Following a handful of supporting roles in “Tag,” “Inexperienced Ebook” and “The Irishman,” Sebastian Maniscalco makes his first bid for leading-man standing with “About My Father,” a household comedy sourced from the identical semi-autobiographical materials that made his stand-up a industrial and cultural phenomenon. To say it’s higher than all three “Meet the Dad and mom” movies could also be a doubtful praise, however it’s one made extra important as a result of it co-stars Robert De Niro — and extra importantly, truly options recognizable human conduct amidst its suitably outlandish set items. Whether or not or not Maniscalco has a legit future as a film star, he proves a likeable presence as a romantic lead, whereas director Laura Terruso skillfully delivers comedic payoffs that faucet into his wheelhouse whereas introducing him to a wider viewers.
Maniscalco performs “himself,” the profitable, Chicago-based supervisor of a boutique lodge who falls for painter and artist Ellie Collins (Leslie Bibb). The son of widowed Italian immigrant hairdresser Salvo (De Niro), Sebastian is barely uneasy with the affluence of the Collins household, which owns a world chain of resorts and inns, however when Ellie invitations him to satisfy her mother and father over a Fourth of July vacation celebration, he decides it’s an ideal alternative to suggest. The one hiccup is that the household ring Sebastian had hoped to make use of for his proposal is held tightly by Salvo, who insists on vetting the Collinses himself earlier than agreeing at hand it off.
Concurrently nervous about assembly Ellie’s blue-blood mother and father Invoice (David Rasche) and Tigger (Kim Cattrall) and the inevitable tradition conflict between them and blue-collar Salvo, Sebastian navigates every social alternative with clenched unease. However what discomfits him much more than Salvo wanting askance on the Collinses is when his father begins making an effort to slot in — prompting him to query if he’s encouraging a betrayal of the sturdy immigrant upbringing round which the Maniscalcos carved their household id. As his personal negotiation with Salvo forces some uncomfortable conversations between father and son, their presence over the weekend finds secrets and techniques between members of the Collins household, forcing Sebastian to discover a solution to make the peace — even when it jeopardizes his capacity to ask for Ellie’s hand in marriage.
Written by Maniscalco together with his accomplice Austen Earl, “About My Father” suits the comic as snugly as Salvo’s ball-hugging Speedo: He will get to frivolously flex his performing muscle groups whereas having fun with sufficient room to ship occasional riffs worthy of his stand-up routines. His audiences know that household peccadilloes are a cornerstone of that materials, which nestles this fictional exploration of comparable material firmly in his consolation zone. However the place 2022’s “Easter Sunday,” an identical wannabe-star car for Filipino comic Jo Koy, leaned too arduous on discovering alternatives for Koy to primarily replicate his stage present, Terruso retains the monologuing to a snug minimal and encourages Maniscalco to wrestle with these familial dilemmas like, nicely, an actual thespian.
Again within the “Fockers” period, De Niro — the onetime normal bearer for method-acting depth — despatched up the gravitas he’d cultivated with the likes of Martin Scorsese by working reverse comedy famous person Ben Stiller. After his current reunion with Scorsese and filmmakers like David O. Russell, he appears to be truly performing once more. Even when Salvo Maniscalco is minimize from related fabric to Jack Byrnes, he breathes humanity, even lovability, into the cantankerous hairdresser. It’s a advantage that the film calls out Salvo’s inclinations to guage everybody round him, even because the impulse feels naturalistic, and it positions him — and everybody else round him — as sympathetic folks looking for their approach, efficiently or not, by awkward conditions. That mentioned, he appears to be like much less convincing holding court docket as a hairdresser in a magnificence salon than the man dropping off a pallet of haircare merchandise within the alley behind one.
After “Talladega Nights,” “Zookeeper,” “Hell Child” and “Tag” amongst others, Leslie Bibb has earned her pedigree because the comedy leading-man whisperer, and tunes proper into Maniscalco’s wavelength as an onscreen accomplice who’s substantial but in addition in on the joke. Rasche capitalizes on his “Succession” profession bump by nearly codifying realizing, insulated, outdated wealthy white man privilege as Invoice. Cattrall rekindles not simply her razor-sharp comedic instincts from her “Intercourse and the Metropolis” days, however even from “Police Academy” and “Huge Hassle in Little China,” portraying a hard-nosed senator shrewd sufficient to acknowledge when a personally disastrous haircut (offered by Salvo) may be exploited for political acquire. In the meantime, Anders Holm and Brett Dier play the Collinses’ overindulged sons Fortunate and Doug, whose decadent self-indulgence additional underscores Sebastian’s ambition and drive when not producing some simple laughs at their expense.
Finally, the truth that Sebastian is much less intimidated by his future in-laws than by the potential for his father to embarrass him creates a compelling dynamic with which many viewers members will establish. There are sadly no discussions about which animals can or can’t be milked, however instead of them are significantly extra relatable scenes, just like the one the place a mother or father is unrelenting, even obnoxious, of their dedication to pay a examine. As a comic, Maniscalco has tapped into common experiences that amuse and embarrass many generations and cultures, and he’s translated that sensation to the display with affection and humor. With Terruso’s mild contact as a director, he’s additionally delivered what’s grow to be an rising rarity on the large display: a comedy that may entertain the entire household.
In a drought of comparable choices, “About My Father” works as a result of it goals at particular targets however goes huge and broad sufficient to embody ones outdoors of the bullseye. Maniscalco hasn’t fairly confirmed he can carry a film that’s not impressed by or “about” him, however this primary effort is charming and earnest sufficient to encourage viewers to satisfy him the place he’s at the moment at in his profession.