Old Dads Review

Bill Burr’s directorial debut tries to capture his fiery brand of comedy in a relatively bland feature film.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9q0aUueXpFE

PLOT: Three best friends become fathers later in life and find themselves battling preschool principals, millennial CEOs and anything created after 1987. 

REVIEW: If you are a fan of Bill Burr’s stand-up comedy, you likely know what you are in for with Old Dads. Burr’s directorial debut is an amalgam of his observations and rants from his twenty-plus years as a comedian told through the fictional story of a trio of fifty-year-olds dealing with generational change. On the heels of a year that has seen semi-autobiographical films starring comedians like Burt Kreischer and Sebastian Maniscalco and the series Bupkis with Pete Davidson, Old Dads is a fictional story that relies heavily on Burr’s sense of humor. But, instead of capitalizing on Burr’s red-hot temper as a source of constant comedy, Old Dads is a relatively traditional movie that tries to tell several different kinds of stories without giving any of them their due. With three solid talents in the main roles and a bevy of recognizable actors and comedians fleshing out the cast, this is a movie I wanted badly to enjoy but ended up barely tolerating.

As the trailer shows, Old Dads follows three fathers in their early fifties. Jack Kelly (Bill Burr), Connor Brody (Bobby Cannavale), and Mike Richards (Bokeem Woodbine) are the owners of a retro sports apparel company that they recently sold. While contending with the leadership of Millennial boss Aspen Bell (Miles Robbins), the three fathers find themselves in differing parental situations. Connor is micromanaged by his wife Cara (Jackie Tohn), who lets their son run rampant, while Mike enjoys being an empty nester and divorcee when his young girlfriend Britney (Reign Edwards) gets pregnant. Meanwhile, Jack and his wife Leah (Katie Aselton) are expecting their second child and are navigating the high stakes of Los Angeles private schools. When Jack gets into a tiff with preschool principal Dr. Lois Schmieckel-Turner (Rachael Harris), he must accept his lack of a filter and short fuse. In essence, Jack and Bill Burr are one and the same. Over the course of Old Dads, Jack and his pals must find out how to cope with helicopter parents, gender fluidity, hipster mentality, and cancel culture while simultaneously being good fathers and husbands.

Naturally, Old Dads wallows in the generational divide between the Generation X leads and their Millennial and Gen-Z successors. Within minutes, the characters struggle with modern slang, being called out for being callous and insensitive, and more. At first, I found myself chuckling at the truth bombs being dropped by Burr, Cannavalle, and Woodbine. Still, the schtick begins to wear thin when the anger and animosity bubble up for virtually every single thing, even some things that are not worth getting angry about. The script, co-written by Burr and Ben Tishler, at first seems to be trying to balance the workplace challenges, familial challenges, and overall societal challenges these guys deal with regularly. Then, the plot begins to fizzle as everything seems to blow up simultaneously while adding additional wrinkles. For a comedy running just over an hour and a half, a lot is going on that doesn’t seem to get resolved.

Old Dads is clearly a showcase for Bill Burr. Burr has proven himself a talented actor with varied roles ranging from The Mandalorian to The King of Staten Island. Both movies benefitted from balancing Burr’s fiery comedy with dramatic elements. Here, with Burr serving as writer and director, he tries to throw everything he can at the story with the standalone jokes mostly working on their own but not fully within the context of the main narrative. Equally, Bobby Cannavale and Bokeem Woodbine have interesting characters here, neither of which is given as much attention as Burr’s Jack, making their arcs feel more superficial than anything. The easy comparison for this film would be 2016’s Bad Moms, which gave Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, and Kathryn Hahn equal character development, but Old Dads does not spread that around as evenly. Instead, the story keeps returning to Burr as it tries to give him a redemption arc that never feels authentic.

Multiple subplots in this movie seem to have started as good ideas but never quite stick the landing. A job assignment sending the three dads and their coworker Travis (Justin Miles) to find the elusive hermit Ed Cameron (C. Thomas Howell) seems like it only exists to allow a hilarious, awkward conversation about the n-word in rap music. Another involving the feud between Jack and Dr. Lois seems to be building towards something more significant before being explained away in a quick wrap-up at the film’s end. Even a dramatic moment between Jack and Leah that changes the film’s tone entirely is quickly resolved and undermines the movie’s ending. Old Dads also doesn’t leverage the multiple talented actors in minor roles, including Natasha Leggero, Josh Brener, Katrina Bowden, and Paul Walter Hauser. The cameo appearance from film legend Bruce Dern may be the best moment in the film, but it is far too short.

Old Dads review

There are many things that Bill Burr and his character Jack Kelly have decried about the change in our modern culture over the last three decades that I agree with. Many of the woke elements Jack and his friends rant about here are rooted in reality, while others are over-the-top for the film’s sake. Ultimately, this movie tries to be a heartwarming tale about dads who care about their kids and want them to grow up strong and confident but get mired in just being angry rather than anything else. Bill Burr is a talented comedian and a far better actor than this material allows him to be, but I hope to see him grow more in future roles in front of and behind the camera. Old Dads is funny for a bit but quickly overstays its welcome, resulting in a disjointed movie that never quite pulls itself together.

5

Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/old-dads-review/