Review: ‘The Bob’s Burgers Movie,’ starring the voices of Eugene Mirman, John Roberts, Kristen Schaal, Dan Mintz, H. Jon Benjamin, Kevin Kline and Zach Galifianakis

May 23, 2022

by Carla Hay

Linda Belcher (voiced by John Roberts), Louise Belcher (voiced by Kristen Schaal), Gene Belcher (voiced by Eugene Mirman), Tina Belcher (voiced by Dan Mintz) and Bob Belcher (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) in “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” (Image courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

“The Bob’s Burgers Movie”

Directed by Loren Bouchard and Bernard Derriman

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed beach city in a U.S. state that resembles New Jersey, the animated film “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: The working-class Belcher family, which owns a fast-food restaurant called Bob’s Burgers, becomes involved in a murder mystery in the midst of having financial problems over a bank loan.

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of fans of “The Bob’s Burgers” TV series, “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” will appeal primarily to people interested in zany animated films that have comedy, drama and musical numbers that can be enjoyed by people of various generations.

A scene from “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” (Image courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

Whenever there’s a movie based on a long-running TV series, one of the biggest mistakes that can happen is when the filmmakers make the movie confusing to viewers who’ve never seen the TV series. Fortunately, “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” (which is based on the animated TV series “Bob’s Burgers”) does not fall into that trap. In fact, the movie is a great example of how to please existing fans, as well as how to win over newcomers to a franchise.

“Bob’s Burgers” (which premiered in 2011 and is televised in the U.S. on Fox) tells the ongoing story of the Belcher clan, a family of five whose patriarch owns and operate a small fast-food restaurant called Bob’s Burgers in an unnamed beach city in an unnamed U.S. state. (The show has dropped hints over the years that the state is probably New Jersey.) “Bob’s Burgers” creator showrunner Loren Bouchard wrote the screenplay for “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” which Bouchard co-directed with Bernard Derriman.

Here are the five people in the Belcher family:

  • Bob Belcher (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin), the pessimistic Bob’s Burgers owner, who’s always worrying that the restaurant is on the brink of failing.
  • Linda Belcher (voiced by John Roberts), Bob’s eternally optimistic wife, helps manage Bob’s Burgers. Linda and Bob are both 44 years old.
  • Tina Belcher (voiced by Dan Mintz), Bob and Linda’s “boy crazy” eldest child, who’s 13 years old. Tina has a crush on a fellow teenager named Jimmy Pesto Jr. (also voiced by Benjamin), who is the son of the man who owns Jimmy Pesto’s Pizza, the biggest competitor to Bob’s Burgers.
  • Gene Belcher (voiced by Eugene Mirman), Bob and Linda’s mild-mannered middle child, who is 11 years old. Gene, who is a keyboardist, is preoccupied with his fledgling pop/rock band The Itty Bitty Ditty Committee.
  • Louise Belcher (voiced by Kristen Schaal), Bob and Linda’s feisty youngest child, who is 9 years old. Louise is fond of wearing a pink rabbit-ears hat, and she dislikes being perceived as a weak and cowardly kid.

“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” keeps things simple by not having too many of the characters that are in the “Bob’s Burgers” TV series take up a lot of screen time. (The character of Jimmy Pesto Sr. is not in the movie, because voice actor Jay Johnston has reportedly been dropped from the “Bob’s Burgers” franchise.) “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” could be a stand-alone story, with people never having to see the TV series to understand the movie. It’s a wise choice in the movie’s narrative, considering that many people seeing the “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” haven’t see any episodes of the TV series.

The essential plot of “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” intertwines two major problems experienced by the Belcher family: a bank loan deadline and a murder mystery. In the beginning of the movie, Bob’s Burgers is struggling to stay in business. Bob and Linda are denied an extension on a bank loan, which needs to be paid back in seven days. The day that Bob and Linda get this bad news, the street where Bob’s Burgers is located has a water main break because of old and leaky pipes underground. The breaking of the water main causes a massive sinkhole, right in front of the Bob’s Burgers entrance.

