Now is a very bad time to have sympathy for the devil. But apparently Sebastian Maniscalco is unable to read a room, which is all the more baffling due to the simple fact that it’s his job as a stand-up comedian.
He’s also playing a version of himself in About My Father, and the opening narration of his life will be familiar to more than the children of immigrants, since the onscreen experience of Italian American cultural assimilation is now so commonplace as to become a trope in itself. But unlike most millennial men, Sebastian is doing very well, running a boutique hotel and cultivating a loving relationship, albeit with a woman who is far from the nice Italian girl his hairdresser father Salvo (Robert De Niro) envisioned.
The bubbly blonde artist Ellie (Leslie Bibb) is the descendant of wealthy colonizers who can trace their history to the Mayflower, and when Sebastian makes it known to his father that he’s going to propose, he’s roped into bringing Salvo for a weekend visit to his intended’s summer home for their Fourth of July celebration. May the culture clash commence!
And clash it does. Only this spin on Meet the Parents and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is somehow bizarrely more interested in lazy schtick and attempting to prove that passive aggressive WASPs are just like us rather than in holding them accountable in any way, even though senator matriarch Tigger (Kim Cattrall) has been accused of being anti-immigrant. If there’s sympathy for anyone, it’s not for Sebastian, who is more than willing to cozy up to his in-laws by any means necessary, including disrespecting the father who’s smart enough to call them on their classism.
By the movie’s end, the real joke is how far it takes smiling white obliviousness—to the point that an actual model minority makes an appearance at the end, and every privilege extended to Ellie and her siblings is chalked up to families just wanting the best for their kids. But what’s more American for the 1 percent than smiling in the face of blood money while hiding behind a family name and claiming to have the same interests as the very people they most despise? PG-13, 89 min.