‘About My Father’ encapsulates family comedy with laughter, heart

George Carlin considered one of the greatest comedians of all time, and rightfully so.

Alas, his film background never matched his excellence.

It is not natural that comic books can move from the stage to the big screen. For every Eddie Murphy or Steve Martin, the others struggle with the transition.

failure of “Easter Sunday” by Jo Koy emphasize that fact.

The feeling of standing up Sebastian Maniscalco make it easier on yourself. He co-wrote “About My Father,” a PG:13 comedy based on his immigrant roots. He narrates part of the film, allowing for a more seamless transition to standing observations.

And he plays, wait there, Sebastian Maniscalco. Turns out he might just be a movie star after all, despite those cinematic training wheels.

Maniscalco plays a fictional version of himself, although this version works in the hospitality industry. Sebastian wants to propose to his girlfriend, Ellie Collins (Leslie Bibb), but he’s waiting for the perfect time to ask.

He finds it when she invites him to her family’s lavish July 4th gala, and through an elaborate conspiracy, Sebastian’s father goes with him on the trip.

It’s Salvo (Robert De Niro), a Chicago hairstylist whose immigrant background is obvious for anyone to see. Naturally, Salvo clashed with the Collins clan, an absurdly wealthy family that Sebastian hoped to impress.

Gentle, steady laughter followed.

Maniscalco looks perfectly comfortable as a male lead, while De Niro surpasses the performance you’d expect of him in the new comic mode.

Yes, he’s a nimble and easily bullied guy, but the Oscar winner knows enough to give Salvo some pretty big flaws.

“About My Father” balances out some themes that are ripe for ridicule. The Collins family is very wealthy and one of their adult children is a spiritual healer calling for a safe space. Father Collins (David Rasche of “Sledge Hammer” fame) demonstrates what it means to be rich in a confusing and blinding way to the reality that most people have to endure.

Kim Cattrall, cast as both Collins’s matriarch and a powerful Senator, sells a key scene in which her time to know Salvo goes awry.

It’s Maniscalco’s show, though, and he’s convincing as both a frustrated son and someone willing to do whatever it takes to woo his potential bride.

Fans of Maniscalco will see his stage personality shine through early and often, typically with positive results. The movie still can’t resist some of the lowest common denominator shtick, such as a water slide-style incident and a joke involving peacocks.

Sure, they could spice up the movie trailer, but the soul of the movie lies elsewhere.

In the end, “About My Father” is a romantic comedy, but the main characters are a grown man and the father sacrificed a lot to make him worthy of Ellie’s love. That, plus the film’s eloquent praise of both hard work and the American dream make Maniscalco’s “Father” a flawed but welcome gift.

Hit or miss: “About My Father” too often indulges in generic comedies, but when it comes to the father-son relationship, it is brimming with warm, witty humour.


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