Much beloved actor Billy Crystal is best known for his delightful performances in classic romantic comedies, but he started out his career as a stand-up comedian. He makes a return to this area in Matt Ratner’s directorial debut Standing Up, Falling Down. The plot centres around down-on-his-luck jokesmith Scott (Ben Schwartz) who, after an unsuccessful stint attempting to ‘make it’ in on the LA circuit, moves back in with his parents in his hometown. At a local bar, he bumps into his dermatologist Marty (Crystal) who appears to have a drinking problem, and the pair strike up an unlikely friendship.
There’s nothing new brought to the table of the well-worn buddy movie narrative, but it’s pleasant to see a burgeoning bromance blossom between an affable slacker and former city slicker. The script penned by Peter Hoare is consistently witty but doesn’t hit the heights of hilarity. It explores the issues of a thirty-something struggling to grow up, who uses his dry sense of humour as a coping mechanism. Marty is quietly dealing with his own troubles by drowning them in alcohol, and there are some nice moments as the two converse about their woes and their relationship regrets. The leads share a likeability and their acting talents help significantly in making the most of the relatively adept material. Ben Schwartz has a youthful charisma and his energy works well with the wily charms of Billy Crystal.
Ratner’s tepid tale of first world problems passes the time and though it is fantastic to see Billy Crystal having fun with a roguish role, the film is ultimately lacking in edge and originality. Like Ben’s on-stage shtick, Standing Up, Falling Down doesn’t quite hit the comic beats necessary to make it a rousing success. It’s a perfectly fine routine but lacks an impactful punchline.