Cinema Clips: The Comedian

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Robert De Niro delivers a good performance in a film that doesn’t match his prowess from director Taylor Hackford.

De Niro plays Jackie Burke, an aging stand up comedian dealing with a TV sitcom past he isn’t all too proud of. Straight up, De Niro does a nice job playing a Don Rickles-type, old school standup. He’s not entirely hilarious, but he’s convincing in his stand up sequences. He’s also good when Jackie is off stage being an ornery bastard.

Where the film lets him down is in its handling of modern day things like viral videos and reality TV. Hackford’s take on modern media is woefully out of touch, and De Niro finds himself stranded in some rather ridiculous, tone deaf scenes. Leslie Mann is her usual great self as a younger woman Jackie winds up trying to romance; the two actually make for a convincing almost-but-not-quite couple. Harvey Keitel is a little overbearing as Mann’s dad, but Danny DeVito scores as Jackie’s bemused brother; it’s the best work he’s done on the big screen in many years.

For everything that works in this movie, there are two things that don’t, so De Niro’s solid work is ultimately wasted. There are lots of cameos from standups like Richard Belzer, Hannibal Buress, Brett Butler and Jimmie Walker. Yes…Jimmie Walker is still alive.

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