The Austin Chronicle

Stop and Go

Not rated, 80 min. Directed by Mallory Everton, Stephen Meek. Starring Mallory Everton, Stephen Meek, Whitney Call, Julia Jolley, Anna Sward Hansen.

REVIEWED By Trace Sauveur, Fri., Oct. 1, 2021

The ubiquity of pandemic movies during the age of COVID is obviously no surprise, but those produced directly in the wake of it come in two different forms – those that were made while dealing with production constraints and those that tie it directly into the plot. The latest pandemic-produced flick, Stop and Go, is decidedly the latter, attempting to mine comedy out of seeing how the rules of a society under quarantine translate to a cross-country road trip comedy.

The premise is simple: Two bubbly sisters (played by Everton and Call) are trapped within the confines of their home when a mail alert that there’s been an outbreak at their grandmother’s nursing home sends them on an unexpected rescue mission. Along the way, they deal with the hazards of a newly precarious world including having to mask up, the dangers of unsanitized gas pumps, and coping with COVID-denying relatives.

If that all sounds a little obvious and hackneyed, well … that’s because it is, particularly this far into the pandemic. It’s difficult to discern if COVID humor in movies had a tiny window of success that essentially no movies could fit into in time, or if it’s a subject that’s vaguely annoying to see broached altogether. Nevertheless, the worst bits in this film directly result from the attempt to find humor amongst the pandemic routines and news we’ve already long been inundated with. When we’ve all lived within the confines of the crisis for 16 months, it’s next to impossible for jokes about Tom Hanks contracting the virus to come off as anything other than tacky and dated, despite seeking to be timely.

Most frustrating is that these clearly talented comedians and writers are stuck with lame gags. Everton and Call have the chemistry to make a bit land and they’re thankfully afforded adequate time to goof off about subjects not directly related to the pandemic. The majority of the run time is spent encumbered within a car with them, meaning they’re left with the daunting task of carrying the movie with seemingly improvised conversations. They’re more than up for it when left to riff at their leisure, and there are a few genuine laughs to be had. But the movie they’re stuck in may make you wish the world was back to normal so you could just watch them at an improv club.

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