If you can say anything about Drew Barrymore, it’s that she’s a hard worker. The actor is back in her first feature vehicle in years in “The Stand In,” a lukewarm comedy from director Jamie Babbit. Barrymore takes on dual roles as washed-up movie star with an attitude Candy and her lowly, mousy stand-in, Paula. The two are complete opposites, and it’s fun to watch at first. The gimmick wears thin quickly, and the story’s social commentary slant is too superficial to make an impression. Even Barrymore’s undeniable charm isn’t enough to warrant a recommendation.
With her career on the rocks, Candy is busted for tax evasion. Even worse, she has a serious substance abuse problem and is sent to rehab. Spoiled and not wanting to deal with any type of community service, the burned-out celebrity brainstorms the perfect idea: ask her enthusiastic stand-in to serve the time in her place.
Trading places works out terrific in the beginning, with Candy able to focus on her hobbies and Paul getting to perform again by acting like her former boss. Soon Candy begins to rely on Paula to stand in for all of the parts of life she’d rather avoid, like going to traffic school, attending parties, and making talk show appearances. It doesn’t take long before her doppelgänger begins to get a taste for the good life and the excitement of the celebrity lifestyle, and she starts to take over other parts of Candy’s life, too.
Screenwriter Sam Bain has developed a very clever and fun premise, but the movie isn’t as good as it could be. It’s a tale of toxic co-dependency, but the story never goes full-on “Single White Female.” If the themes of the trappings of fame and desire for privacy being at odds with the pie-in-the-sky daydreams of becoming a beloved celebrity were explored further than the filmmaker decides to go here, “The Stand In” would be a different — and far more interesting — movie.