About My Father Movie Review: Robert De Niro Carries This Otherwise Mediocre Comedy

Robert De Niro carries Laura Terruso's About My Father, which is an otherwise dated and familiar comedy.

If About My Father was released in perhaps the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Robert De Niro was at the apex of his comedic prowess with films like Analyze This and Meet the Parents, it likely would’ve had the same success as those movies. However, it’s being released in a time period where late-era De Niro comedies have been profoundly embarrassing to watch: from the god-awful New Year’s Eve to the nearly-unwatchable Dirty Grandpa, the latter containing a career-worst performance from one of the greatest actors who has ever walked the silver screen.

So consider me skeptical when going into About My Father, a film that, from its trailers, looked like a more exaggerated version of Dirty Grandpa. Fortunately, it’s not that, but the film can’t help from feeling amazingly dated and old-fashioned. Perhaps if it was released in the early 2000s, critics and audiences might have found it fresh and hilarious. However, too many “embarrassing dad” comedies have been released for this one to fall completely flat on its face.

About My Father Is Far Too Familiar

It’s only because of De Niro’s perfect timing and chemistry with Sebastian Maniscalco that About My Father feels worth watching. The film chronicles a fictionalized version of Sebastian Maniscalco visiting his girlfriend’s (Leslie Bibb) family during the Fourth of July weekend and tagging his dad (Robert De Niro) along. Of course, the usual hijinks ensue. The dad embarrasses his son in more ways than one and almost ruins the proposal Sebastian wants to make to Ellie (Bibb) and get his parents’ (Kim Cattrall & David Rasche) blessing.

But we know exactly where this will end. No matter how elaborate the hijinks are, the two will eventually reconcile, Sebastian will realize that the “tough façade” his father adopted for most of his life was a showcase of worry and that he loves his son with all of his heart and he’ll be able to propose to Ellie, therefore ensuring that everyone will live happily ever after. The film follows this template perfectly. No surprises. No subversion of the same tropes. Just a good ol’ fashioned comedy that puts the fun in dysfunctional. It wouldn’t be a bother if the material were somewhat watchable, but most of it is tired and clichéd.

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That said, a few funny sequences had the audience laughing in the cinema. One, in particular, involves Salvo (De Niro) making a classic Italian dinner to make it up to his family after another gut-bustlingly hilarious scene I won’t dare spoil occurred. The “Italian dinner” scene is in the trailer, but there is far more than the promotional material does not show, making it even funnier once it hits the screen. This [long] chunk of the film is the only bit where I found the comedy fresh and original, even if it touches upon some familiar beats. The actors are having lots of fun, and so are we.

Robert De Niro and Sebastian Maniscalco Prevent About My Father from Being a Dud

De Niro hasn’t been better in a comedy since Analyze That. I’ll say it. It’s been a while since he’s legitimately cared about the comedy he’s in, and he seems to enjoy sharing the screen with Maniscalco, who is also excellent. The two have great banter together and even greater chemistry when his father embarrasses the living hell out of him. You absolutely believe the two could be father and son in real life, with how the film establishes key mannerisms as a part of their bond, such as when they walk through the mist of cologne they create before going to bed.

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Key stuff like this solidifies their deep affection for one another, even if they don’t show it. Supporting actors are also quite good, with Cattrall being the major highlight of the bunch. However, most of the supporting cast feels underused, including Bibb, whose character is bathed in clichés. But you’re not watching this movie for the supporting characters. You’re watching About My Father for Maniscalco and De Niro to get into entertaining situations. And there are a lot of them. It’s a shame that most of the humor doesn’t meet the standards that old-school De Niro comedies like Midnight Run and Analyze This brought to the table.

As mentioned above, if the film came out twenty years ago, it may have been strongly received. However, About My Father arrives far too late, especially in De Niro and Maniscalco’s careers. They’re great, and the main reason why the film remains watchable throughout, but it’s definitely not the best film they have starred in (they were both in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, after all!) I wouldn’t recommend About My Father much if it weren’t for them. As light entertainment, it’s fine. As a summer comedy, it feels too stale and dated.


About My Father poster

About My Father is now playing in theaters. What did you think of the movie? What is your favorite Robert De Niro comedy? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to follow us on social media!

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Maxance Vincent

Maxance Vincent

Maxance is a freelance film and TV writer, and a recent graduate of a BFA in Film Studies at the University of Montreal, with a specialization in Video Game Studies.