sidesteps the clichés that might have permeated the proceedings—just imagine Jack Black or Seth Rogan in the title role—he doesn’t manage to replace them with anything meaningful.
Jonathan Sollis plays the unkempt young stand-up, Zoe, who is clearly adrift after the accidental shooting death of his beautiful girlfriend. Unable to muster the funny any longer, he drifts along for a year until his frustrated father Sandy (Aidan Quinn) finds him a temporary gig as a kindergarten teacher at the tony private school of which he’s the principal.
Not surprisingly, Zoe proves to be not exactly suited to his new profession, managing to both baffle his young charges and alienate their demanding, high-strung parents. But he begins to find his emotional footing upon meeting fellow teacher Veronica (Margarita Levieva), who after some initial hostility begins to take a shine to her unorthodox new colleague.
The film never manages to find a consistent footing, shifting uneasily in tone and haltingly proceeding with its formulaic plotting. For a comedian, even a depressed one, Zoe proves to be remarkably unfunny, and Sollis lacks the necessary charisma to make us fully care about his undeveloped character. And while Levieva is highly appealing as his love interest, she’s unable to overcome the sheer implausibility of her character’s falling in love with the charmless Zoe.
Fortunately, Quinn is on hand to deliver a drolly humorous performance that enlivens every scene in which he appears. While it’s hard to imagine how exactly this talented veteran actor wound up appearing in this low-budget affair, moviegoers are not likely to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Opens Sept. 14 (FilmBuff/Cinetic Media).
CAST: Jonathan Sollis, Margarita Levieva, Aidan Quinn, Jennifer Mudge.
Director/screenwriter: David Wexler.
Producers: David Wexler, Eli Wolstan.
Director of photography: Bart Grieb.
Editor: Alex Ricciardi.
Production designer: Keith Garvey.
Costume designer: Stephanie Yarger.
Music: Frank Bell, Kevin Drew.
Not rated, 83 min.
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