One of the big-studio films out there that has absolutely flown right under the radar here at Nerd Nation (which, to be fair, isn’t so much an actual radar device as it is just an obsessive gorging on film news by a handful of geeks) is 2016’s The Comedian. However, thanks to the fine folks at Allied, who always keep us well-stocked in things to watch, I can now absolutely say that I’ve seen it. The studio was even nice enough to send me a digital link so that I could watch it during the wee hours of the morning/middle of the night… which, as any cinemaphile will tell you is absolutely the best time to watch anything!
Now, before I get into the review, let me clairfy something for you dear readers out there. Sometimes, these advance press screeners we get for films are outstanding treats, and we feel like royalty getting to watch all the best things before other people, it’s true; but there’s a big trade-off. You see, sometimes we’re more like the crew on the Satellite of Love on MST3K, being held prisoner and forced to watch the worst movies they can find. Ultimately, for all our perks, there’s always the hindrances to counter-balance that. This is of course important to point out, because while not quite a fit for the category of the worst movies, The Comedian definitely doesn’t fit into the category of the best, either.
The film follows the story of Jackie Burke (played by legendary actor Robert DeNiro) an aging stand-up insult comic who is far better known for his long-over run on a popular sitcom than anything else. During one of his performances, Burke assaults a heckling audience member which is caught on video, and ultimately leads him to be sentenced to community service. While serving out his sentence at a soup kitchen, he meets a woman named Harmony Schlitz (played by Leslie Mann of Big Daddy, The 40 Year Old Virgin, and I love You Phillip Morris) the troubled daughter of former gangster Mac Schlitz (Harvey Keitel of Pulp Fiction, Finding Graceland, and A Beginner’s Guide to Endings). As you’d probably expect, the two become fast friends and enter into this odd sort of romantic subplot, and the two go on from there, trying to work out their own problems of a fading, failing career, home life struggles, you get the idea. It’s a “mirror-mirror” kind of drama vs comedy thing going on here, which is absolutely cool in concept, yet in this case just doesn’t seem to work in execution.
For a film with the title of The Comedian, this film just sadly isn’t all that funny. Like, at all. Robert DeNiro turns in a very uncharacteristically mediocre performance, and it’s unclear to me whether he’s just not really getting the character, or that he just doesn’t care. Either way, with the exception of a few notable bits of nice work – particularly playing off of Danny DeVito as his oddball brother, or Harvey Keitel as the aforementioned ex-mobster, everything else just feels stale, phoned-in, and about as mediocre as the career of the titular character. This could obe the whole point, I guess, which would be interesting for sure, but either way it just doesn’t make for a very enjoyable movie.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, The Comedian is about as middle-of-the-road mediocre as it gets in Hollywood. It’s just good enough to get a theatrical run, and will probably make just enough money based on the drawing power of the cast alone, but it’s just not that funny, not that enjoyable, and just not really that good of a film. The comedy is average at best, the drama is average at best, and the performances are average at best. This film is so average that I just can’t recommend paying movie theater prices on it, or really even dropping the cash on a DVD copy anywhere outside your local $5 bin. It’s a fine bit of background noise, and the message of the film that they were going for is absolutely not lost on me, it’s just not that entertaining, and at the end of the day, that’s what really matters. Basically, I got the joke, I’m just not laughing. – 5.0/10
Editor/Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine