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  • Writer's pictureMatt Conway

About My Father: Review

About My Father Synopsis: Encouraged by his fiancée, Sebastian (Sebastian Maniscalo) brings his immigrant hairdresser father, Salvo (Robert DeNiro), to a weekend get-together with Ellie's super-rich and exceedingly eccentric family.

Working-class hotel manager Sebastian is preparing to propose to his longtime girlfriend, Ellie. As he embarks on a holiday trip to her affluent family's homestead, his traditionalist Italian father, Salvo, decides to tag along for a family bonding adventure in the studio comedy About My Father.

About My Father derives from a routine comedic pipeline. In the vein of stand-up-led vanity projects like Trainwreck, Easter Sunday, and The King of Staten Island before it, the film is tailor-made as a big-screen vehicle for surging comedian Sebastian Maniscalco. Molding a project around a dynamic talent is a sturdy recipe for success; it allows the performer to embrace their personable strengths while also exploring the studio space of movie productions.

Maniscalco, who co-wrote the feature along with Austin Earl, is also gifted the opportunity to spotlight silver-screen icon Robert DeNiro in a comedic wheelhouse he is well-accustomed to (The Intern, Dirty Grandpa, and most notably, the Meet the Parents franchise). Unfortunately, despite a sturdy foundation, About My Father renders a beige experience that modulates between tolerable hijinks and tired conventions.

About My Father feels like Meet the Parents ... Again in nearly every sense. Maniscalo and Earl repurpose the Guess Who's Coming to Dinner formula without much creative vigor, sticking to the basics and lacking a distinctive voice throughout their creative process. As a result, audiences are forced to sift through a gamut of fatigued sequences, whether it's an onslaught of supposedly wacky hijinks or the peculiar quirks personifying the ensemble cast. Ellie and the members of her elitist family suffer the most from the screenplay's laziness. Each of these characters embodies one or two goofy traits, all of which dial up their personalities into becoming irritating caricatures instead of actual people.

The one potentially intriguing throughline in About My Father is the occasional ruminations on Italian-American culture. Reflecting on his journey growing up under a stringent immigrant father chasing the American Dream represents an enlighting creative source for Maniscalo, and there are moments where these observations connect in humorous and heartfelt ways. The performances from Maniscalco and DeNiro are particularly impactful in these confines. They share a warm, lived-in rapport, with Maniscalco's vibrant energy and DeNiro's gruff charisma creating a compatible comedic relationship as father and son. The duo's tight-knit bond is appealing enough to leave audiences wishing it was featured in a far more inspired feature.

Instead of focusing on this resonant familial spark, About My Father quickly makes it an afterthought. The film far too often reduces its set-up into sitcom shenanigans, favoring empty busyness over developing ideas with sincerity. Laura Terruso's conventional direction does not provide any favors to the flatlining material. The overly-lit, artistically-vacant imagery is akin to an ABC pilot that was quickly ditched in favor of more inspired programming. To her credit, Terruso does showcase an admirable command of pacing and tone throughout the painless 89-minute runtime, although these traits can't camouflage the film's cookie-cutter formula.

About My Father is as milquetoast as it gets. The film is an occasionally pleasant yet largely forgettable comedy that seems destined for streaming viewings by audiences half-heartedly paying attention.

About My Father is now playing in theaters.


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