NEW YORK (CNS) – By adapting the short story “The Prize” by his screenplay partner Alan Zweibel for the serial comedy “Here Today” (Sony), director and co-screenwriter Billy Crystal sets out to blend light humor with poignant drama. Sadly, the film – in which he also stars as aging TV comedy writer Charlie Burnz – falls flat in both respects.

After Burnz accidentally bumps into bustling street singer Emma Payge (Tiffany Haddish) – she shows up for lunch with the scribe her ex-boyfriend won at a charity auction, though she didn’t Have no idea who Burnz is – the two form a friendship. Emma, ​​although much younger than her new friend, “gets” Charlie and shows concern for the more difficult aspects of her life.

These include the tragic circumstances of his wife Carrie (Louisa Krause) long ago, untimely death, and his strained relationship with his adult children, Rex (Penn Badgley) and Francine (Laura Benanti). As Emma gradually realizes that Charlie is also struggling with an illness that he has so far successfully concealed from everyone around him, the mood for the film grows more serious.

Thus, the tense distribution gives way to more serious material which, although witty, fails to convince.

Zweibel and Crystal keep the central relationship chaste. But they seem to feel compelled to explain this, at least in part by asking Emma to riffle the theme of how her sexual antics would be too much for Charlie to handle. Plus, flashbacks show us that Charlie and Carrie’s bond was expressed physically long before the wedding bell rang.

Charlie’s interactions with his co-workers are also morally diverse. On the one hand, he serves as a caring mentor to Darrell (Andrew Durand), a new staff member who he says is showing off talent. Yet the verbal tics that ruin the routine of another colleague, Roger (Matthew Broussard), annoy Charlie so much that he publicly humiliates Roger in an incident that can only be partially excused due to Charlie’s illness.

Watching “Here Today” continually miss the mark – despite honorable intentions everywhere – viewers may feel like they are looking for a losing team.

The movie contains a prenuptial situation, a lot of sexual and scatological humor, about half a dozen profanities, twice as many softer oaths, at least one foul term, considerable coarse and foul language, and obscene gesture. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 – parents are strongly cautioned. Some content may not be suitable for children under 13.