'About My Father' Review: Robert De Niro & Sebastian Maniscalco Star in Comedy Limp Culture-Clash

‘About My Father’ Review: Robert De Niro & Sebastian Maniscalco Star in Comedy Limp Culture-Clash

If it’s true that every US Senator looks in the mirror and sees a president, it’s even more true that every stand-up comedian does the same and sees a movie star. The latest comic looking to make the big screen is Sebastian Maniscalco, who specializes in routines revolving around his Italian-American heritage in the act of him. The result is About my fatherwhich the comedian co-wrote (with Austen Earl) and stars opposite Robert De Niro, delivering the latest in his string of comically grumpy old man performances.

The film feels so much like a network sitcom pilot (it’s not dirty enough to stream) that you wonder why the cast isn’t all grinning in a montage marked by a perky theme song during the opening credits. To quickly bring the audience up to speed on who he is, Maniscalco delivers a short lecture on his family history and Sicilian roots, complete with images of Italian men wearing skintight Speedos.

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About my father

The bottom line

Wet familiar fireworks.

Release date: Friday 26 May
Launch: Sebastian Maniscalco, Robert De Niro, Leslie Bibb, Anders Holm, David Rasche, Brett Dier, Kim Cattrall
Director:Laura Terruso
Screenwriters: Austen Earl, Sebastian Maniscalco

Rated PG-13, 1 hour 29 minutes

It’s also about widowed father Salvo (De Niro), a strutted hairdresser who we first see in a younger version for whom De Niro sports a dyed beard and ponytail (presumably, that aging process in The Irish cost too much). Sebastian — he doesn’t mind changing the character’s name, but he’s a hotel manager rather than a comedian here — also shows off his beautiful girlfriend Ellie (Leslie Bibb, attractive as ever), whose WASP roots go back to the Mayflower.

That last bit of information should immediately tell you what comedic path the film is going to take. If not, I have two words for you: culture clash. Ellie’s wealthy patrician parents invite her and Sebastian to spend the Fourth of Julyth weekend with them in their lavish summer outfit. Sebastian is reluctant to leave his father alone for the holidays, especially since Salvo spares no opportunity to make him feel guilty about it. Not to mention blackmailing him into refusing to give him his mother’s ring to propose to Ellie unless she meets her parents first.

You can pretty much figure out the rest. A nervous Sebastian, a bubbly Ellie, and a grumpy Salvo head to Virginia (actually Mobile, Alabama), where they are taken in by Ellie’s obnoxious older brother Lucky (Anders Holm, Comedy Central actor Workaholics), which takes them to the estate by helicopter. There, Sebastian and his father are introduced to Ellie’s people, Bill (David Rasche) and Tigger (Kim Cattrall, and I’m not kidding about his character name); his brother Doug (Brett Bier, Joan the Virgin), the family anomaly with its New Age behavior and fondness for ringing bells; and the family’s pet peacocks, who manage the estate.

The hilarity fails to come from episodes like Sebastian pretending to be a bad tennis player to impress his father (don’t ask) and has to reveal itself when his playmate Tigger gets upset at his pretend fumbling. If you’ve seen the trailer, you know the would-be comedic moment where Sebastian rides a kind of water jetpack and ends up exposing himself when his trunks fall over. And when Salvo generously offers to prepare a real Italian dinner for the family, he is forced to improvise the ingredients with disastrous results.

Maniscalco, who regularly sells out arenas, is one of the most popular stand-ups around these days and doesn’t deviate too much from his comedic persona in this first starring role (he was previously in films like Green book and Martin Scorsese The Irish, the latter also with De Niro). She’s smart enough to tone down her manic energy for the screen and proves attractive, especially when she shows the vulnerability of her character. Even De Niro, thankfully, lowers it a notch from movies like Dirty grandpa, relying on its decades of on-screen iconicism to be comically intimidating and fully embody Sebastian di Salvo’s description of having a “resting whore face.” Cattrall is a lot of fun, especially when her political persona has a complete meltdown after Salvo gives her a dramatic makeover just before a TV appearance.

About my father he’s not as funny as he aspires to be, but his saving grace is his lack of mean spirits. Most of the characters are caricatures to some extent, but they are never ferociously mocked. Lucky, for example, comes off as an asshole at first, but ultimately turns out to be something of a mensch (not a term he’d understand), and even when Ellie’s parents are caught in an elaborate deception, their motives are good-hearted. . The film’s genuine sweetness and affection for her characters go a long way to offsetting her crippling overfamiliarity.