OLD DADS – Review
It looks like another stand-up comic has decided to expand on his stage persona and make the jump to a feature film. Of course, that’s nothing new as comedians have been doing this since the first filmed pratfall or wise-crack. Things are a bit more welcoming now as the onslaught of streaming services have put out a big “welcome mat” to the jokesters, raking in lots of new subscribers with taped comedy concerts, usually running about an hour or so, perfect for those needing a quick fix of laughter. It has worked for Kevin Hart and Amy Schumer, and Jo Koy’s autobiographical EASTER SUNDAY certainly found an audience at the multiplex. Will the same happen to this touring comic who pushes against the current culture? Well, it’s going straight to streaming, which might be the perfect home for a trio of OLD DADS.
The de facto leader of the threesome (think Moe without the bowl haircut, or no hair at all) is Jack (Bill Burr). He’s living the good life in the suburbs of Pamona, CA in a home with his gorgeous wife Leah (Katie Aselton) and their adorable five-year-old son along with one “on the way”. Oh, Jack is just past the big “5-0”, hence the flick’s title. Speaking of, the other dads are his best pals. There’s high-energy Connor (Bobby Cannavale), who loves to have fun as long as he can hide from his intimidating wife Cara (Jackie Tohn), who lets their five-year-old son run wild. And there’s Mike (Bokeem Woodbine) who’s living with his gorgeous much younger girlfriend Britney (Reign Edwards) after getting his two sons from a previous marriage into college. These days the guys are especially happy since they’ve sold their sports apparel business and are now senior employees . But this doesn’t sit well with twenty-something new owner Aspen (Miles Robbins) who wants to revamp the place and toss out anyone over 35. To keep in his “good graces” the guys go on a disastrous road trip. This gives Jack more agita when dealing with the “touchy-feely” head of his son’s ritzy private school, the “doctor” (Rachael Harris), who enlists him and Connor to run the big school fundraiser. And then Britney drops a bombshell on Mike. Suddenly it feels as though the entire world has turned on the old-fashioned “ordinary Joes”. Can they ever catch a break or will the new social rules of the 21st century crush them?
Since this film is an extension of his stand-up monologues, the first in the cast would be Mr. Burr (who also is a big force behind the camera). He seems fairly comfortable in this lead, and quick with line delivery while not given a big emotional range. Jack goes from affable “bro” to enraged alpha at almost regular intervals, though we get a bit of his softer side as he deals with his wife and son. Cannavale has more to do, as he must become the modern henpecked hubby, then shift into the “over-served” wildcard, before eliciting the most laughs as he desperately tries to be hip with the younger staff at work, while checking himself for wrinkles and grey hairs. Much more mellow is Woodbine whose Mike gets great delight in testing the boundaries of modern race relations, especially for fans of rap music while never flaunting what appears to be his charmed homelife. As for their “better halves”, Aselton does a variation of the long-suffering but adoring missus since often in modern sitcoms like “The King of Queens”, who has her hubby’s back despite her snarky asides and eye rollings. Tohn is effective as the cartoonish new age shrew who has a fast sneer for anyone questioning her parenting “style”. On the “flip side”, Edwards is the sweet “pixie girl” of Mike’s (and most guys) dreams who shows her strength when fate throws the couple a big “curve”. As for the “cancellers”, the too-sensitive villains, the “work jerk” is the obnoxious Aspen played with an aloof arrogance and casual cruelty by the wispy Robbins. But the real “big bad” may be the passive-aggressive “back-biter” who’s the head of the school played with eyebrow-arching relish by the delightfully devious Harris who earns the jeers and hisses of the audience.
Oh BTW, Mr. Burr is the film’s director and the co-writer of the script, as I hinted earlier. It’s the showcase for his character who delights in “pushing buttons” as he “melts the snowflakes”. It may play better as a standup set as the ranting and confrontational sequences become grating and abrasive after the first act or so. It feels as though the whole thing is a verbal comic riff on the “crime alley” training exercise for police trainees. Jack enters another area, a “way too woke” doofus pops up, and he must mow em’ down with a nasty but well-deserved “burn”. Yes, they’re true “cardboard” targets in his takedown on the irritants in society of the new world. Burr’s longtime fans will take great delight in Burr’s battle, but “newbies” will be tempted to grab the remote and start a’ scrollin’. And the use of hidden cameras to take down the trio would never fly for an instant despite the “softening” of the culture. It all comes together in a strip club finale (perhaps to get some of that HANGOVER vibe) and a cliched race to the hospital that sadly involves a beloved veteran actor in a thankless cameo, this after a current gifted thespian is wasted in a “throw-away” bit. The whole film is shot like a flat one-camera sitcom, with a structure that feels like several episodes strung together. I appreciate that Cannavale was putting an energetic effort into Connor, but only rapid fans of Burr’s specials will relish this feature-length farce with him as the general leading the charge of these OLD DADS.
1.5 Out of 4
OLD DADS streams exclusively on Netflix beginning on Friday, October 20, 2023