ABOUT MY FATHER
Starring: Sebastian Maniscalco, Robert DeNiro, Leslie Bibb, Kim Cattrall, David Rasche, Anders Holm, and Brett Dier
Director: Laura Terruso
Sebastian Maniscalco is the latest stand-up comedian to make his leading man debut, and it doesn’t exactly inspire a second take. His performance is sheltered thanks to some well-timed edits and a reliance on narration, but much like the film itself, he's average at best. The only thing elevating the material is the commitment from Robert De Niro. Many would have phoned this in, but he instead gives one of his most earnest performances in years. The sincerity is there, thanks to the cultural and familial story beats interwoven throughout, but, unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the laughs.
I come from a family of hardcore Italians, so despite my reservations about Sebastian Maniscalco as a comedian, I had some interest in About My Father. Ultimately, while my reservations were met with validation, I still found something worthwhile here. It’s not the funniest movie, and it’s mostly surface-level in terms of presentation and concept, but its depiction of Italian immigrants and the generations that follow certainly got me, especially considering how much Robert De Niro’s performance reminded me of my Nonos (grandpa). It’s not great, but I got something out of it.
About My Father seems like it just might work for the first few minutes, but it steadily loses steam along the rest of its runtime. This is largely due to excessive and often repetitive narration from co-screenwriter and star Sebastian Maniscalco that sounds more like unused stand-up material than actual storytelling. To be fair, Robert De Niro shines about as bright as he’s allowed to, and the story itself isn’t the worst; it’s just poorly told from a screenwriting standpoint. When it comes to comedy, a great script isn’t just an important component – it’s everything. Unfortunately, this one just isn’t up to par.