Bill Burr is a whip-sharp comedian with a brazen point-of-view, which makes his filmmaking debut Old Dads a retrograded anomaly.
With what feels like a series of incomplete standup “bits” rather than a traditional plot, director/co-writer Burr (who also stars as one of the titular, surly fathers) calls attention to the generational fish-out-of-water disconnect felt by those who feel left behind by a current society. The seemingly tried-and-tested formula that Burr and co-writer Ben Tishler use to generate laughs is to point at something (a lifestyle, a preference, or an attitude) and loudly enunciate how silly it is. Meanwhile, the material the film is poking fun at has either been generally accepted in society or we already know how ridiculous these choices can be. Either way, these “bits” are old hat.
While the sense of humour may be dated, the main flaw with the writing is the self-assured confidence that the material is cutting edge, sullying Burr’s image as someone who can cleverly use observations to his advantage. What also isn’t mind-blowing is how a comedian can use their own movie to appease fans. When you have a fanbase that agrees with your frustrations, it’d be a no-brainer for Burr to use his film as megaphone. A similar example: Adam Carolla’s whiny Road Hard, a movie that was actually co-funded by fans. But while Carolla understood that his flick was nothing more than fan fodder, Burr is blinded by his own self-importance.
Old Dads isn’t so much lacking in creativity, but more so lacking in curiousity. Bill Burr is intelligent enough to approach topics, dissect them, and find relatable threads of thought and emotion. He’s done this to great effect with his standup career, leading to hilarious rants that call out hypocritical behaviour. Burr should’ve taken this opportunity to figure out why people get angry at petty things, and then satirize the surliness, prompting him to find a deeper meaning through empathy. Comic Ricky Gervais did this to an extent with religious ethos in his underrated feature filmmaking debut The Invention of Lying, and Burr could’ve followed a similar blueprint to expose the threatened egos of fragile people. Instead, we just get a guy who doesn’t understand why those friggen kids won’t stop riding those friggen electric scooters in the street, dang nabbiit!
Do You Tweet? Follow These Tweeple:
Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie