Review by Dan Skip Allen
I'm a fan of Awkwafina. She has voiced a lot of animated characters and she's had a lot of other performances in many films since breaking into the scene with her rom-com on Comedy Central, Nora From Queens. She showed that her weird oddball girl routine was exactly what the world was looking for, and has this aura about her that people can relate to. Her latest film, Quiz Lady, doubles down on all the things she's become famous for.
Anne Yum (Awkwafina) is a single woman who has watched the game show “Can’t Stop the Quiz” every day since she was eight years old. She had a rough upbringing, as her mother was a habitual gambler who didn't take care of herself and her sister Jenny (Sandra Oh). Jenny became a screw-up, resulting in her and Anne falling out. When their mother leaves her nursing home, it sets off a series of events where Anne has to fulfill her destiny as a trivia guru, proving her bond with her sister in the process.
I have a sister and two brothers, and we haven't always gotten along with each other. The sister duo in this film are a little different than my brothers and sister, but also similar in many ways. Awkwafina and Oh have palpable chemistry with each other as sisters. They bicker and argue, but when it really matters, they truly love each other. The same goes for my siblings and I — they know I try my hardest, as my life wasn’t as easy as theirs was.
With Awkwafina being one of the main characters in the movie, you know there will be some laughs. As expected, she creates some zany moments regarding running from each other in one scene, and the ad-libbing between them in various other scenes in the film had me in stitches. Awkwafina can turn the most normal sequences into laugh-out-loud moments. Her banter with a returning champion on “Can’t Stop the Quiz” (Jason Schwartzman) and the show’s host (Will Ferrell) cracked me up. While this wasn't the funniest movie of the year, it had its fair share of laughs.
This movie was somewhat nostalgic for me. I remember watching Jeopardy! with my father, and I know many other people did the same. Since the passing of Alex Trebek, watching the show is a bit bittersweet these days. This movie has a vibe of Jeopardy!, especially since Ferrell is channeling Trebek with everything from his ties and hair to the way he speaks. Schwartzman is also trying to be people we have come to know on the show from the past. It's just funny how this film intentionally attempted to mimic that sensational and long-running game show.
Director Jessica Yu and screenwriter Jen D'Angelo craft a funny two-hander with some familiar tropes in their movie. The trope of estranged siblings coming together for a common goal has been done to death before. Thankfully, this pairing of Awkwafina and Oh made it tolerable. More compelling, though, was the Jeopardy! parody from Ferrell and Schwartzman, and Awkwafina’s funny ad-libs.
Quiz Lady isn't going to blow anybody away this holiday season. However, it has some heart to it, which is more than I can say for other comedies this year. The family dynamic between these two sisters was the main draw for this movie, and I'm sure many siblings can relate to the bickering and arguments between these two. Throw in the game show aspect, and you have a decent little comedy the whole family can watch together. With all the awards contenders coming out, this is a good change of pace for people this season.
Quiz Lady streams on Hulu beginning November 3.