The latest netflix original comedy, Old Dads, is now streaming, but should you give it a watch?
Acquired by netflix back in August, Old Dads is the brainchild of the prolific comedian/actor Bill Burr, who has produced several stand-up comedy specials for the streamer (I’m Sorry You Feel That Way, Live at Red Rocks) as well as his animated sitcom F is for Family. The film is co-written & directed by Burr, his first such attempt in feature film form in his career. Old Dads is also co-produced by Burr’s multimedia company “All Things Comedy,” which he co-founded with actor/comedian Al Madrigal in 2012.
Those familiar with Burr’s standup material, his sitcom, or his rants on his “Monday Morning Podcast” know that he struggles predominantly with two things: his anger and the external world’s reaction to it & the ever-evolving generational divide between his Gen X belief structure and the new Millennial world he must endure. So it will not shock any of his fans that he has once again taken up arms with those struggles as he creates his feature debut
Old Dads focuses on three best friends & business partners, Jack, Connor, & Mike (Burr, Bobby Cannavale, Bokeem Woodbine), as they start the adventure of fatherhood late into their 40s & early 50s.
After agreeing to sell their throwback sports apparel company, they’re excited to punch their tickets to the lives they’ve always dreamed of. But when the company is made over by an eccentric new millennial CEO (Miles Robbins), Jack’s anger boils over, creating a series of crises at work, home, & his son’s ultra-progressive preschool. In the aftermath, Jack and his fellow old dads must fight to win back their families and self-respect on an unlikely quest that takes them from Palm Desert casinos to strip clubs to the e-scooter-riddled streets of Los Angeles.
The opening scenes of the film are Burr’s world-building at its best. Burr’s Jack gets to monologue about his current situation as an old dad while championing his Gen X working-class values. He takes shots at vegans & hormones in our food while confronting a neighbor about how he treats his son’s minor scrapes. For an encore, he trips a small child who hurt his kid earlier, claiming “it’s a team sport.”
While the film still has more humor to come, especially from Bobby Cannavale’s Connor character, with some heart & decent commentary to boot, Old Dads never seems to be gel in what it’s trying to say and rarely gets funny enough to overcome the same type of commentary we’ve been hearing from Burr for over a decade. The generational divide from the millennial “feelings and fame” vibe to the “free speech and leave me alone” mentality of Burr’s Gen X worldview is very apparent here, but it’s also becoming very well-worn by 2023. Cartoonish tech startup guys and pearl clutching helicopter parents feel a little dated, even if Burr said in interviews that the story is based on his and co-writer Ben Tishler’s lives. L.A parenting might be closer to this reality, but even as an older East Coast millennial father of young children (who was even a stand-up for ten years), I think this feels more like a psychotic break than how life really is these days.
Whether you buy into the commentary or Burr’s designs of the world, you can’t argue with the casting and the performances throughout the movie. Cannavale seems to be having a blast as the 49-year-old Connor who refuses to buy into his age or his wife’s stranglehold on his marriage. “GLOW” standout Jackie Tohn is frighteningly good as the cold & calculated wife of Connor, who seems to delight in taking away his autonomy and giving it all to their maddening 5-year-old son. Rachael Harris (Lucifer, Suits) continues her streak of making meals out of uptight, bonkers administrative types while “The League” star Katie Aselton brings some of that “Jenny” energy to her role as Jack’s wife Leah. Emmy nominee Bokeem Woodbine has some intensely fun scenes with making a co-worker uncomfortably say the N-word or leaving a marriage discussion with his pregnant girlfriend by saying he was going to go register to vote. Stand-up fans will also love to see cameos from a few of their favorites, like Rory Scovel & Natasha Leggero.
Overall, Old Dads never lives up to its much funnier & biting opening scenes and doesn’t measure up to its legendary creator in Burr. While some of the humor and commentary we have been accustomed to from Burr’s previous writing still lands, the story itself feels out of date in a world that feels less grounded & relatable than our current landscape. Strong comedic performances from the likes of Burr, Cannavale, & Jackie Tohn cannot make this uneven and slightly stale story work for 2023.
Watch Old Dads on Netflix If You Like:
- Bill Burr’s Stand-up Specials
- F is for Family
- The Machine
- I Think I Love My Wife
MVP of netflix’s Old Dads
Bobby Cannavale as Connor.
The two-time Primetime Emmy Award winner is one of the most versatile actors working today. Whether he’s crushing dramatic TV roles (Boardwalk Empire, Mr. Robot, Homecoming) or indie film characters (Blue Jasmine, The Station Agent, Win Win), Cannavale defies stereotypes and wins over audiences. A constant presence on netflix (The Watcher, Blonde, The Irishman), he brings us another memorable performance as Connor, the old dad who wants to defy his age at every turn. Constantly working on his muscles and his new-age slang, Cannavale’s Connor struggles to win over the new generation (or his cold & calculated wife), but never struggles to nail his laugh lines. Shouting “Pre-Cum!” in a local bar like William Wallace or telling his former millennial boss, “Don’t ever count another man’s drinks,” Bobby has the most fun in the film even when he’s scared to move.
Sure to please at least a portion of Burr’s base, but don’t expect too many new insights or a thoroughly developed plotline.