Bob’s Burgers temporarily uses a side door as its entrance and puts a sign out front saying that the restaurant is still open. But the damage to the business is devastating, since Bob’s Burgers gets no customers the day after the sinkhole has appeared. Bob starts to panic over how he’s going to pay back the loan, while Linda firmly believes that everything will eventually work out for the best. Linda thinks that all they have to do is make enough sales to get the money to pay back the loan.

Meanwhile, Louise (who is a student at Wagstaff School) is being harassed by a student bully named Chloe Barbash (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz), who makes fun of Louise, by calling her a “baby” for wearing a rabbit-ears hat. (The hat’s origin story is revealed in this movie.) This taunting then triggers Louise into attempting to prove to the other Wagstaff School students that Louise is no “baby” and that she’s braver than most children. Louise comes up with the idea to explore the sinkhole, and she enlists her siblings Gene and Tina to videorecord this expedition.

To the Belcher kids’ shock, Louise finds a skeleton of a man in the sinkhole. The police are called, and the sinkhole becomes a crime scene. A medical examination reveals that the man was murdered by being shot. The identity of the murdered man is revealed to be a local carnival worker named Danny D’Angelo, also known as Cotton Candy Dan. It’s also revealed that the murder took place six years ago. (The movie’s opening scene has a big hint that is connected to the murder.)

Calvin Fischoeder (voiced by Kevin Kline), the wealthy and pompous landlord for Bob’s Burgers, becomes the prime suspect in the murder, so he’s arrested. Also affected by this arrest are Calvin’s neurotic younger brother Felix Fischoeder (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) and Calvin’s talkative lawyer cousin Grover Fischoeder (voiced by David Wain), who is Calvin’s defense attorney. Bob fears that if Calvin is sent to prison for murder, Bob’s Burgers will lose its lease.

And so, there’s a “race against time” for the case to be solved, with the Belcher kids doing their own private investigation. A cranky cop named Sergeant Bosco (voiced by Gary Cole), who is a regular on the “Bob’s Burgers” TV series, is leading the police investigation. And, not surprisingly, he’s annoyed by anyone he thinks will be interfering in the case. Just like in the TV series, Sergeant Bosco can be a friend or a foe to the Belcher family in “The Bob’s Burgers Movie.”

Meanwhile, with the bank loan deadline approaching, Bob becoming increasingly desperate. And so, loyal Bob’s Burgers customer Teddy (voiced by Larry Murphy), who works as a contractor handyman and is Bob’s closest friend, comes up with the idea for Bob’s Burgers to set up a temporary food cart on the city’s beach boardwalk—even though Bob doesn’t have a permit to sell food on the boardwalk. Desperate times lead to desperate decisions, so they decide to take a chance and operate the food cart on the boardwalk anyway.

Teddy, who is a lonely and divorced bachelor, volunteers to be help operate the food cart by being the cook. Linda dresses up as a hamburger to entice customers. The movie has some amusing moments where Linda thinks that her selling skills are based on how sexy she thinks she looks in this ridiculous-looking burger costume. Bob predictably gets annoyed by Linda’s antics, and he becomes paranoid about getting busted for operating the food cart without a license.

“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” also has recurring comedic moments about each of the Belcher kids’ current obsessions. Tina has fantasies about asking Jimmy Jr. to be her boyfriend for the summer, so there are dreamlike romantic scenarios that play out in Tina’s imagination. Gene dreams of becoming a rock star, so there are musical numbers in the movie with The Itty Bitty Ditty Committee performing the music. Louise imagines herself as a popular kid with a “badass” reputation among her schoolmates, so there are scenes of Louise doing whatever she thinks it will take to have this courageous and heroic image.

“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” isn’t a mindless kiddie film, because it has plenty of jokes that adults will appreciate more than underage children will. These jokes have to do with social class and status issues that are presented in the story. Observant viewers will notice that all the grief that Louise goes through to change her image isn’t much different than all the trouble that adults go through to project a certain image, so that they can be considered “successful” by society.

The musical numbers in “The Bob’s Burger Movie” are very entertaining and amusing, particularly the performances of “Sunny Side Up Summer” and “Not That Evil.” Fortunately, this isn’t a movie where people break out into song every 10 minutes, because it would ruin the flow of the narrative. The mystery-solving part of the story gets a little convoluted and messy, but not too complicated.

