×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

What Goes Up

As if journalism hasn't suffered enough of late, along comes "What Goes Up."

With:
Campbell Babbitt - Steve Coogan Lucy Diamond - Hilary Duff Tess Sullivan - Olivia Thirlby Jim Lement - Josh Peck Penelope Little - Molly Shannon Donna Arbetter - Molly Price Fenster Itkskicq - Max Hoffman Peggy Popoladopolous - Sarah Lind

As if journalism hasn’t suffered enough of late, along comes “What Goes Up,” a pointless and pretentious drama that — given its title and direct linkage to the 1986 Challenger shuttle disaster — nearly adds tasteless to its unflattering hat trick. In his feature debut, co-writer/director/producer/editor Jonathan Glatzer makes one unfortunate choice after another, taking a story that desperately wants to resonate as “important” and rendering it merely irritating. The cast’s bold-faced names — Steve Coogan, Hilary Duff, “Juno’s” Olivia Thirlby — seem unlikely to prevent a rough landing.

Glatzer (who wrote the screenplay with Robert Lawson, liberally adapted from the latter’s play) states in the press notes that his goal was to “put heroism in America under the microscope,” but what’s onscreen proves far too disjointed to coherently make that clear.

Best known Stateside for comedy (“Tropic Thunder,” “Hamlet 2”), Coogan plays Campbell Babbitt, a reporter who — after having an affair with an interview subject — has covered up her suicide and proceeded to write a series of uplifting pieces about her. Babbitt’s Jayson Blair-like turn has gone undetected, but his boss dispatches him to write about Christa McAuliffe, the New Hampshire educator chosen to become the first teacher in space, who tragically died along with the entire crew.

Once at the school, Babbitt exhibits little appetite for this human-interest story and tries to look up another teacher who’s an old college acquaintance. Alas, he’s also apparently committed suicide, leaving behind a crestfallen group of teenage misfits with whom he appeared to share rather unsavory bonds.

The group includes the flirtatious Lucy (Duff, in what amounts to a near-adult role) and the brooding Tess (Thirlby). With Lucy leading the way and Tess disapproving, the kids are strangely intent on drafting the reporter to assume the place of their late teacher, whom they describe with cult-like reverence, calling him “almost a priest.”

What transpires thereafter is too awkwardly constructed to be disturbing, but the teens verge on seeming sexually predatory. The truly crippling miscalculation, though, is using the slow-building hoopla toward the Challenger launch as a backdrop, including a school musical revue assembled by another hapless teacher (a wasted Molly Shannon). Then again, the songs, grainy TV footage of Ronald Reagan and a scene in which Babbitt bangs out prose on a typewriter (newsflash: We actually had computers by the mid-’80s) provide constant reminders of the era, as if the Challenger tie-in wasn’t enough.

Beyond showcasing a darker streak, Coogan can’t find any logic in his character, who is ostensibly grappling with a moral dilemma about his earlier deception. The kids are mostly OK but at times behave as if they parachuted in from a Stanley Kubrick film, only without Kubrick to guide them.

As for Duff, the one-time “Lizzie McGuire” star looks winsome, but her alter ego is aptly described as “a very confused girl.”

That she is, in a very confused movie.

What Goes Up

Production: A Three Kings release of a Nasser Entertainment Group and Insight Film Studios presentation of a Station 3 production. Produced by RD Robb, Jonathan Glatzer. Executive producers, Kirk Shaw, Joseph Nasser, Jack Nasser, Steve Coogan, Thomas N. Greenauer, James Hoke, Anthony Miranda, Joseph Nahas. Co-producer, Robert Lawson. Directed by Jonathan Glatzer. Screenplay, Glatzer, Robert Lawson.

Crew: Camera (color), Antonio Calvache; editors, Glatzer, Jennifer Godin; music, Roddy Bottum; music supervisors, Randall Poster, Joe Rudge; production designer, Tony Devenyi; art director, Kerri Elliot; set decorator, Sierra LaFlamme; costume designer, Andrea Des Roches; sound (Dolby), Trent Stewart; associate producer, Meredith Tucker; assistant director, Matthias Mellinghaus; second unit director, Lawson; casting, Tucker. Reviewed at Sunset screening room, Los Angeles, May 7, 2009. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 107 MIN.

With: Campbell Babbitt - Steve Coogan Lucy Diamond - Hilary Duff Tess Sullivan - Olivia Thirlby Jim Lement - Josh Peck Penelope Little - Molly Shannon Donna Arbetter - Molly Price Fenster Itkskicq - Max Hoffman Peggy Popoladopolous - Sarah Lind

More Film

  • 'Super Pets' Release Date Pushed Back

    Film News Roundup: 'Super Pets' Movie Moves Back a Year, Avoiding 'John Wick 4'

    In today’s film news roundup, “Super Pets” has moved back to 2022, “Into the Ashes” gets bought and veteran executive David Gale has a new gig. RELEASE DATE Warner Bros. has pushed back the release of “DC Super Pets” back a year, avoiding opening against “John Wick 4.” The studio announced Wednesday that “Super Pets” [...]

  • Quentin Tarantino

    Quentin Tarantino Documentary 'QT8: The First Eight' Scores Sales (EXCLUSIVE)

    Wood Entertainment has completed sales for France, Germany, Turkey, Italy and Russia for “QT8: The First Eight,” a documentary that chronicles Quentin Tarantino’s first eight films. The first buyers’ screening took place on Sunday at the Cannes Film Festival. Tarantino’s ninth film, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” premiered at Cannes on Tuesday night. Producer [...]

  • 'Asbury Park' Doc Covers Bruce Springsteen,

    Film Review: 'Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock 'N Roll'

    A civic Phoenix story is promised and effectively delivered in “Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock ‘N Roll,” even if there’s little doubt that what much of the audience will be hoping for from this documentary is Bruce, the whole Bruce and nothing but the Bruce. The film satisfies a good portion of that craving with [...]

  • Timothy Olyphant Once Upon a Time

    Timothy Olyphant Explains Why He Did 'Hitman' Movie

    The 2007 film adaptation of the “Hitman” video game franchise is … not good. It received a score of 15% on Rotten Tomatoes, with many critics panning its incoherent plot and terrible dialogue. So, why did actor Timothy Olyphant take on the lead role as Agent 47? He had a mortgage to pay, he told [...]

  • Daniel Craig

    Daniel Craig to Undergo Ankle Surgery After 'Bond 25' Injury

    Daniel Craig will undergo ankle surgery after sustaining an injury while filming “Bond 25.” “Daniel Craig will be undergoing minor ankle surgery resulting from an injury sustained during filming in Jamaica,” the franchise’s official Twitter account posted. “Production will continue whilst Craig is rehabilitating for two weeks post-surgery. The film remains on track for the [...]

  • Oh Mercy

    Cannes Film Review: 'Oh Mercy'

    It takes more than just watching “Oh Mercy” to understand exactly why Arnaud Desplechin was drawn to the subject matter of his latest movie, a reasonably engrossing police procedural with roots in a 2008 TV documentary. Something of an unexpected detour in the veteran director’s weighty career, the film combines multiple strands to paint a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content