Traditionally, movies about comedians aren’t that funny. Normally, they’re heavy dramas. This is true whether the character or characters involved are fictional or from a bio-pic of real-life comedians like Andy Kaufman.
What this tells you is that comedy is a serious business, and while most comedians are exceptionally intelligent — because it takes serious brains to be really funny — many are also among the unhappiest people on the planet.
Robert De Niro’s Jackie Burke falls in the unhappiest category. The movie examines the fleeting side of fame and how one-hit wonder Jackie hates people who only see him as Eddie, the star the short-lived TV hit Eddie’s Home. Jackie — who now makes his living doing not-very-good, language-filled blue comedy routines and oldies TV show conventions — has outgrown the character.
Fans have not.
He meets a young woman while doing community service for an assault, and they become fast friends. She’s trying to dodge her controlling father, who just happens to be an Eddie fan.
The Comedian has a split personality. There is an exceptional cast with Robert De Niro playing Jackie and Leslie Mann (I Love You Phillip Morris) as the young woman. By the way, it is Mann and her wasted co-stars Danny DeVito, Harvey Keitel, Edie Falco, Charles Grodin and Cloris Leachman who give the film its only life.
Mann — who mostly does voices for animated movies — is the only character in the film with more than one-dimension.
De Niro is always De Niro, a great actor but he’s a so-so comedian. The jokes written by the two comedians who wrote the comedy part of the film aren’t that funny. As for the drama, De Niro has become a one-dimensional actor and his work here isn’t that good.
Two screenwriters wrote the story that is woven around the so-called comedy. One of them is Richard LaGravenese, who penned movie hits The Fisher King, Bridges of Madison County and Unbroken. Director Taylor Hackford’s (Ray, An Officer and a Gentleman) is charged with melding the two together, and the result is a joke of a much different kind.
Director: Taylor Hackford
Stars: Robert De Niro, Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito, Harvey Keitel, Edie Falco, Charles Grodin, Cloris Leachman
Mr. Movie rating: 2 stars
Rated R for graphic language, mature themes. It’s playing at Regal Cinemas Columbia Mall Stadium 8.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don’t bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.