“The Bob’s Burger Movie” continues the gender-swapping choices made in the “Bob’s Burgers” TV series casting, with men voicing some of the female characters, and women voicing some of the male characters. Benjamin (the voice of Bob) also voices the character of Ms. LaBonz, one of Louise’s teachers at Wagstaff School, while Roberts (the voice of Linda) is the also the voice of Jocelyn, one of Louise’s Wagstaff School classmates. As previously mentioned, Mintz is the voice of Tina.

There are also some celebrity cameos in gender-swapped roles. Jordan Peele continues as the voice of Fanny, Calvin’s much-younger singer girlfriend, who has a checkered past and a gold-digging agenda. Sarah Silverman and Laura Silverman are, respectively, the voices of Ollie and Andy, who are Jimmy Pesto Sr.’s twin sons.

In response to criticism that the “Bob’s Burgers” TV series cast white actors to voice African American characters, “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” has added some racial diversity to the cast. Nicole Byer (host of Netflix’s cooking competition “Nailed It!”) is the voice of Olsen Benner, an African American TV reporter, who has been voiced by Pamela Adlon in the “Bob’s Burger” TV series. Ashley Nicole Black (a writer for “Ted Lasso”) is now the voice of Harley, an African American girl who’s a classmate of Louise’s at Wagstaff School. Katie Crown was previously the voice of Harley.

Even with a lot of side characters, “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” remains focused on the Belcher family. The Belcher kids get a lot of screen time with the murder investigation, which is a more interesting and funnier part of the movie than the part of the movie about Bob, Linda and Teddy selling burgers on the boardwalk. And out of all the Belcher children, Louise is the one with the standout character arc. There’s not a bad actor in this entire cast.

“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” has wide appeal, but it’s not a movie that some people might enjoy if they’re looking for more dazzling visuals in an animated film. However, for viewers who care more about animated movies that have characters with memorable personalities, some snarky jokes, and an engaging story that’s easy to follow, then “The Bob Burgers Movie” delivers this type of entertainment in a lighthearted and playful way.

20th Century Studios will release “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” in U.S. cinemas on May 27, 2022.

Review: ‘Here Today,’ starring Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish

May 9, 2021

by Carla Hay

Tiffany Haddish and Billy Crystal in “Here Today” (Photo by Cara Howe/Stage 6 Films)

“Here Today”

Directed by Billy Crystal

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in New York City, the comedy/drama film “Here Today” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and Asians) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A widowed senior citizen, who works as a TV comedy writer, has early stages of dementia and is afraid to tell anyone until he meets a feisty female singer who becomes his unexpected friend.

Culture Audience: “Here Today” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching old-fashioned movies with flat comedy and overly formulaic drama.

Laura Benanti, Penn Badgley, Billy Crystal, Tiffany Haddish and Audrey Hsieh in “Here Today” (Photo by Cara Howe/Stage 6 Films)

There used to be a time when a tedious cornball movie like “Here Today” would have been lapped up by movie audiences like hungry pets happy to get stale, leftover scraps. But in this day and age, when viewers have so many more and much better entertainment options, “Here Today” is the equivalent of food that’s years past its expiration date that the filmmakers are trying pass off as appealing and fresh. The movie is filled with outdated stereotypes and terrible jokes, clumsily paired with heavy-handed melodrama that’s too manipulative to come across as believable.

Billy Crystal is the star, director and co-writer of “Here Today,” which was co-written by Alan Zweibel. Crystal has been in many better-quality movies, some of which are considered classics. But maybe Crystal was just too close to the material of “Here Today” to take a more constructively critical look at how out-of-touch and embarrassing this movie is for today’s audiences. And with a total running time of nearly two hours, “Here Today” suffers from overly indulgent editing, since some scenes definitely did not need to be in the movie.

It’s not a completely terrible film, but “Here Today” should have been so much better, considering the level of talent and experience that the main cast members have. Some of the cast members of “Here Today” put in valiant efforts to bring authenticity to their roles, while other cast members just coast by and recite their lines, with no seeming emotional connection to their characters. Crystal and “Here Today” co-star Tiffany Haddish are two of the movie’s producers, so they bear much of the responsibility for how disappointing this movie is.

