About My Father
When Sebastian (standup comedian Sebastian Maniscalco, "Green Book") decides that Ellie (Leslie Bibb) is ‘the one,’ there’s only one problem – his dad Salvo (Robert De Niro) won’t hand over his grandmother’s engagement ring until he’s met Ellie’s parents. With an invite to the wealthy, Waspy Collins family 4th of July weekend, Sebastian is worried just what they’ll learn “About My Father.”
Laura's Review: C
TV writer Austen Earl and star Sebastian Maniscalco have concocted a "Meet the Parents" for the parents themselves and while it isn’t the worst Robert De Niro comedy I’ve seen (that would be “Dirty Grandpa”), it’s not particularly good either. With plot developments foreshadowed via spotlight and Laura Terruso’s (TV's 'Dickinson') choppy direction, “About My Father” is the type of entertainment best enjoyed while shutting one’s brain down trying to doze off.
Maniscalco seems to narrate the entire first quarter of the movie as he gives us Salvo’s history as a Sicilian immigrant who became a Chicago neighborhood-famous hair stylist while bringing up his son with respect for frugality. Salvo, appearing hip with his ponytail in flashbacks, is the type of guy who made his son a dubious-looking skateboard for Christmas rather than shelling out for a real one. Since Sebastian’s mother died, he’s all his father has other than his aging clientele, but Ellie, an upbeat artist, has given Sebastian a whole new outlook on life.
We meet Ellie at her art show, a collection of banal ‘vagina’ paintings (turn them sideways and they become sunsets she tells Sebastian). She’s thrilled to bits because they have all sold to a dealer for decorators. Her dad Bill (David Rasche) just happens to own a global hotel chain, the filmmakers counting on their audience being unable to put two and two together until they need a plot obstacle. Ellie is thrilled that her folks have invited Sebastian to what has been a family-only event and so is he, but when Salvo objects to being left alone for the 4th he withdraws – until the invite is extended to include dad and he reluctantly agrees to bring him along.
The Maniscalco/Collins class and cultural clash begins before they’ve even left the airport, Ellie’s older brother Lucky’s (Anders Holm, TV's 'Workaholics') helicopter trumping Sebastian’s hired car, at least until they have to turn back because of his anxiety attack. Lucky’s genial yet cutting snobbery is countered by brother Doug’s (Brett Dier, TV's 'Jane the Virgin') new age looniness, the younger man introduced playing singing bowls. Meanwhile, Salvo rags on the estate’s peacocks, makes a big fuss over no-price menus at a clubhouse lunch and is flabbergasted that his son actually paid someone ‘to learn how to play a game’ when he sees him on the tennis court. When Collins matron Tigger (Kim Cattrall), a U.S. Senator, needs to make a last minute appearance on MSNBC and her hair stylist isn’t available, Salvo’s called into action and causes a huge upset by sheering her locks into a pixie resembling his own cut, a major catastrophe outraging the woman which the filmmakers drop any mention of like a hot potato in their next scene, a thumbs up social media montage on her new look failing to sooth the hiccup
Salvo isn’t the only embarrassment, Sebastian creating his own spectacle flyboarding with Lucky at the wheel, losing his swimming trunks in the process, a gag wrung dry as his genitals are put on protracted display. Those peacocks will come back into play in a ridiculous way and yet by the time Sebastian gets around to proposing, these two disparate families appear to have found some weird kind of common ground despite a couple of last act obstacles lobbed into this kitchen sink comedy.
De Niro’s taste in comedy has proven generally low brow, but his performance here is a little less broad, Salvo imbued with recognizable humanity even if that peacock scenario just doesn’t fly. Cattrall and Bibb help overcome the vacuousness of their male Collins counterparts. Maniscalco is fine as a frustrated Everyman, but we are never invested enough in he and Bibb’s central relationship. “About My Father” rehashes better directed movies most will have seen before.
Lionsgate opens "About My Father" in theaters on 5/26/23.