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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Comedian is a gruff, racy, funny-but-not-hilarious movie about a stand-up comic (Robert De Niro) who thinks he might be past his prime but discovers he's just getting started. The film features many real-life comedians, none of whom are strangers to telling raunchy jokes, so expect plenty of swearing ("f--k," "s--t," and much more). There are also lots of crude sex-based jokes, scatological jokes, and humor based in gender stereotypes. A comedian and a heckler get into a fight, a couple kisses (which is clearly going to lead to sex), and there's drinking, sometimes to excess, and talk of smoking pot. While there's plenty of iffy stuff in this comedy, the main character's story does convey the importance of perseverance.
What's the story?
In THE COMEDIAN, Jackie Burke (Robert De Niro) made his name decades ago as the gruff headliner in a Honeymooners-style sitcom, complete with a signature catchphrase. Decades later, that line -- and nearly nothing else -- is what is fans still want to hear. But Jackie would rather immerse himself in observational comedy, his punch lines based on quirks related to sex, relationships, men and women, old and young, society, and, yes, bathroom habits. In the age of YouTube, Jackie wonders if he's too old-fashioned, especially after a heckler goads him into a brawl that sends Jackie to jail. Once he's out, his agent (Edie Falco) advises him to be patient and to serve the rest of his time doing community service at a homeless shelter. It's there that Jackie meets Harmony (Leslie Mann), another hothead with a heart of gold, who's also doing community service. Jackie soon discovers that, far from having seen it all, he still has a lot to learn.
Is it any good?
This comedy is interesting, but the laughs don't come often quite enough or heartily enough; for a movie about comics, too many of the punch lines crumble on delivery. A main set piece starts out promisingly but devolves into a scatological crescendo that would play far better in middle school than in a sophisticated comedy. The Comedian's weaknesses aren't the fault of its star -- De Niro has the carriage and the delivery (though perhaps not always the timing) of a laugh master. Too bad he didn't have the writers and the jokes to support him.
Equally problematic in this Taylor Hackford-directed vehicle is De Niro's lack of chemistry with Mann, who, though enjoyable, is written a little too erratically to be sympathetic. The Comedian makes some thought-provoking observations about the lack of depth in what constitutes entertainment today, but ultimately it doesn't pay attention to its own critique. Watch it for the cast, especially De Niro, but be prepared for more groans than laugh-out-louds.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Comedian's humor. Why do you think stand-up comics swear so much and tend to joke about sex and bodily functions? Who does that type of humor tend to appeal to?
Is it OK to use stereotypes as the basis of jokes/humor? Why or why not?
Is Jackie what you would expect from a semi-famous comedian? How does his story demonstrate the value of perseverance?
- In theaters: February 3, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: May 2, 2017
- Cast: Robert De Niro, Leslie Mann, Harvey Keitel
- Director: Taylor Hackford
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character Strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 120 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: crude sexual references and language throughout
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.