The Comedian Review
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Once known mostly for his dark tough-guy roles, Robert De Niro has explored a wider variety of options in the second half of his career, taking on more playful, comedic roles. Now, for The Comedian, he teams up with director Taylor Hackford to try his hand at stand-up comedy.

The Comedian stars De Niro as Jackie Burke, an aging comic who’s best known for his role in the classic sitcom Eddie’s Home. Now, Jackie spends his time working nostalgia shows with other desperate has-beens—but when a heckler goes too far, Jackie ends up behind bars. While doing his community service at a local shelter, he meets Harmony (Leslie Mann), a lonely woman with a controlling father. And their relationship grows and changes as Jackie struggles to hang on to his career.

In general, Robert De Niro is a pretty likable guy. When you see him in a new movie, you just want to like him. But he puts his likability to the test in The Comedian. Jackie Burke is a bitter has-been who can’t seem to control his words or his actions. His job is to attack and insult people—and not only are his insults not especially funny, but he also can’t seem to separate performances from real life. He’s abrasive and rude, with an often inflated sense of entitlement.

Mann’s Harmony isn’t really much better. Though Mann manages to go toe-to-toe with De Niro’s harsh, foul-mouthed character, her strength doesn’t seem to go too far beyond her words. She can talk a good game, but she lets the men in her life walk all over her.

Their story, meanwhile, is meandering and awkward—and not especially interesting. Really, some of the film’s most entertaining parts are the random appearances by everyone from Jimmie Walker to Billy Crystal. It has more than its share of uncomfortable scenes—and, sadly, as is often the case in real life, the more horrible Jackie is, the more popular he becomes. And, in the end, no matter how much you may want to like De Niro in yet another comedic role, as you watch him shout his way through his lines and belt out songs about “poopie,” you’ll mostly just feel sorry for him for ending up in this position.

De Niro has definitely taken on some funny roles over the years, but this isn’t really one of them. If you’re in the mood for a light, entertaining movie with Robert De Niro, you’ll be better off rewatching one of your old favorites instead.

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