‘The Comedian’ Review Roundup: A Dud Despite Star Power
Robert De Niro‘s latest film The Comedian leaves critics groaning. Earning a measly 25% on rottentomatoes.com, this film disappoints despite it’s star-powered cast.
De Niro plays Jackie, an aging comic actor whose fans just want him to play the role of sitcom he was on in his heyday. Jackie, however, wants to present new material. To the chagrin to his younger brother (Danny DeVito) and wife (Patti LuPone), Jackie gets a sentence of community service after accosting an audience member. There, he meets Harmony (Leslie Mann), daughter of a real estate mogul (Harvey Keitel), and he and Jackie strike up an interesting relationship.
THE COMEDIAN REVIEW ROUNDUP
“The greatest acting challenge in this movie is pretending Jackie is funny… The problem is that Jackie is never as funny as the movie thinks he is and needs him to be. De Niro makes us see Jackie’s frustration at constantly being confronted with having his most popular work over long ago and not something he was especially proud of even at the time. (See Ricky Gervais in “Extras” for a much better exploration of this theme.) But when it gets to the crucial moments of his performances, he never gets the rhythm of the jokes or shows us the mental imperatives that keep comedians punching. And the cast includes real stand-ups, like Billy Crystal and Hannibal Buress, who remind us what comedians really sound like.”
–Nell Minow, Chicago Sun-Times
“All perspectives are valuable, and all characters have merits if they’re handled properly, but The Comedian doesn’t do anything with the faces it draws or the courses it paves (but never travels). In the end, Jackie’s still the same prickly pear he was at the beginning, none the wiser (just a little older) as the credits roll. Though it’s cut from the same cloth as films about stubborn, struggling artists like Don’t Think Twice or Obvious Child, The Comedian doesn’t know how to synthesize the plight of Jackie’s commitment to his craft with narrative agency and emotional girth. Its script, written by four people, lays an inspired foundation, but shies away from cutting below the surface, with each hand pulling the same story in different directions.”
–Joey Nolfi, EW
And the cast is spectacular, by 1980 standards and by those of 2016. Robert De Niro, Danny DeVito, Harvey Keitel (reuniting with De Niro for the first time since, um, Little Fockers in 2010 if I’m not mistaken), Charles Grodin, Patti Lupone, Cloris Leachman and more, with Edie Falco and Leslie Mann playing the teen roles, relatively speaking. And two raft loads of cameos from real-life comedy legends as themselves. But the movie never builds enough momentum, emotional or narrative, to get the viewer on its side.”
–Glenn Kenny, rogerebert.com
“What’s more painful than watching a comedian bomb onstage in a live performance? Watching one of the greatest actors of all time bomb playing a comedian who is shockingly unfunny onstage, and an offensive boor offstage… I was embarrassed for De Niro and for the rest of the exceptionally talented supporting cast as they flounder about in one ill-conceived set piece after another, e.g., an excruciatingly unfunny sequence in which Jackie performs at a retirement home and transforms the lyrics of “Making Whoopee” into “Making Poopie.” …Leslie Mann is the best thing in this movie, playing an insecure and screwed-up but altogether charming woman named Harmony, who shares a court-ordered community service gig with Jackie and starts dating him because the script says they start dating. There’s absolutely nothing believable about the Jackie-Harmony “romance,” but Mann does a wonderful job of TRYING to make us believe it.”
–Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times