Review by Dan Skip Allen
Sebastian Maniscalco may not be a household name, but he is a renowned stand-up comedian from Chicago. He released 6 stand-up specials, and he's had a few supporting roles in films such as Martin Scorsese's The Irishman as Joe Gallo and Peter Farrelly's Green Book. About My Father is the semi-autobiographical story of a hilarious moment in his life, where he introduces his father to his in-laws to interesting results.
Maniscalco wrote the screenplay with Austen Earl. It's a story he's clearly passionate about. It's somewhat of a fish-out-of-water tale. This man and his father have lived different lives than his wife (played by Leslie Bibb) and her eccentric family. To get his father's approval to marry her, he must bring him to their nice ritzy house in Virginia. His cheap and old ways clash with their posh, rich ways.
Maniscalco and fledgling director Laura Terruso worked well together to craft his story into something relatable for audiences of all backgrounds. The various parental figures in the movie represent two different sides of the same coin in a way. You have one group that lets their children do what they want and support them, while another parent is staunch and stricter with his son regarding finances and how to handle himself. These two opposing sides of this group of people create a fun dichotomy throughout the film.
Robert De Niro is known for his serious roles in The Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas, but in the late ‘90s, he started branching out into more comedic roles. He starred in such films as Analyze This and Analyze That, as well as the Meet the Parents franchise. He has transitioned nicely into these comedic roles because he tends to play the straight man, while everybody else does the comedic stuff around him. He made the occasional ad lib, though, which can be beneficial to some scenes, and proves a particularly useful skill here.
Maniscalco and De Niro are a good father-son team in this movie. They have good chemistry with one another. That being said, it sometimes seems they are on an island by themselves. The rest of the cast, from Leslie Bibb to David Rasche, and even Kim Cattrall, are always one step behind them. In one scene, for instance, the family is taking a Christmas card photo, and both Maniscalco and De Niro go for it during this scene, wearing outlandish costumes to get the cheap laugh. When the others do or say stuff, it's not as funny. I just didn't buy them as these characters apart from an occasional laugh.
The main thing about this film I liked also works against it, and that's the fact that we've seen this story done to death before. I like this sort of story, but couldn't these guys and gals come up with something original? Sure, there is a montage showing the backstory of where these people come from, which was narrated by Maniscalco himself. And the narration was enjoyable to listen to during the entire film, but the rest was a cookie-cutter story the audience had seen before.
About My Father has some moments that had me laughing out loud and other bits that didn't land with me or others watching the movie. Maniscalco and De Niro had great chemistry that I'm sure they developed over working on The Irishman and this film. I loved their characters’ relationship in this movie. I felt some of the humor fell flat, though, and those two were on an island by themselves at the time. Still, all said and done, this was a mostly enjoyable in-laws comedy. It'll be good counter-programming for people who want something different this Memorial Day weekend.
About My Father hits theaters on May 26.