The Stand In

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
The Stand In Movie Poster Image
Unlikable Barrymore comedy has drug use, lots of swearing.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 102 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Offers proof of the saying that "the grass is always greener on the other side."

Positive Role Models

No notably positive role models or representations. Actress Candy realizes the shallowness of fame and pursues a more down-to-earth calling. But stand-in Paula manipulates circumstances and people to pursue the limelight.

Violence

Characters are hit in the head by a blunt instrument, drugged, punched. Many pratfalls. A character is misled about who he's having sex with (which makes it implied rape).

Sex

Passionate kissing. Innuendo. Reference to phone sex.

Language

Near constant profanity, including "ass," "a--holes," "bitch," "bulls--t," "c--k," "c--t," "d--k," "goddamn," "p---y," "s--t," and "f--k."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drug use and references, some of which are played for humor. Lead character is shown snorting cocaine. A pretend movie character is shown smoking pot and has a name associated with marijuana use. Character with substance dependency mentions several drugs. In rehab, a character talks about excessive alcohol consumption. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Stand In is a profanity-laden romantic comedy that stars Drew Barrymore in dual roles as a famous actress named Candy and her on-screen double, Paula. It's a riff on The Prince and the Pauper but without that story's positive message. The jumping-off point is that Candy has a drug habit: She snorts cocaine, and there are several drug references. She's eventually sentenced to rehab but doesn't go, sending Paula in her place. While it's fascinating to see Barrymore take on two very different roles and act opposite herself, both of her characters are pretty terrible people. The "joke" is that Candy mistreats and yells at everyone, and once Paula starts to feel some fame, she, too, becomes ruthless. Worse, the characters succeed through deception and never experience any meaningful personal growth. Strong language is extreme and nonstop and includes insults, sexual innuendo ("c--t," "c--k"), and constant use of "f--k." There's passionate kissing, references to phone sex, and a man is tricked into having sex with a stranger who looks like his girlfriend -- which is somehow never an issue, even after he knows the truth. 

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What's the story?

When a judge sentences disgraced movie star Candy Black (Drew Barrymore) to rehab, she sends her former acting double, Paula (also Barrymore), to take her place at the treatment center. When Paula is able to convince the judicial system that she's really the famous actress, the two hatch a plan to make Paula THE STAND IN for Candy's talk show "apology tour," too.

Is it any good?

On paper, this clever life-switch comedy should have worked: The actors, the director, the writer, and the concept are all proven successes. The problem is, it's just awful. Barrymore is captivating playing two characters so unlike her public persona, but those characters are horrible people. The humor is tasteless. And it's not funny. Not at all. (Is it too early to ask for a remake?)

Worse, The Stand In is mean-spirited to movie fans. Given that Barrymore is also the movie's producer, it feels a bit like she's venting at us, the viewers. Candy Black is a comedic actress who's known for humiliating pratfalls -- which has taken a toll on her psyche. She's a nasty piece of work, oddly resenting moviegoers for making her a box office success. When she and Paula encounter adoring fans who want to take a selfie, there's an air of, "poor actors, they're so put upon." For Candy, there's no moment of personal responsibility -- no realization that she could say no to those roles or that she could have chosen to take herself out of the film industry instead of being forced out. And, when Paula is thrilled to mingle with adoring fans, it's shown as a character flaw -- she's clamoring for the limelight, and, the movie suggests, there's shame in that. As this is a romantic comedy of sorts, you know a happy ending is coming. But when it does, it doesn't feel satisfying, it feels icky -- closer to the end of The Wolf of Wall Street, when you learn that the rich and famous never really pay the price. And maybe that's the point of making this movie: It's not a comedy for us. Candy Black makes it clear that she's tired of audiences laughing at her; perhaps this movie allows the filmmakers to laugh at us.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Stand In depicts drug and alcohol use. Is it funny or glamorized? Do you think rehab is portrayed accurately? Does it matter if it's not?

  • Do either Candy or Paula change or learn anything from their charade? Why is character growth usually part of the story in entertainment?

  • Do you think the strong language adds value to the film? Does it make it funnier or tell you anything about the characters? Do you think the movie would work without it?

  • Larry has a physical relationship with Paula, being misled to believe she's Candy. What are the ethical and legal ramifications of this? Does the film address that?

  •  What are the similarities between this movie and the Mark Twain novel The Prince and the Pauper?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love to laugh

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