It’s obvious that Crystal called in favors to some of his celebrity friends to make cameos in the movie. Sharon Stone, Kevin Kline, Barry Levinson and Bob Costas have small roles portraying themselves doing a live audience Q&A about a fictional movie. Itzhak Perlman appears briefly in an unrealistic scene where he’s shown playing violin outside a window because he happens to be a neighbor of Crystal’s “Here Today” character. But this type of stunt casting can’t save the film from being a mostly cringeworthy story that uses dementia as a way to make Crystal’s main character look more sympathetic.

In “Here Today,” Crystal plays widower Charlie Burnz, a longtime, successful entertainment writer in New York City. Charlie currently works for a cable TV sketch comedy series called “This Just In,” which is supposed to be a lot like “Saturday Night Live.” Charlie has been working for “This Just In” for years and has previously been a Broadway playwright and a movie screenwriter. He’s won several of the entertainment industry’s highest accolades (including an Emmy Award and a Tony Award), but he’s been having writer’s block on a memoir that he wants to dedicate to his late wife, who died about 25 years ago.

Charlie is the oldest person on the “This Just In” writing team, which consists of people in their 20s and 30s, mostly white males. However, the stiff and unfunny jokes that these staff writers come up with sound exactly like what they are—pathetic attempts to be “hip” and written by people old enough to be these staff writers’ parents and grandparents. This movie has no self-awareness at how bad these jokes are, because there are several unrealistic scenes of people laughing and clapping at boring and dumb jokes that wouldn’t even pass muster on a no-budget, amateur comedy channel on YouTube.

Even though Charlie is at an age when most people are retired, Charlie’s age isn’t what bothers him. He’s got a health problem that he’s very ashamed of having: early stages of dementia. And he’s hiding his dementia from everyone he knows, except for his trusted therapist Dr. Vidor (played by Anna Deavere Smith), who gently advises Charlie to eventually tell his family about his dementia.

In the beginning of the movie, Charlie follows his usual routine of getting up and going to work. But there are signs that he forgets everyday things (such as, the show’s writers have their meetings on Mondays), and he’s haunted by memories of a tragedy from his past. These memories come back in bits and pieces throughout the story until the entire truth is eventually revealed.

As soon as viewers find out that Charlie has a strained relationship with his two adult children (who are both supposed to be in their mid-30s) and that his kids don’t talk about their mother to Charlie, it’s easy to figure out that the death of Charlie’s wife has a lot to do with the hard feelings that Charlie’s children have toward him. The movie has several flashbacks depicting Charlie’s memories of the relationship that he had with his wife Carrie (played by Louisa Krause), a painter artist whom Charlie met on a beach in 1986, when he was in his late 30s and she was in her 20s. Carrie died when the children were about 8 to 11 years old.

Charlie’s first child is a mild-mannered architect named Rex (played by Penn Badgley), who longs for Charlie’s approval, but doesn’t often get the praise and attention from Charlie that Rex is seeking. Rex is married to a woman named Sophie, and they have a son named Harry (played by Grayson Eddey), who’s about 7 or 8 years old. Sophie and Harry are barely in the movie, they don’t have any significant lines, and these two characters aren’t even listed in the movie’s end credits.

Charlie’s second child is uptight and judgmental Francine (played by Laura Benanti), who is a middle school teacher. Francine has an even more fractured relationship with Charlie than her brother Rex does. She avoids speaking with and visiting Charlie as much as she can.

Francine and her husband Larry (played by Charlie Pollock) have an adopted daughter named Lindsay (played by Audrey Hsieh), who’s about 12 or 13 years old. Lindsay adores Charlie and is aware that her mother’s feelings toward him aren’t as warm. Francine can no longer avoid Charlie in the near future, because he’s been invited to Lindsay’s upcoming bat mitzvah.

Francine’s hard feelings toward her father go beyond the fact that she feels he let his career take priority over being a good parent. Francine is particularly wary of the women who might come into Charlie’s life. As Charlie eventually reveals in later in the story, Francine has difficulty accepting any possible stepmother, because after Carrie died, Charlie had meaningless flings with several younger women. And workaholic widower Charlie also left much of the child rearing to a series of nannies.

