A love letter from Sebastian Maniscalco to his father that also showcases one of Robert De Niro’s best roles in years.
Plot: The film centers around Sebastian who is encouraged by his fiancée to bring his immigrant, hairdresser father, Salvo, to a weekend get-together with her super-rich and exceedingly eccentric family. The weekend develops into what can only be described as a culture clash, leaving Sebastian and Salvo to discover that the great thing about family is everything about family.
Review: The marketing around About My Father makes a big deal about Sebastian Maniscalco being considered one of the most popular comedians in America. Maniscalco’s stand-up routine pokes fun at his immigrant family, his vastly different in-laws, and his observations about how people act. With a fair amount of profanity in his routines, Maniscalco’s brand of humor remains pretty inviting to all audiences. About My Father takes a lot of jokes and stories Maniscalco has told over the years and pulls them together into a comedy loosely inspired by his own life. Pulling in Robert De Niro, with whom Maniscalco shared the screen in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, About My Father looks much like Meet The Parents with an Italian twist. Instead, the film is a sweet ode to fathers and sons that elicits some laughs.
Opening with narration that sets up the Maniscalco family’s journey from Sicily to Chicago, About My Father jumps right into the distinct style in which Sebastian was raised by his hair stylist father and his late mother. Right away, we meet Ellie (Leslie Bibb), an up-and-coming artist whom Sebastian plans to propose. When his father, Salvo (Robert De Niro), insists on meeting her parents before giving his son the ring he wants to use to propose, it coincides with an invitation to visit Ellie’s clan at their summer home at a swanky country club. Worried about how her parents and siblings will react to Salvo’s blunt and workmanlike attitude, Sebastian reluctantly agrees. From there, About My Father turns into a somewhat formulaic culture clash comedy.
While Roberto De Niro and Sebastian Maniscalco tease Italian-American stereotypes, the Collins family are upper-class WASPs who trace their lineage back to the Mayflower. Bill (David Rasche) runs the family hotel business worth millions, Tigger (Kim Cattrall) is an outspoken politician whose platform is vague and ambiguous, and eldest son Lucky (Anders Holm) is a typical rich adult child who does drugs and enjoys his status. Younger son Doug (Brett Dier) is a flakey hipster who plays singing bowls and talks about his girlfriend no one has met. All of the Collins family are as cliche in their own right as the Maniscalcos are in theirs, and the plot plays up their differences as much as their core similarities. But, for all of Sebastian’s worries about him and his father being accepted by the Collins clan, the film centers more on the generational differences between father and son.
Most of the funniest scenes from the film are shown in the trailer, including Sebastian using a water-jet pack and the infamous peacock dinner scene, but there are more moments that had me chuckling through the film. While Sebastian Maniscalco is a better actor than I had expected, he still pales compared to the rest of the cast. Kim Cattrall is good here, as she always is, as she plays a mother who is more relatable than I initially thought she would be, while David Rasche, Anders Holm, and Leslie Bibb hold their own. Brett Dier is a scene-stealer in a role that could have easily been a throwaway gag, but his deadpan delivery sells Doug as more than just another wayward son. Robert De Niro is solid here as he gives one of the best comedic performances of his career. Outside of The Irishman, most of De Niro’s roles have felt phoned in over the last few decades, but there is a genuine chemistry between Maniscalco and the legendary actor here that makes you root for the father and son. Robert De Niro showed us something unique in Meet the Parents, and he does so again, portraying Salvo as familiar as any dad and with a sentimentality that comes across as authentic.
Written by Maniscalco with Austen Earl, About My Father is directed by Laura Terruso (AppleTV+ series Dickinson), the fourth woman to direct Robert De Niro in a feature film. Terruso, who is Italian-American, meshes well with the tone of Sebastian Maniscalco’s humor and delivers a clean and focused comedy. As I watched About My Father, I wondered if an R-rated version was lingering out there as the movie pushes as much profanity as a PG-13 will allow. The movie clicks along pretty fast, barely hitting ninety minutes. There are subplots and elements I expected to develop and serve to populate the comedy in the film rather than being more relevant to the overall narrative. About My Father is tame compared to the edgier humor in Meet the Parents or films from producers Chris and Paul Weitz (American Pie, Little Fockers).
There is nothing offensive or mean-spirited in About My Father. Maybe the fact that I expected something worse in the characters proves I have become jaded about the tone and style of comedy movies. About My Father shares more in common with The Birdcage rather than Meet The Parents as it strives to be about different people finding common ground in the importance that your family should represent. This movie has the hallmarks of a romantic comedy but is definitely a bromance between a dad and his son. About My Father is a harmlessly welcoming comedy that does not tread any new ground but has a good heart. At the very least, it has a cast of talented comedic actors led by the great Robert De Niro in his most energetic performance in a long time.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/about-my-father-review/