It’s like “Funny People” except not funny…
“Don’t Think Twice” follows members of a New York City improv group that struggle to cope with their own lives after one of them gets a big break. Mike Birbiglia writes, directs and also stars alongside Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Kate Micucci, Tami Sagher and Chris Gethard.
A film like this hurts to critique. Because it means well and has a lot going for it, but in the end is hollow. Dramedies like “Funny People” work because they find the sweet spot between comedy and drama, and even average films like Chris Rock’s “Top Five” have admirable efforts about them when trying to convey the struggles even entertainers face. However what “Don’t Think Twice” doesn’t have is any true laughs or genuine moments of emotional heft to make things work.
I didn’t go into this expecting to laugh very hard or very often; I was fully aware the type of film I was walking into. However outside a pity chuckle here or there I sat with a stoic expression on my face for the entire runtime. And in a movie about improv comedians that features half of Key and Peele and a member of the “Community” study group, you should expect to at least get a hefty amount of grins.
But what is even worse is the film doesn’t have many compelling dramatic moments. It tries to tell a tale we all know, that minor league entertainers struggle and want nothing more than to make it to the big leagues, whether it be Hollywood or this film’s version of Saturday Night Live. It feels devoid of any real weight and yet somehow is overflowing with attempts at it. One character’s father is placed in the hospital within the first 15 minutes and while it is a topic of conversation throughout the film, it has little actual effect on the plot expect to act as a ploy on our emotions. Everything is relatively predictable or anticlimactic, tied together by a quick epilogue at the end of the film.
There are some bright spots, like Keegan-Michael Key, who is impossible not to like no matter what he does. He has some scenes of genuine range which was refreshing to see, as all too often he just plays the screaming, over-the-top cartoon character. All the actors do solid work, it is just a shame Birbiglia, as a writer and director, doesn’t challenge them to do anything new or surprising.
Some may find the film’s honesty admirable and enough to coast on, and I do appreciate that it doesn’t try and sugarcoat the struggles that performers have when they are in a basement and not a soundstage. But the film never finds its footing and eventually the lack of laughs or any actual conflict become awkward, like an improv skit that just isn’t working but the actors continue to try and sell it.
There is a point in the film where the group is watching Key’s first episode of his new show and one of them goes, “it’s skillful, just not funny” and that is a perfect summarization of “Don’t Think Twice:” a film that means well and has the pieces to be great but just isn’t entertaining, as a drama or comedy.
Critics Rating: 4/10