Screen Savor: What’s Not So Funny

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Robert DeNiro & Leslie Mann star in Sony Pictures "The Comedian"

Remember that movie “Danny Collins” where Al Pacino played the washed-up rock star trying to make amends for his bad behavior? Don’t worry, neither does anyone else. Similarly, “The Comedian” (Sony Pictures Classics) may meet the same fate. In the tradition of unfunny movies about comedians (see the Tom Hanks/Sally Field flop “Punchline” and Adam Sandler’s “Funny People”), “The Comedian” is short on laughs and long on scenery chewing.

Insult comedian Jack (Robert DeNiro), whose greatest success was on a sitcom from which he’d like to distance himself, is attempting to make a comedy career comeback. However, an altercation with scene-stealing vloggers in a toilet of a comedy club results in Jack’s arrest and jail time. His agent Miller (Edie Falco) attempts to find him work but nothing is to his liking.

While doing community service at a soup kitchen, Jack meets Harmony (Leslie Mann), who is also making amends for an assault conviction. Soon they are dating, much to the chagrin of Harmony’s father Mac (Harvey Keitel), who is the same age as Jack. The wealthy Mac pulls some strings and arranges for Harmony to finish doing her community service in South Florida where he operates a string of retirement facilities.

Before she leaves, Jack invites her to attend his niece’s lesbian wedding. It’s 2017, so why is gay still a punchline? The talents of Danny DeVito and Patti LuPone, as Jack’s brother and sister-in-law, are completely wasted here.

For a movie about stand-up comedy, “The Comedian” isn’t just painfully humorless, there isn’t enough stand-up in it! That said, one of the funniest scenes in the whole movie involves lesbian comedian Jessica Kirson performing part of her routine. Why isn’t she a bigger star?

In recent years, director Taylor Hackford has done better with biopics (2004’s “Ray”), so he may have better luck with his forthcoming Tammy Wynette/George Jones flick. “The Comedian,” meanwhile, is about as amusing as a Trump presidency. Rating: D


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