And so, when Charlie starts hanging out with a boisterous, free-spirited aspiring singer named Emma Payge (played by Haddish), who’s young enough to be Charlie’s daughter, it doesn’t sit too well with Francine. Emma and Charlie met on a blind “date” because Charlie donated a lunch date with himself as part of a charity auction. Emma is predictably supposed to be the opposite of Charlie. She plays the role of someone who gets Charlie to see his life differently and helps him out of his emotional rut.

One of the biggest problems with “Here Today” is its subtle and not-so-subtle tone of racial condescension. For example, this charity auction (which is never seen in the movie) is mentioned as a fundraising event for “inner city libraries.” Of course, “inner city” is code in Hollywood movies for a place populated mostly by low-income people of color. And as soon as the words “inner city” are mentioned in this movie, you just know that the person who’s meeting Charlie for this lunch date is going have the negative stereotypes of being a crude and unsophisticated person of color.

Playing crude and unsophisticated characters is Haddish’s specialty, since she keeps perpetuating racially demeaning depictions of how a lot of racist people think African American women are supposed to be. The filmmakers show this racial condescension from the first moments that Emma appears on screen for this lunch date. It’s basically a scene where Emma is ignorant and so happy to be in a nice restaurant that she orders several of the more high-priced items on the menu.

The movie keeps portraying Emma as having a “from the ‘hood” mentality, with a lower intelligence level than the white people whom she interacts with in this story. It’s why the movie keeps showing Emma shoveling food in her mouth and giving constant “mmm-hmm” remarks when she’s eating, as if she can’t possibly know what it’s like to have good meals on a regular basis.

Emma performs cabaret-styled rock and pop tunes with her band. They’re struggling because they mostly perform in subways for money. And Emma doesn’t seem to have a day job. But just because she’s an aspiring entertainer doesn’t mean she’s taken the time to be knowledgeable about the entertainment business.

When Emma first meets Charlie for the lunch date, she says, “I don’t even know who the hell you are,” and she says that she’s never heard of “This Just In” or any of his award-winning work. Keep in mind that Emma is supposed to be in the entertainment business, albeit as a struggling singer. Her ignorance about a long-running comedy TV show that’s filmed in New York City is just one of many examples of how the movie makes Emma look less than smart.

Emma says that the only reason she’s on this lunch date is because her actor ex-boyfriend, who’s a big fan of Charlie’s, actually paid for it in the auction. And because this ex-boyfriend cheated on Emma, she “stole” the lunch date, out of revenge and spite. Charlie’s ego gets bruised a little bit when Emma tells him that the final auction price for this date was only $22, not $2,200 as Charlie assumed it was.

And just so viewers know early on that Emma has no sexual interest in Charlie, she rudely tells him during the lunch date how he wouldn’t be able to handle her if she were his lover: “I’d break your back, old man,” Emma smugly says. “I’d have you laid out dead, with a smile on your face.” Emma constantly calls Charlie “old man” throughout the movie, to the point where it gets very annoying.

And because “Here Today” has to have some ridiculous slapstick, Emma finds out too late during the luncheon that she’s allergic to the seafood that she ate. And so, there’s a scene with some very tacky visual effects of Emma with puffed-up lips and a swollen face. And because she has to be the stereotype of a loud-mouthed black woman, Emma’s freakout at the restaurant and her trip to the hospital emergency room are filled with her wailing and other hysterics.

In case it isn’t made clear that Emma is supposed to have a “ghetto” mentality, the movie makes a point of mentioning that she doesn’t have health insurance and she pulls a con game so Charlie will pay her hospital bill. A concerned Charlie accompanied Emma to the hospital. But he’s in for a shock when a hospital employee tells Charlie that Emma said that Charlie adopted her from Kenya and that Charlie would pay her hospital bill. And so, Charlie is now stuck paying the bill, which totals about $1,700.

