About My Father

Posted on May 25, 2023 at 5:32 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for Language, suggestive material, partial nudity
Profanity: Strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Social drinking, references to drug use
Violence/ Scariness: Comic peril and violence, pet killed and eaten
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: May 26, 2023
Date Released to DVD: July 31, 2023

Copyright Lionsgate 2023
Sebastian Maniscalco’s stand-up routines about his immigrant father are very funny. The transition to a narrative feature for “About My Father” is mildly amusing, with all of the highlights in the trailer. What you have not seen already seems like filler, mostly exposition and a tacked on “meet the parents,” “aren’t our cultural differences a hoot” overlay.

Sebastian Maniscalco plays…Sebastian Maniscalco. That is his character’s name, and Robert De Niro plays Sebastian’s real-life father, Salvo, who left Sicily as a young man to emigrate to America, served in the US Army in Vietnam, and then established a successful hair salon in Chicago. In this film, Sebastian is not a performer but manager of a boutique hotel. Like most first-generation Americans, he has tried to separate himself from his heritage, and he is very much in love with a woman who is from a very different background.

Ellie is a sunny-tempered artist who grew up in a wealthy WASP family with several homes. She is played by Leslie Bibb, doing her best with her dazzling smile, trying to give some substance to a low-level manic pixie dream girl whose job is to be upbeat and supportive.

Ellie’s mother is Tigger (Kim Catrall), a US Senator. Her father, Bill (David Rasche) owns an international hotel company. She has two brothers. The first is heir apparent Lucky, nicknamed because he is the 13th generation to carry the ancestral name. He is played by Anders Holm, nailing the entitled frat boy. Then there’s Doug (Brett Dier), who is all about chakras and standing bells and healing meditations. If this is sounding a bit like “Wedding Crashers” and “Annie Hall” but not as good, you’ve got the idea.

Bill and Tigger are vaguely supportive of all three children, not usual for high-performing parents or for the kind of conflicts that hold an audience’s interest, but okay, this is not “Meet the Parents.”

When Ellie’s parents invite Sebastian for the first time to the annual 4th of July gathering, he is delighted, planning to propose to her. But Salvo makes him feel guilty — and won’t turn over the family ring if Sebastian leaves him alone. So, with a lot of trepidation, Sebastian brings Salvo along. And of course this leads to a lot of hijinks of various kinds, but they’re pretty low-level jinks, if you know what I mean. Salvo embarrasses Sebastian. Then Sebastian embarrasses himself. Then Salvo ingratiates himself. Then Salvo horrifies Tigger. Sebastian is not happy about any of this. It is sit-com-ish without much imagination in the sits or laughs in the com. There are a few good lines and it is funny to see how Sebastian and Salvo put on cologne every night before bed.

Stand-ups are often natural actors. When they tell stories on stage they act out all the parts. Maniscalco is especially good at this, with great physicality to assist in creating characters and showing reactions. But as an actor, he is more subdued and older than the character is written to be. The boy/girl and parent issues would be more fitting for someone in their 20s or 30s than for someone who is 50. A few guest appearances by TV stars and some wisecracks do little to brighten the various sit-com style incidents. We should not feel that the actors had more fun than the audience. Wait for streaming.

Parents should know that this film includes some strong language, comic nudity (bare tush), some sexual references, social drinking and references to drug use, the killing of a family pet, and some tense family confrontations.

Family discussion: What do Sebastian and Ellie have in common? Have you ever been embarrassed by your parents or children?

If you like this, try: Maniscalco’s stand-up and “Meet the Parents”

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Sex and the City 2

Posted on October 26, 2010 at 8:00 am

After two years as Mrs. Big, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) admits that she’s feeling a bit too “Mr. and Mrs. Married.” Mr. Big (Chris Noth) wants to stay at home with take-out and cuddle while watching black and white movies on the big-screen TV he thought was a wonderful anniversary gift. But Carrie, who apparently wanted to get married because she thought it would be just like dating but better because she wouldn’t have to worry about whether the guy was into her, thinks they should be dressing up (and as we all know, that means DRESSING UP) to go to crowded events featuring red carpets, velvet ropes, and high, high fashion. Big wants to pass on that? Go figure!

That conflict is about as close as we get to a plot in the leisurely 2 1/2 hours of “Sex and the City 2” onslaught of fabulousness. When Carrie tells Big it is hard to keep “sparkle” in their relationship after a while, she is speaking for the highly lucrative franchise as well. Once we left everyone living happily ever after once in the television series and then again in the feature film, how many eggs are we really willing to unscramble to crank it all up again?

Not too much, which leaves us with about 150 minutes that feel more like an infomercial than a story.

The first movie ends with a wedding; the second begins with one. In the television series, Carrie and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) each had the fashion-forward divette’s most indispensable accessory, a gay man to serve as adviser, confidante and acolyte and to provide an endless supply of “you go girl” support and guidance. They hated each other on sight. But fabulousness requires that somehow, off screen, they decided they were in love. And so we begin with a wedding that makes over the top seem under the bottom. When a guest, observing the gay men’s chorus singing show tunes, the swans, and the “snow queen exploded in here” decor asks rhetorically if it could be any gayer, the answer arrives as the officiant turns out to be Liza Minnelli, who throws in a rousing rendition of “Single Ladies” after the vows. With a brief flashback to explain how the fabulous foursome originally met so we can see their 80’s looks (I predicted Miranda’s power suit with gym shoes look but not Samantha’s efforts to channel Lita Ford) the movie hits its high point.

To get the ladies and the story away from the dreariness of post-financial meltdown economic doldrums, the foursome jets off to a luxe week in Abu Dhabi (filmed in Morocco). The burka and camel humor (Charlotte actually falls off a camel) has the sophistication and cultural sensitivity of a Hope and Crosby movie. But there is a brief if awkward nod to global sisterhood and at least the Mideastern characters are played by Mideastern performers. The real fantasy here is not the endless spending power of the ladies or the objectification of the men; it is the way they eat and drink and loll around but still maintain their highly disciplined figures and radiant complexions.

The trip gives them many opportunities to change clothes (they put the “lug” into “luggage”). And it is here where the story veers into Lucy and Ethel territory and the puns get truly painful. Samantha (Kim Cattrall) worries about menopause (the movie makes some very dangerous endorsements of self-administered medications that have been called quackish and even harmful). Charlotte worries about whether her husband will be tempted by the nanny (the gorgeous Alice Eve as “Erin go braless”). Miranda wonders who she is away from her job. And who does Carrie run into on the other side of the world but the one who got away, Aidan (John Corbett).

It starts to get out of control more than once, but it continues to be grounded in what made the series work — the unconditional love and support of the four friends. On the other hand, we never see them providing any support to the men in their lives. Carrie’s insistence on going out is particularly poorly timed because her husband has had a difficult day at the office. She never makes any effort to understand what it means to him to have the market drop 100 points or to express anything but petulance and self-absorption. This movie is a grown-up equivalent of playing with Barbies and Carrie’s ideal man is an 8-year-old’s idea of what a Ken doll boyfriend (with operative ability) should be like. They are forever devoted, out of the way when not wanted, make no demands, look good in formal wear, and give lots of bling. We are supposed to find her endearing, but when she is with Big, she seems like a selfish child. Even the mistake she worries about is all about her, not about him.

And yet, I found myself smiling as I watched more than once. Writer/director Michael Patrick King knows it is not the fashion or the romance we tune in to see but the bond between the women who acknowledge that they are each other’s soul mates. It isn’t the fantasy of glamor and Ken doll boyfriends we respond to. It is the reality of women’s friendships, which we love to see recognized and appreciated.

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