About My Father (2023)

About My Father (2023)

This weak imitation of Meet the Parents can't be saved, not even by Robert De Niro

4.4

Movie

United States of America
English
Comedy, Drama
2023
FEMALE DIRECTOR, LAURA TERRUSO
Adan James Carrillo, Anders Holm, Brett Dier
90 min

TLDR

Even dedicated De Niro completists will struggle with this one

What it's about

An Italian-American man tries to impress his girlfriend’s WASP-ish family on a Fourth of July trip also attended by his curmudgeonly Sicilian father

The take

About My Father is clearly intended to be a cringe comedy a la Meet the Parents (it even features Robert De Niro as another grumpy dad), but it stretches the concept of “funny” so thin that the memory of that scene in which a cat pees on the contents of a smashed urn will feel like dizzying comic heights in comparison. The premise — an Italian-American man struggles to win the acceptance of his WASPish in-laws — might have made sense 100 years ago, but today, it strikes as farfetched. Even without that weak foundation, much of About My Father has a shaky grasp on what makes a movie work. The screenplay feels like the product of crudely stitching together several over-manufactured set-pieces, with the result being an almost total lack of fluidity and characters who often contradict themselves.

The film starts out on its worst foot: star–co-writer Sebastian Maniscalco lays the voiceover on thick, while Sebastian’s brash Sicilian father Salvo (De Niro) is so unceasingly negative that it turns a presence that should be great into one that’s only grating. Though it does find something of a footing as a saccharine family drama in its back half, it’s much too little, too late.

What stands out

About My Father perks up in its second half when Salvo undergoes a change of heart, thus allowing De Niro a bit of variety and everyone else the chance to engage with someone who feels like an actual human being. From this point on, the movie manages to conjure up some focus: rather than stringing together contrived gags, it’s now about the importance of family and finding your own independence. Not a groundbreaking concept, but a passable one.

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