I really hate green peppers. I have no problem with the orange, red or yellow varieties, but those green ones! No thanks. I can detect the slightly acrid taste of this seemingly innocent vegetable in anything it might be in. Even the most minute amount manages to permeate and ruin any pasta dish, salad or pizza it’s wormed its way into. And don’t even think about trying to get me to eat them on a boat or with a goat, in the rain or on a train — it just ain’t happenin’! One sliver of green pepper and all is lost.
Tiffany Haddish is the green pepper in any movie she happens to be in. The female counterpart to Kevin Hart, she has a two-note schtick — she’s loud and obnoxious — and that’s the entirety of her screen persona. Her outsized, one-note personality breaks the spell of any movie she might be in — her grandstanding approach overshadowing every story she may be in the service of telling. There may be some fine things in some of the films she appears in, but they’re all crushed by the weight of her boorish presence.
Such is the case with “Here Today,” a flawed dramedy from Billy Crystal made all the worse by Haddish’s presence. The comic wears many hats here as he directs his own script and stars as Charlie Berns, a legendary comic writer who is struggling with early stages of dementia. And while he’s learned some strategies to help him get through each day, he’s fully aware he’s getting worse. Estranged from his two children, Berns has no one to help him through this trying time. That is until, you guessed it, a meet cute occurs and Hurricane Haddish comes on the scene. She is Emma Payge, a singer with a bit of talent who happens to be nursing a broken heart, making her conveniently available for what’s to come.
The most frustrating thing about “Here” is that there is so much that’s right about it. Berns works at a “Saturday Night Live”-type show, and the scenes in which we see the backstage machinations of putting on a show of this kind are done with flair and enthusiasm, all of it ringing true thanks to Crystal’s experience on “SNL.” A sequence in which he has a major meltdown on air berating the incompetence of one of the show’s stars is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in some time, while scenes in which Berns consults his doctor (Anna Deavere Smith) perfectly balance humor with poignancy, which Crystal is good at.
However, he can’t contain Haddish. I can only assume he cast her in the hopes of drawing a younger audience, and I have a feeling her fans will be pleased. She delivers each line of dialogue with the same cadence and little inflection and mugs shamelessly to the camera, giving a one-note performance that grates rather than entertains. Crystal does his best to ground her in the scenes they share, but even the screen vet is incapable of withstanding her over-the-top emoting.
The film may have been salvageable despite her presence, but the shenanigans Crystal tries to pull off in the third act are shameless. Old, deeply-held grievances vanish in a moment, while the circumstances he employs to get all the key players to a specific location to deliver a heartrending conclusion are embarrassing and desperate. To be sure, “Here” has its heart in the right place, but in the end it buckles under the weight of Haddish’s ham-fisted approach while ultimately being undercut by lazy writing.