I’m a huge fan of comedian Sebastian Maniscalco. One of the biggest surprises I had at a live show was about 10 years ago when someone bought me tickets to see comedians Aziz Ansari, T.J. Miller and others, at the amphitheater in Chula Vista. They were front row seats, but when we got there, big signs stated that the headliner – Amy Schumer – wouldn’t be appearing because she was going to be on Saturday Night Live that weekend. Refunds were being issued, but we decided to stay. I was glad I did because that’s the first time I saw Maniscalco and he was brilliant. I was lucky enough to meet him when there was a dinner for the cast of Green Book in L.A. I was talking to Mahershala Ali when I noticed my wife was talking to two other cast members. I went over to where she was and she said, “Look who’s here,” pointing at Maniscalco. I didn’t recognize him, and realizing that, she added, “It’s Sebastian Maniscalco, that comedian we love.”
Now, I’ve met some of the biggest celebrities in the world, from Paul McCartney to Jack Nicholson, and I never geeked out the way I did when I realized who it was. I started telling him how funny he was, and how I saw him live. I wouldn’t shut up. I think I even rattled off one of his bits about how families act when they hear the doorbell. He was rather shy, and just quietly thanked me, while putting his head down.
So I was thrilled to see he made a movie loosely based on his life. The last time a comedian did that, we got the great results that were The Big Sick (Kumail Nanjiani). This wasn’t as good as that, and at times (perhaps because it had Robert De Niro playing the father) it delved a bit too much into a Meet the Parents type of vibe (and because it had De Niro, I was hoping more for a Midnight Run vibe, as that’s one of the Top 5 comedies in movie history).
The semi-autobiographical story has Sebastian (playing himself) asking his immigrant dad Salvo, a hairdresser, for the ring his grandmother gave him so he can propose to his girlfriend Ellie (Leslie Bibb). Dad is having none of it, claiming he’d have to meet the family first (and that reminded me of another one of the Top 5 comedies in movie history – The In-Laws).
When Leslie surprises Sebastian by saying this is the first time the family has invited anybody that’s not a member of the family to spend the 4th of July weekend at their country club home, he’s thrilled. His dad gives him a guilt trip for leaving him alone during his favorite holiday, so he figures he can kill two birds with one stone – bring dad along so he’s not alone, and he can meet the family. Sebastian knows his working class father is going to be turned off by their wealth and eccentricities, but what’s a boy to do?
Seeing that Kim Cattrall was playing Ellie’s mom, I thought they were going to try to make her character try to seduce Salvo. What they do when those two get together is a funny surprise (and reminded me of an episode of Taxi with Ted Danson and Marilu Henner meeting up).
I loved seeing Anders Holm, who is great on Workaholics, playing the obnoxious, spoiled brother (although it is a pet peeve of mine in movies like this that the normal person related to a character like this [Ellie], wouldn’t just tell him off at some point).
Brett Dier played the other brother, who is a new-agey flake. That character was funny at first, but got old quickly. What eventually happens to the singing bowls though, is hysterical.
The father was played by David Rasche, and he had such a distinct voice, I spent half of the movie trying to remember where I had seen him before (it was in two great comedies – In theLoop and Burn After Reading).
Robert De Niro was sporting a ponytail in the beginning, and looked like Danny Trejo. And again, the movie goes a bit over the top with all the shenanigans, and it’s hard to believe any grown adults would act this way. Yet, so much of it was funny, you’ll let that slide.
I brought one of my Italian friends, Gerald Marino, with us to see it. He agreed with my wife and I – the trailers didn’t look funny, but the movie ended up being rather funny. I didn’t get a chance to ask him as we were leaving, if he knew any Italians that actually put cologne on before they go to bed.
3 stars out of 5.