“Old Dads,” a Netflix comedy about three middle-aged dads in Los Angeles who each try to navigate the delayed joys and perils of fatherhood, sounds like a Hollywood satire that you can watch along with “Bad Moms.” , or perhaps some similarly broad burlesque of child-rearing that would star someone like John Cena. However, it is actually not such a film. The film was directed and co-written by Bill Burr, who also stars, and is based on the prickly false observations that are the hallmark of Burr’s stand-up comedy – and also the kind of squirm comedy that makes him drives anthology series “Immoral Compass.” “Old Dads” isn’t nearly as good as “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but at times it feels like three episodes of that show were crammed together — that is, if Larry David were a Gen-X badass whose anger management issues make Larry Look looking like a kitty cat.
In the opening scene, Burr’s Jack, playing tag with his preschooler, tells the audience offscreen that becoming a father later in life was more or less the best decision he ever made. He and his wife Leah (Katie Aselton) are about to have another baby; From Jack’s perspective, they couldn’t be happier. So what’s the problem? In the old parental gender wars, men were criticized for not caring enough or doing their share of housework. Jack isn’t much of a caveman. He’s a warm, hands-on father, not the old-school sexist type who expects his wife to do the heavy lifting of raising children while he doesn’t work or relax.
The problem for Jack is cultural and generational. He hates the brave new world of safe spaces, obsessive social justice, and what he sees as extreme oversensitivity. When he arrives at his son’s private preschool, Little Hearts and Minds, to pick him up, Jack is two minutes late, which is considered a serious violation. Didn’t he read the guidebook? In the middle of it all, he beats up the principal, Dr. Lois (Rachael Harris), a moralizing Karen who beams with passive-aggressive pride. By the time Jack is done omitting, he has said at least three words that he shouldn’t have said (one being the C-word), and he has to come back and apologize in front of the whole school.
The rest of the parents, most of whom are Millennials, express their disapproval and talk about how badly they were triggered. And that’s what connects “Old Dads” to “Curb Your Enthusiasm”: the way it satirizes a certain L.A. noodgie that is actually a form of one-upmanship straight out of corporate showbiz culture with its fake new age elements. What everyone is really looking for is the socially approved way to get ahead.
Jack and Leah really want the principal to write a recommendation for their son (so he can get into the right kindergarten!). As a result, everything they do is judged. Burr indulges in what some would call “anti-woke” comedy in his stand-up specials and podcasts, but what brings the satirical world of “Old Dads” to life – at least for a while – is that Jack shys away from new parenting ethics because of how controlled It is. He is a man of a certain age who feels like he is no longer allowed to do or say anything he used to do. And that’s because he’s a father – a father who has somehow been denied what he considers most essential, his own authority. The whole world tells him: You are not in charge. So he strikes. And just dig the hole deeper for yourself.
Jack has two long-time friends who are both experiencing their own version of the middle-aged daddy blues. The hopelessly insecure Connor (Bobby Cannavale) longs for his lost youth – he wants to look like he used to and be just as cool, which means he talks about cool signifiers in his mind and says “knock it out” while offering one Fist bump dropping his scary version of black street slang. (The office worker he tries this with looks at him like he’s from Pluto.) Meanwhile, Mike (Bokeem Woodbine) has grown children and is done with fatherhood. At least that’s what he thinks. He’s living life – until his girlfriend Britney (Reign Edwards) announces that she’s pregnant, even though he’s had a vasectomy.
“Old Dads” also finds its place as an office comedy. Jack, Connor, and Mike started a vintage sportswear company that they sold, which in theory was something they should take lightly. But they still work there, and the new CEO is a duplicitous progressive-generation shill who talks about “liberating” workers when he fires them. Miles Robbins, who plays this cuddly, venomous clown, does it in great style.
He sends Jack, Connor and Mike on a road trip to track down a grizzled recluse – off the grid since 1988 – whom he plans to use as the company’s mascot so obscure he’s the new stardom. On the way, they have a lewd conversation about Caitlyn Jenner in their rental car that is, shall we say, more than unresolved, and a video recording of the chat results in them all being fired and their shares in the company being canceled. Is this an invasion of privacy? That’s one of many fleeting topics that “Old Dads” introduces for about 30 seconds, then moves on to something else. As a first-time filmmaker, Burr shows a certain shady vision but continues to mix together episodic ideas.
Here and there, “Old Dads” strikes notes of withering perception. Connor’s wife (Jackie Tohn) is convinced that her preschool son can do no wrong, even though he likes to hit people with a stick. This situation sounds extreme, but what’s funny and insightful is the genuinely therapeutic fervor of her language, in which letting children off the hook – no matter what – becomes its own form of “advanced” parenting. And when Mike tries to force his fellow Millennial to admit that he really loves hip-hop that much when he raps along with NWA must When you say the N-word, it’s incredibly funny because it’s such an honest scene.
Still, there’s a wrench in the middle of the film. And that’s Jack’s raging personality. Forget the over-controlled era of virtue signaling. Jack’s anger, actually Is excessive and inappropriate and would be at all times. So even if you welcome a satire of the new corporate-approved hypersensitivity, it undermines the film’s satirical bite, as Jack’s anger presents a more glaring problem than anything else. I realize that anger has long been Bill Burr’s calling card, but if he had made Jack a more reserved character, quietly annoyed by everything around him, “Old Dads” would have been funnier and scored higher.
The film climaxes in Vegas—Palm Desert, actually, the site of a Native American casino and strip club, where our trio of loser dads, fallen off the rocks in their lives, engage in a drunken lap dance catharsis. But when they meet this goofy millennial CEO, it’s like something out of a highbrow comedy. The film enters a sub-curb zone and becomes exactly the John Cena farce it wanted to be better than. For a first film, “Old Dads” is promising. Bill Burr is keenly aware of how the new culture of control is wreaking havoc on the minds of ordinary people. Next time, however, he should channel anger instead of displaying it.
Source : variety.com