What’s better than a comedy that has a message and heart?, the Jessica Yu-directed film QUIZ LADY from 20th Century Studios is just that film. Akwafina plays Anne Yum, who is obsessed with the gameshow “Can’t Stop The Quiz” from a very early age. Yum is a no nonsense person at work and at home. So when her mom skips town leaving gambling debts, the responsibility lies on Yum to pay it. The “debt collector” takes her pug ‘Mr. Linguini’ hostage, she must go on a road trip with her hot mess sister Jenny (Sandra Oh) and find the cash to get him back. Yum must get over her social anxiety and go on her favourite game show and become a reluctant champion.
QUIZ LADY is a heartwarming tale of two sisters from different walks of life rediscovering each other. This type of comedy doesn’t get made much anymore. There’s great dialogue and acting. There aren’t any pratfalls or vulgar humour scenes to lean on to get laughs, hilarious interactions between Oh and Akwafina more than quench the appetite for hilarity.
The ensemble cast is a who’s who of comedic television shows for the last 20 years. Holland Taylor (Bosom Buddies, Two and a Half Men) with a slew of comedic character roles over the decades, takes on the character of Francine(Yum’s next-door neighbour). She’s rude, crude and full of attitude. This is a smaller role for Taylor, but boy does she make the most of her time onscreen. Her dry comedic timing lead to some of the funniest scenes that involve a back-and-forth between characters Yum and Francine.
Other supporting cast includes Will Ferrell (The Other Guys, Elf) as a very subdued and likable gameshow host Terry McTeer. In great contrast to Ferrell’s character is Jason Schwartzman as reigning “Can’t Stop The Quiz” champion Ron Heacock. He exhudes narcissism from every pour in his body. There’s an evil niceness to his personality that is like fingnails on a chalkboard.
QUIZ LADY has tearful but touching cameo from Paul Reubens as Paul Reubens (kind of). This cameo will hit the audience square in the feels. Not to give anything away, but it was a nice surprise to see an earlier scene pay off in dividends at the tail end of the third act.
QUIZ LADY is a smartly written and directed film. The cast is full of top-tier talent. The film will wrap it’s heart around you like a nice warm blanket on a cold Winter’s day. This is just a great production and a great hidden gem of a film, hopefully it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
QUIZ LADY is out now on HULU and Disney+ (Canada)