Jokes are subjective and laughter is universal. But can a movie about a washed up comedian actually be… funny? THE COMEDIAN is the latest film, starring Robert De Niro, about a fading television/stand-up comedian star whose career has fizzled and become a caricature of his past success – and because of a paparazzi type event, his world is changed and sent towards a revival.
Unfortunately, the funniest aspects of this film are the many attempts rendered by the talent in this movie that we can perhaps call acting. Over the past 5 to 10 years, De Niro has been in a lot of questionable films with less than stellar acting performances by him. What he truly needs is a director who is heavy-handed, and demanding, just to be able to siphon out a serviceable performance from a once great actor.
The director, Taylor Hackford, has the cache to push and inspire De Niro, because he has had just as great a film career (Against All Odds, An Officer and a Gentleman, Ray) as De Niro, but lately Hackford seems to have also lost his magic touch, and this latest film “The Comedian” won’t change that narrative. The other major stars from the film, Danny DeVito and Harvey Keitel, are also going through the motions like their pal De Niro, and with each delivery of dialog by these three legends makes you not only feel older but also longing for better times when these three were setting a standard… for great acting. Perhaps the only acting performance worth noting was Leslie Mann as the flawed love interest.
The 1st act of the “The Comedian” is painful and it seems as if the actors are reading from cue cards, making you wonder just how bad the movie will become. But by the middle part of the movie, this film takes a turn for the better and it hits its stride with better pacing, storytelling and actors who begin to care about the movie they’re making. By the time the film careens towards the finale, “The Comedian” comes together as a story, even though the ending is unsatisfactory.
Depending on your age, one of the saving graces of the film are the many cameos that spotlight older comedians and actor we haven’t seen in a while – which brings a smile to your face, allowing for the nostalgia factor to draw you into the story.
Overall, “The Comedian” is a very average film with a predictable storyline, uneven performances and a few one liners that may raise a chuckle. Maya Angelou once said, “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.” Then Maya may feel the need to question my trustworthiness after watching “The “Comedian.”
Darryl King is a video director, film writer and avid Marvel/DC comic book/movie lover. Check out his reviews of Sausage Party and The Boss right here on MMT.