Emma feels bad about the lie and later tells Charlie that she’ll pay him back for the entire bill, but Charlie says that she doesn’t have to do that. Since this movie is filled with racial condescension, Charlie accepts Emma excuse for why she lied to get him to pay her hospital bill. Emma tells Charlie: “I thought it would be cool to have a white dad.” Somewhere, Gary Coleman and Emmanuel Lewis are cringing.

Emma’s buffoonery continues when, after she checks out of the hospital, Emma ends up in Charlie’s home, with her trousers pulled down low enough for her butt to be partially exposed. It’s because Charlie is giving Emma an injection of the epinephrine that she was prescribed to treat her allergic reaction. Predictably, Emma does more hollering in this scene too. The filmmakers want viewers to believe that Emma has no one else in her life who could give her this injection but an old man she barely knows and who got scammed into paying her hospital bill.

Some people might think this butt injection scene is hilarious, but Haddish just looks like a foolish participant in this “shuck and jive” setup, which seems to be the filmmakers’ intention. Believe this: No one was asking for a movie showing Billy Crystal giving a butt injection to Tiffany Haddish. No one. Except for people who want to see Haddish literally be the butt of the joke.

And so, it should come as no surprise that Emma has a large tattoo on one of her butt cheeks that reads “Slippery When Wet.” The tattoo and Charlie’s reaction to it also reek of the deliberate way that the filmmakers want to make Emma look “trashy” compared to the more “sophisticated” Charlie. It’s all just lazy and loathsome stereotyping.

The next time that Charlie sees Emma, she has shown up unannounced outside his apartment. Emma tells Charlie that, even though he said she didn’t have to pay him back, she wants to repay him for the hospital bill. And she’s brought the first installment of her payment.

This redemption of Emma is so that she can show up in Charlie’s life with another payment installment. And eventually, she and Charlie become friends and start going on platonic dates together. Emma notices how forgetful Charlie is and tells him that he can confide in her about what’s going on with him.

And so, Charlie eventually tells Emma about his dementia. He also makes it clear to Emma that he’s not ready to tell his family or co-workers about his dementia. But since the movie wants Emma to be a “big mouth,” it’s easy to predict if she will be able to keep Charlie’s dementia a secret or not.

It seems that one of the main reasons why Haddish took this movie role was so that she could showcase her mediocre singing. She has some scenes where Emma performs cover songs in a way that’s not like, “Wow, this person should be a superstar singer,” but more like, “It’s easy to see why this singer is stuck performing in subways, dive bars and on sidewalks.”

At Lindsay’s bat mitzvah, Emma has to make the party about herself. Emma says the party has gotten too boring for her, so she gets up on stage and tries to be like Janis Joplin by leading a sing-along of “Piece of My Heart.” It’s a racially stereotypical scene meant to show how a black person with rhythm has to teach awkwardly dancing white people how to have a good time.

And since the movie can’t get enough of showing how petty and immature Emma can be, at one point in the movie, Emma randomly sees her most recent ex-boyfriend, whose name is Dwayne St. John (played by Nyambi Nyambi), and she decides to get revenge on him. This encounter happens after Emma and her band have performed near a pier, with Charlie in the small crowd watching the performance.

When Emma sees Dwayne, she puts Charlie in an awkward situation by making Charlie pretend that he’s her lover, just so Emma can make Dwayne jealous. Dwayne is star-struck by Charlie, and Emma offers to take a photo of Dwayne with Charlie, using Dwayne’s phone. But instead of taking a photo of Dwayne and Charlie together, Emma takes photos of herself. As she hands the phone back to Dwayne, she laughs and give him the middle finger.

Charlie isn’t above being a selfish boor either. There’s a very problematic scene in the movie where Charlie gets annoyed with one of the “This Just In” stars named Roger (played by Matthew Broussard), who has a habit of pronouncing the wrong inflections when saying certain words. It’s a habit that irritates Charlie because he doesn’t like to hear the words that he’s written pronounced incorrectly.

Instead of talking to Roger about it privately, which most respectful and emotionally mature adults would do, Charlie has a meltdown over it on live TV. Charlie goes on an epic rant and interrupts Roger on the soundstage, on camera, while Roger is doing a sketch similar to “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live.” During this rant, where Charlie lectures Roger on how to pronounce words, Charlie calls Roger a “dumb turd,” and then gets the entire studio audience to loudly chant “dumb turd” with him. It’s absolutely cruel and humiliating bullying.

