Saturday, February 11, 2017

Movie Review #566: "The Comedian" (2017)

Director: Taylor Hackford
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes
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A former sitcom star-turned-struggling insult comic (Robert De Niro) lands himself in jail after a confrontation with a heckler turns violent. He is sentenced to do community service where he meets a middle-aged woman (Leslie Mann) with whom he strikes up a friendship. This bond will change his life drastically in many unforeseen ways. 

"The Comedian" is directed by Taylor Hackford. It stars Robert De Niro and apparently has been a passion project of his for some time. He plays a now-struggling insult comic named Jackie Burke, who was a huge sitcom star back in the 70's. He actually despises that he is mostly remembered for and as his character Eddie from this sitcom and loathes when people refer to him as his character or when they ask him to do lines from the show. After he is heckled about this very thing during one of his stand up routines, it leads to a physical confrontation, some jail time, and community service. Joining De Niro is Leslie Mann, who plays Harmony Schultz, a woman also doing community service after breaking her cheating ex's jaw and his mistress's arm with a lamp. Harmony and Jackie meet over serving soup, begin to hit it off, and become friends.

This movie is all about the struggle of comedians like the character of Jackie Burke. Many professional stand-up comedians have cameos here. Some play themselves, others play characters not too different from themselves, such as Hannibal Buress, Billy Crystal, Jim Rome, Gilbert Gottfried, and more. Brett Butler, who once had her own sitcom, is part of a poorly selling nostalgia comedy night headlined by Jackie. A common problem for comedians who were once sitcom stars is they get pigeonholed into that character, sometimes for life. We have seen it happen frequently with the likes of Andy Kaufman and Dave Chappelle, where those attending their stand up routines would rather hear familiar lines from a show they love than hear any new material. That sentiment is displayed very well in "The Comedian." This is a comedy, but it also has its fair share of drama. In fact, it may be better received as a drama about a comedian rather than a straight comedy. Jackie Burke's brand of humor certainly won't be for everyone. It's very low brow, very 'blue' insult humor where he often plays on stereotypes and talks about taboos for the shock of it. Think of an Andrew Dice Clay-type, but with fewer nursery rhymes. Robert De Niro is just okay in this movie, though his character isn't exactly the most likable guy out there. He is regularly an asshole, but does have a moment of redemption as his character arc progresses, though afterwards, he remains still the same old Jackie. Leslie Mann plays the same type of character that she has since "Knocked Up," which is someone with and abrasive attitude and a penchant for nagging. We never really buy the two of these characters being friends and/or possibly more, and Mann and De Niro have virtually no chemistry together.

Unfortunately, "The Comedian" is not a good movie as a whole and further signifies why De Niro has lost his mojo. The film is terribly paced as it often drags through parts, feeling like it's never going to end. There are some inexcusable choices towards the end of it all when, in the middle of the second act, all hell apparently broke loose in the writer's room and the screenplay just spirals into a free fall of unbelievable cliches and terrible choices. We found ourselves growing bored with the characters the longer we got into the movie, especially considering the aforementioned bad choices. In the end, though there are some elements that may make you laugh, the final product winds up being too stuffy, too been there done that, and too totally forgettable.


My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 4.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 4.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 25%
Do we recommend this movie: No.

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