“About My Father”

“About My Father” is a big-hearted fish out of water story that’s easy to like. This universally accessible comedy is about the relationship between a son and his dad, and it celebrates the imperfections, embarrassments, and the importance of family.

Sebastian (stand-up comedian Sebastian Maniscalco) is enjoying a successful life in Chicago. He’s in love with the radiant Ellie (Leslie Bibb), the woman of his dreams, and has a good relationship with his hairdresser father, Salvo (Robert De Niro). When Ellie’s family invites the couple to their annual 4th of July bash at their posh country club home in Virginia, she encourages Sebastian to bring along his dad so he won’t be left alone during the festive weekend.

It’s not going to be a cakewalk when the old school Sicilian immigrant meets Ellie’s wealthy and eccentric family, including her powerful politician mom Tigger (Kim Cattrall), hotelier dad Bill (David Rasche), well-heeled and do-nothing brother Lucky (Anders Holm), and her more peculiar brother Doug (Brett Dier), an aimless hippie who wants to be a sound healer. When it’s revealed that Sebastian is planning to propose, the three day trip gets even crazier, culminating in a culture clash for the record books.

Co-written by Maniscalco and Austen Earl, the film and its characters both feel highly personal. There’s no doubt that much of the story is based on actually events that happened in Maniscalco’s own life, including interactions with his own father. As most writers can attest, family is a never-ending source of material, and truth has the tendency to be a whole lot better than fiction.

The script is teeming with natural, authentic humor that’s very funny, and it’s not as stupid as the studio’s horrible marketing campaign would have you believe. Sure, there are the prerequisite pratfalls and bits of physical humor that aren’t exactly sophisticated, but despite the few things that don’t quite work, there’s a lot that does. The movie finds a perfect balance of smart quips and dumb gags, and there’s something here that will appeal to everyone, regardless of their sense of humor.

It’s a story you’ve seen time and again, but this time it’s a little bit different. Ellie’s family may be very rich, but they aren’t stuck up. They welcome Salvo with open arms and are extremely kind and loving. You’d expect these characters to be condescending and rude, but they aren’t. Even Ellie’s jackass brother isn’t a bad egg, he just grew up in a different class and knows nothing different. There are no jerks here, and certainly no villains. Everyone is easy to like, and the good-natured flair in the story is what will win you over. It’s almost the antithesis of the mean-spirited “Meet the Parents.”

It didn’t take long for me to succumb to the charms of “About My Father,” from its delightful cast to its wisecracking whimsy. This is a movie that’ll make you laugh, feel good, and leave the theater happy.

By: Louisa Moore

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