The scene is played for laughs, with Charlie’s granddaughter Lindsay even laughing about it while she watches this nauseating spectacle on TV in her home. At first, Charlie’s co-workers backstage are shocked by his on-camera outburst, but then they start guffawing about it as if it’s the funniest thing they’ve ever seen. And Charlie’s unprofessional meltdown gets their approval even more when they find out that it’s gone viral on social media.

This blanket approval of Charlie’s obnoxious bullying of a co-worker is one of the many ways that “Here Today” looks out of touch with today’s reality. This type of public belittling of a co-worker might have been acceptable in Crystal’s heyday, but it’s not acceptable today. In reality, Charlie would be rightfully dragged on social media for it and would probably be suspended or fired.

Charlie’s toxic bullying, which has no justification, is even more loathsome because it’s over something very petty. Maybe Charlie would’ve gotten away with this degradation of a co-worker if it hadn’t been so public. But he did it on live TV, with millions of people watching. In real life, there’s no way someone in Charlie’s position would be largely celebrated by the public for this type of bullying.

And that’s why it rings hollow that the movie has an unnecessary subplot of Charlie being a mentor to a shy, young staff writer named Darrell (played by Andrew Durand), whose skit ideas are almost never used on the show. There are a few scenes in the movie where Charlie gives Darrell some pep talks to boost Darrell’s confidence. It’s meant to make Charlie look like a caring person, but observant viewers will notice that Charlie bonds with Darrell only because Charlie thinks they’re both underappreciated in their jobs.

“Here Today” is such a rambling and frequently unfocused movie that the tone is all over the place. At times, it wants to be a slapstick comedy, while other times it wants to be a comedy propelled by verbal jokes. It’s too bad that many of the jokes are dull and absolutely horrible. And in an attempt to liven up the film with some drama, the last 15 minutes of the movie get very heavy-handed to contrive a situation that you just know is supposed to bring everyone together.

Emma is never depicted as a whole person with a life independent of Charlie. Her home life is never shown because her character was written to be Charlie’s subservient sidekick. The most that viewers will find out about Emma’s background is in a scene where she tells Charlie that her parents were both singers and are currently living in Durham, North Carolina.

Emma describes her parents as what Ashford & Simpson would be like if Ashford & Simpson weren’t rich and famous. The movie makes it look like Emma’s dream is to become a famous singer, and she gets an opportunity that would be a big career boost for her. But then, she makes a decision that fits this movie’s racially condescending narrative.

Crystal’s acting in “Here Today” is much better than his direction or screenwriting. Still, he’s not doing anything new in this movie, because he’s played selfish and sarcastic characters many times before. Haddish is doing another version of the crass characters she always plays in movies and TV. Badgley doesn’t have much to work with in this movie, since his Rex character is blandly written.

Benanti is the cast member who does the best in making her Francine character look the most authentic. Francine might not be the most likable character in the story, but viewers can understand why she acts in the way that she does. Most people would be bitter too if they had a self-absorbed parent like Charlie.

To its credit, “Here Today” has some good cinematography when showing scenic parts of New York City, such as the Manhattan skyline and Hudson Yards. But good cinematography is wasted when the story is so faulty. One of the ways that “Here Today” is unbalanced is how it shows that because Charlie feels guilty about being an emotionally absent father, he tries to make up for it by being a devoted grandfather to Lindsay. However, there’s no explanation for why Charlie is not shown spending any time with his other grandchild Harry, who is Rex’s son.

Why even bother having this grandson character at all when this child is barely seen in the movie and isn’t even in the narrative of Charlie trying to redeem himself with his family? The impression that viewers will get is that Charlie heavily favors one grandchild over another, which defeats the redemption narrative that he’s supposed to be a good grandfather. And the overall impression that “Here Today” leaves is that this misguided movie isn’t too concerned about giving supporting characters much depth because this movie is ultimately Crystal’s vanity project.

Stage 6 Films released “Here Today” in U.S. cinemas on May 7, 2021.

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