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Bill Burr doesn’t exactly stretch himself, acting-wise, with his starring role in his new film, which he also co-wrote, produced and directed. The acerbic comedian, who makes W.C. Fields look like a paragon of tolerance, plays an exaggerated (one hopes) version of himself in Old Dads, about three middle-aged men coping with a politically correct society in which their old-school attitudes make them dinosaurs.
The film premiering on Netflix is predictable in virtually every respect, but Burr’s well-honed comic shtick and amusing gags should make it particularly popular among guys of a certain age, especially if they have plenty of beer and pizza on hand.
A feature-length “OK boomer” joke.
Release date: Friday, Oct. 20
Cast: Bill Burr, Bobby Cannavale, Bokeem Woodbine, Katie Aselton, Reign Edwards, Jackie Tohn, Rachael Harris, Katrina Bowden, Josh Brener, Natasha Leggero, C. Thomas Howell, Justin Miles, Miles Robbins, Paul Walter Hauser, Bruce Dern
Director: Bill Burr
Screenwriters: Bill Burr, Ben Tishler
1 hour 44 minutes
Inspired by Burr and co-screenwriter Ben Tishler’s experiences of becoming fathers later in life, the film revolves around best friends and business partners Jack (Burr), Connor (Bobby Cannavale) and Mike (Bokeem Woodbine). The three find themselves sidelined after selling their vintage sports jersey company to Aspen (Miles Robbins), a millennial, self-proclaimed “disruptor” who makes it his first order of business to fire everyone in the company born before 1988.
The three friends are experiencing personal issues as well. The 51-year-old Jack, who first became a father at 46, is married to the younger Leah (Katie Aselton), now pregnant with their second child. Connor’s young son has major impulse control issues thanks to his wife (Jackie Tohn) overindulging him. And Mike is dating the decades-younger Britney (Reign Edwards), who informs him that she’s pregnant despite his having had a vasectomy. Jack and Connor attempt to console him by complimenting him on his virility, pointing out, “That’s some Braveheart-level jizz.”
That line is indicative of the film’s general level of humor, as is the three men engaging in a spirited discussion involving a sex fantasy featuring former First Lady Barbara Bush and pop singer Samantha Fox (you really do have to be a certain age to appreciate all the jokes).
Jack is the proverbial bull in the china shop, unable to leave the house without becoming aggrieved over such modern phenomena as road-hogging e-scooter riders and self-righteous vapers. And don’t get him started on social media, about which he has a fully-loaded arsenal of profane insults. He’s also not above deliberately tripping a little boy, nor informing the obnoxious principal (Rachael-Harris) of his child’s pre-school that she’s a “stumpy c–t.”
Old Dads is amusing enough while delivering its torrent of jokes about the culture clash between younger and older generations (I particularly got a kick out of Jack responding to the taunt “OK boomer” by angrily insisting that he’s “Generation X!”). But it flounders when attempting more ambitious plot elements, such as the friends trying to recruit an eccentric recluse living off the grid to serve as the company’s new “brand ambassador” (C. Thomas Howell, in a role funnier in concept than execution), or finding themselves fired due to a “morality clause” after their politically incorrect diatribes are secretly recorded.
Some of the scenes are so pro forma that they seem to stem from an algorithm, such as an obligatory strip club excursion that provides the opportunity for some female nudity. Or the inevitable moment when Jack tries to rush to the hospital before his wife gives birth, not helped by an irascible, elderly Uber driver (Bruce Dern, now in the Walter Brennan phase of his career), who disdainfully informs him that when his baby was born, he was in a bar drinking beer and eating fried clams.
If you find Burr’s stand-up routines funny (and since he routinely sells out arenas, it’s obvious that plenty of people do), you’ll enjoy Old Dads, which also benefits from Cannavale’s hilariously beleaguered reactions, Woodbine’s solid underplaying and some very funny turns by a variety of comedians in small roles. The film so accurately translates Burr’s comic persona into cinematic terms that it could serve as the opening act of his live performances.