The Reel Review
Two estranged sisters, one a hot mess and the other an introverted, tightly wound TV game show savant, must work together after a loan shark holds their dog Linguini ransom in exchange for paying their mother’s gambling debt. Their scheme? Get on that game show, win the money and get their beloved dog back. Awkwafina and Sandra Oh star in this screwball comedy.
Working from a clunky, predictable and often corny screenplay from writer Jen D’Angelo (Totally Killer, Hocus Pocus 2), director Jessica Yu still manages to pull out some truly hilarious moments, thanks to terrific onscreen chemistry and spot-on comic timing from her two stars. When Quiz Lady lets Oh and Awkwafina do their thing, it is great. When it tries to shoe-horn in thinly drawn, one-note characters – Taylor Holland as the obnoxious neighbor, Tony Hale as the owner of a Ben Franklin-themed hotel and Jason Schwartzmann as a phony game show contestant with a long winning streak – it gets in its own way.
Perhaps most surprising is the nuanced performance from Will Ferrell as the Alex Trebek-like game show host Terry McTeer. The warmth he shows is a nice departure from his more familiar goofball humor. A cameo from Paul Reubens (Pee-wee’s Big Adventure), his last film prior to his death from cancer in July, is also a nice touch. While there are enough laughs to make this comedy worth a watch, it is the serious moments, about savoring memories instead of obsessing on winning, where Quiz Lady shines brightest.
• Director Jessica Yu is best known for 2019’s Fosse/Verdon and the TV drama series Billions.
• Canadian-American Sandra Oh’s acting credits include recent voice roles in Raya and the Last Dragon and Over the Moon, and leading performances in Killing Eve, Grey’s Anatomy, Sideways and Under the Tuscan Sun.