‘Standing Up, Falling Down’ Is a Dismal Excuse for Understated Comedy

Ben Schwartz and Billy Crystal in Standing Up, Falling Down
Ben Schwartz and Billy Crystal in Standing Up, Falling Down. Shout Factory

A master of instinctive and intelligent humor, Billy Crystal has always embraced fresh, surprising material, so I am at a loss to describe his contribution to a paralytic bore called Standing Up, Falling Down. Although his anemic performance as a depressed and obnoxious dermatologist barely registers, he is also one of the producers.

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Limply directed by Matt Ratner and more or less scripted by Peter Hoare (the screenplay seems more like word processing than writing) this dismal excuse for understated comedy is about a washed-up comic named Scott Rollins (Ben Schwartz) whose career as a stand-up Hollywood performer has tanked, sending him home to Long Island. He’s broke, with no job prospects and nowhere else to go, so against his better judgment he returns for a visit with his unsympathetic parents and sarcastic sister who works in a pretzel shop at the local mall. Scott’s dad (Kevin Dunn) is so indifferent he greets his son with a mere handshake. His mom (a regrettably wasted Debra Monk) wants him to be a postman.

Escaping for some peace and a beer, Scott meets the odd, eccentric Marty (Billy Crystal) while he’s peeing in the sink of a karaoke bar. The curious and totally inexplicable relationship continues when Scott goes to Marty for a stress-related rash, and their chance meetings drag on for the next hour and a half of re-defining tedium. The film consists of—and depends on—nothing more than the interfacing of two actors with the misfortune of finding themselves trapped in the wrong movie. They talk, they make feeble attempts to prod each other out of their respective doldrums with one-liners, few of which land with what you could call originality or wit.

(1/4 stars)
Directed by: Matt Ratner
Written by: Peter Hoare
Starring: Ben Schwartz, Billy Crystal, Kevin Dunn, Debra Monk, Eloise Mumford and Nate Corddry
Running time: 91 mins.

The entire enterprise is so muffled and dull you can’t believe what you’re watching. In one interminable scene, Scott and Marty name all of the players in the 1986 World Series, wolfing down blueberries and bourbon. These are not interesting enough people to make a whole movie about, and what passes for dialogue is downright deadly. The limit to the philosophical insight with the following exchange: “What if I zigged when I should have zagged? My entire life would have been different,” says Scott. To which Marty candidly replies: “Lightning rarely strikes twice—but if you keep your eyes open and you’re not a little stubborn shit, it can strike again.” The agony ends (spoiler alert) where it belongs—in a funeral parlor.

Don’t count on any Oscar nominations for this one. ‘Standing Up, Falling Down’ Is a Dismal Excuse for Understated Comedy