Film Review: ‘Where Have You Gone, Lou DiMaggio?’

After decades away, comedian Lou DiMaggio tries to return to stand-up comedy in Brad Kuhlman’s skimpy, nostalgic documentary.

Brad Kuhlman
Lou DiMaggio, Larry David, Ray Romano, Howie Mandel, Joy Behar, Colin Quinn, Richard Belzer, Susie Essman, Jeff Garlin.
Release Date:
Mar 9, 2018

1 hour 15 minutes

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5154280/

Trying to disprove the maxim that you can’t go home again, the real-life comedian of the title attempts to reignite his faded stand-up career in “Where Have You Gone, Lou DiMaggio?” — a documentary whose life lessons are as predictable as they are slight. Brad Kuhlman’s film depicts DiMaggio’s quest as amounting to very little, as the comic spends more time reminiscing with old friends and providing a brief history lesson about the New York comedy scene than actually getting in front of an audience. As a fond look back at a particular milieu, the doc has its minor charms, but it’s far too narrow to resonate outside its niche target audience.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, DiMaggio (no relation to Yankees star Joltin’ Joe) was a rising talent and fixture at Manhattan’s Catch a Rising Star, the launch pad for future luminaries such as Robin Williams, Larry David, Billy Crystal, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Richard Belzer and Colin Quinn. Unsurprisingly, DiMaggio soon saw himself as destined for a marquee project that might propel him to greater heights. Yet after relocating to Los Angeles, he found himself increasingly gravitating toward behind-the-camera jobs on a variety of TV shows — including “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” for which he won an Emmy that he unearths, right next to his tin of cocaine paraphernalia, in a box buried in his garage.

Now compelled in middle age to return to stand-up, DiMaggio begins meeting on camera with some of his industry BFFs, including David, Quinn and Howie Mandel, the latter of whom elicits a confession from DiMaggio that the reason he gave up his beloved prior life was, in part, because of a painful divorce. Unfortunately, aside from Mandel’s amusing decision to spontaneously call DiMaggio’s ex, director Kuhlman avoids digging into the specific reasons why DiMaggio charted the course he did; rather, the helmer favors listening to his subject speak about Catch a Rising Star’s heyday, replete with plenty of great archival clips and photos that help convey the establishment’s role as the epicenter of the 1980s stand-up world.

There’s plenty of regret driving DiMaggio forward, and in narration as well as numerous interviews he comes across as well aware of the creative and age-related obstacles facing him. But the doc is all talk and little action, with most of the first hour of this 75-minute pic focused on DiMaggio chatting about the good old days, as well as his stand-up plans and what tonal approach he should take — the nuances of crafting a set — rather than genuinely working toward those goals. While this strategy produces plenty of amusing anecdotes, it also leaves the film feeling like a long act of procrastination, a trait DiMaggio’s wife says defines him.

Eventually, DiMaggio stops dithering and finally gets to writing new material based on his present-day circumstances as the father of three kids, thanks to advice from Ray Romano and Jeff Garlin, among others. Even then, however, the film skimps on substance, providing only glimpses of two shows before wrapping up with some triumphant slow-motion and swelling music, as well as a platitude from DiMaggio about the impossibility of ever recapturing the past — a sentiment that’s true but, amid so much nostalgia, rings more than a bit hollow coming from this particular messenger.

Film Review: 'Where Have You Gone, Lou DiMaggio?'

Reviewed online, Stamford, Conn., March 6, 2018. Running time: 75 MIN.

Production: An XLrator Media release of a Brad Kuhlman production. Producers: Wendy Kuhlman, Allison Gorelik. Executive producers: Brad Kuhlman, Lou DiMaggio.

Crew: Director: Brad Kuhlman. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Evan B. Stone, Michael Hauer, Doug Cheney, Jason Hafer, Brian Weed, Mike Sullivan. Editor: Lindsay Ljungkull. Music: Dan Wilcox.

With: Lou DiMaggio, Larry David, Ray Romano, Howie Mandel, Joy Behar, Colin Quinn, Richard Belzer, Susie Essman, Jeff Garlin.

More Film

  • Pinewood Studios James Bond

    Netflix's Shepperton Studios Deal Is Stretching the U.K.'s Production Limits

    Netflix’s huge new hub at Shepperton Studios outside London is a further fillip for Britain’s booming production sector. Amid jitters over Brexit and its effects on the economy, the streaming giant’s commitment is a vote of confidence in the U.K. entertainment industry and a continuing source of local jobs. But the decision by Netflix to [...]

  • Bottom of the 9th

    Film Review: ‘Bottom of the 9th’

    Nearly two decades after scoring an audience award at Sundance for “Two Family House,” a smartly understated yet deeply affecting indie about a Staten Island factory worker who deeply regrets stifling his showbiz ambitions, director Raymond De Felitta steps back up to the plate with “Bottom of the 9th,” another dramatically solid and emotionally satisfying [...]

  • THE BRIDGE - "Calaca" - Episode

    Endemol Shine Builds ‘The Bridge’ in Africa (EXCLUSIVE)

    DURBAN–Endemol Shine Group has sold the rights to adapt its critically acclaimed and highly popular Nordic Noir detective series “The Bridge” to Cape Town-based production company Both Worlds Pictures, Variety has learned exclusively. The series will feature an all-African cast and will be set around the Beit Bridge border crossing between South Africa and Zimbabwe. Originally known [...]

  • Durban Film Fest 2019

    Durban Fest Hails Film as ‘Conscience of Our Nation’

    DURBAN–When Ros and Teddy Sarkin raised the curtain on the first Durban Intl. Film Festival 40 years ago, the odds were long that their scrappy fest would survive its inaugural edition. The apartheid government and its draconian censorship board had a stranglehold on the films that reached South African theaters, banning the sorts of subversive [...]

  • Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell

    Film Review: 'Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell'

    “Streetwise,”  the classic and haunting 1984 documentary about homeless street kids in Seattle, is a movie that’s now 35 years old. But for anyone who has seen it, the children it’s about — drifters, hustlers, squatters, thieves, prostitutes — remain frozen in time. And none of them was ever more memorable than Tiny, the 14-year-old [...]

  • Animation Studio Fire

    Revenge Motive May Have Sparked Kyoto Animation Arson Attack

    Japanese media is speculating that revenge was the motivation for the arson attack on Kyoto Animation which killed 33 people on Thursday. Investigative sources quoted by Jiji Press on Friday said that the man in custody had a grudge against the studio. “Since [the studio] stole my novel, I poured out the liquid and set [...]

  • Terminator: Dark Fate Gabriel Luna

    'Terminator: Dark Fate' Cast Proud of Latinx Representation in Latest Installment

    The stars of the Tim Miller-directed “Terminator: Dark Fate” stormed the stage of San Diego Comic-Con’s Hall H on Thursday, but it wasn’t until after the panel — which included appearances from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton — that Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna and Diego Boneta reflected on what makes the upcoming installment in the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content