Inspired by Burr and co-screenwriter Ben Tishler’s experiences of becoming fathers later in life, the film revolves around best friends and business partners Jack (Burr), Connor (Bobby Cannavale) and Mike (Bokeem Woodbine). The three find themselves sidelined after selling their vintage sports jersey company to Aspen (Miles Robbins), a millennial, self-proclaimed “disruptor” who makes it his first order of business to fire everyone in the company born before 1988.
Good comedy skirts the line between tasteful and offensive. Bill Burr’s, an insult comic akin to Don Rickles, is funny when unaccompanied on stage for 90 minutes. Translate that to the screen, into an actual character that must interact with the real world, and that acidity starts looking petty, mean, the ramblings of a grumpy old man. There needs to be an even cruder stereotype to balance all the peevishness, or an understanding spouse or friends who understand his shtick and can call him out when he gets out of line, or his mouth gets him in trouble. In Old Dads which Burr wrote, directs and stars in, he seems to know where that line is, and most of the time, how to rein it in. Easy when you are playing an exaggerated version of yourself.
Here it’s fatherhood that redeems him. He does everything for his son, and the second child, just months away. His business partners and childhood friends are experiencing fatherhood jitters too. Connor (Bobby Cannavale) has a son with with impulse control issues and a wife who indulges his worst whims. Mike (Bokeem Woodbine) is dating a woman half his age and who is carry an unexpected baby. He dreads going through fatherhood again.
The comic situations are the same ones Burr harps on in his standup routines: inconsiderate bikers, e-scooter riders, self righteous vipers, social media content. He has a profane insult for every occasion and annoying slight.
This works as long as the culture clash issues are common grievances exposing generational frustrations. It flounders on the more ambitious themes: selling out your principles, exploiting others for commercial gain, morality clauses, owning up to the consequences of the threes own prejudices and political incorrectness.
This being a Netflix film, there are occasional nods to formulaic situations that don’t quite fit but are expected in their streaming comedies. The big trip to Vegas and the dad late to his child’s birth are the two biggest offenders.
Burr covers the occasional slip up by hiring good comic actors to make them less notable or fellow comics to make them a punchline. For those who are Burr fans, Old Dads will be hilarious- a hit and miss effort, typical of new directors, for everyone else.
Old Dads gets a 3.0 out of 5 or a B.
- Bill Burr
- Ben Tishler
- Monica Levinson
- Ben Tishler
- Bill Burr
- Mike Bertolina
- Patrick J. Don Vito
- Adriaan van Zyl
- October 20, 2023