Perhaps making up for lost time after going five years since her last starring role, Drew Barrymore pulls double duty in "The Stand-In." The comedy is a "The Prince and the Pauper" knockoff that isn't worthy of a single Barrymore performance, let alone two.
While Barrymore shows off some range in exploring the two characters, the script doesn't provide enough material for either of them to stand out.
She plays both fallen comedy star Candy Black and her meek stand-in, Paula. Once a judge sentences Candy to rehab, she and Paula work out a switcheroo deal that spares Candy the inconvenience of alcoholism recovery while giving Paula a break from her dreary life.
You can usually tell whether or not a comedy has a shot at working in the first 15 minutes, when there are no concerns for setting up the story and the characters are free to romp without a care of advancing the tale. "The Stand-In" gets stuck in the mud early on, focusing on its bizarre setup. Candy comes off as an intolerable diva, while Paula is a helpless pushover. Neither is all that appealing.
At least it's got Barrymore going for it. Bursting with personality while showing off the vulnerability that she's had full command of ever since she was a tyke in "E.T." she retains the star charisma that shot her up the ranks of the Hollywood elite. Since roles in the vein of "The Wedding Singer" and "Never Been Kissed" are no longer coming along, it's refreshing to see her reinvent herself as a Melissa McCarthy-style comedic force of nature.
Director Jamie Babbit manages to squeeze a few laughs out of her capable ensemble cast, which includes Ellie Kemper and T.J. Miller, but the lazy story takes way too long to push forward, and any potential emotional impact falls by the wayside as the dull plot plods its way to its conclusion.
The central message in most movies like this is that the grass isn't greener on the other side. But if you find yourself stuck in the theater watching "The Stand-In," you'll be envious of those who chose a better way to spend their 101 minutes.
RATING: 2 stars out of 4.