Movie Review: ‘About My Father’ Is a Messy, Limp Rom-com with Robert De Niro as Bait

If you were to resurrect the tired storyline of a young couple having to meet their partners’ parents and were looking around for someone to play the gruff, disapproving future father-in-law, one name should definitely not pop out. Robert De Niro.

Yes, he’s hysterical as the intense, no-nonsense, overprotective dad who’d make any suitor turned wide-eyed. Yes, he’s good at playing the role with the straightest of faces. We know that because he’s done it to great effect in “Meet the Parents.” Many times.

And yet “About My Father” brings out this revered Oscar-winner for a sloppy reprise of that role in a consistently unfunny rom-com that you get the distinct feeling might not be in theaters at all if he didn’t lend his deadpan glower.

Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco has co-written and stars in this big sloppy Italian American kiss about family that not only leans into stereotypes — working-class Italians on one side, WASPs on the other — but plows the field with them.

This image released by Lionsgate shows Leslie Bibb as Ellie and Sebastian Maniscalco as Sebastian in a scene from “About My Father.” (Dan Anderson/Lionsgate via AP)

Maniscalco plays a Chicago hotel manager in love with a country club-raised artist (played by the always-smiling Leslie Bibb) who both have a lesson to learn about the push and pull of blood. “The family is not just one thing. It’s everything,” is the motto the Maniscalco clan live by. It would have been a powerful message in 1972.

Maniscalco’s early life was built on thrift thanks to his father, Salvo, played by De Niro, a man who came to Chicago from Sicily for a better life and brought with him a savage work ethic and a chip on his shoulder about wealth. He didn’t buy his son a skateboard for Christmas, he made a janky one. Why does he love the Fourth of July? “It’s the only holiday you don’t have to buy a gift.”

On the other side is the Collins clan, who came to America on the Mayflower. Mom (Kim Cattrall) is a U.S. senator and dad (David Rasche) is CEO of a luxurious hotel group. They live in a gated compound in Maryland with peacocks wandering around. “You should see the house in Aspen,” mom says.

The plot turns on a July 4th holiday meeting when the Maniscalco father and son visit the girlfriend’s family to suss each other out. Will Salvo be too nice? Is he not trying enough? Could he be trying to sabotage his son’s happiness? Is his son pretending to be someone’s he’s not? Can all this be solved with some pasta and parmesan? Marone!

This image released by Lionsgate shows Anders Holm as Lucky and Brett Dier as Doug in a scene from “About My Father.” (Dan Anderson/Lionsgate via AP)

The clash of cultures is immediately strong, mostly mocking the kombucha-drinking, monogrammed pajamas-wearing and tennis-playing WASPs. (There’s also a Grandma Moses art joke for those still awake. Grandma Moses jokes slay.) The Maniscalcos have their own quirks, like spritzing cologne at every moment. The filmmakers — Laura Terruso directs from a script by Maniscalco and Austen Earl — have the meatballs to frame all this as an immigrant story.

For those who miss “Meet the Parents,” there’s even a scene virtually lifted, as if counting on viewers being dim. The pool volleyball scene from the 2000 movie — where Ben Stiller gets too competitive and painfully spikes on his girlfriend’s sister — has its equivalent when Maniscalco hits a tennis ball hard into his girlfriend’s brother’s torso.

This image released by Lionsgate shows Kim Cattrall as Tigger, Leslie Bibb as Ellie, and David Rasche as Bill in a scene from “About My Father.” (Dan Anderson/Lionsgate via AP)

“About My Father” isn’t the only comedy vying to be the “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” of 2023. The year started with Netflix’s “You People,” starring Jonah Hill and Eddie Murphy, and that movie, however flawed, dealt with race. “About My Father,” is about white people, and should be about class or privilege, but it’s not. It’s about embarrassment, denuding any potential depth.

Things sag and then get weird at the end, as this rom-com turns into a rom-com where the target is dad. There’s even a running-to-the-airport scene when the penny drops for Salvo’s son. But you’ll have figured out that this was a cash grab long before that.

“About My Father,” a Lionsgate release, is rated PG-13 for “for suggestive material, language and partial nudity.” Running time: 89 minutes. Half a star out of four.


MPAA Definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.


Online: https://www.aboutmyfather.movie


Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits



ATHENS – The Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum (ILJM) Jewelry Artist in Residence Program (JaIR) accepts applications throughout the year.

Top Stories


A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.


New York Greek Independence Parade Honors 1821 and Grim Anniversary for Cyprus (Vid & Pics)

NEW YORK – The New York Greek Independence Parade on Fifth Avenue, commemorating the 203rd anniversary of the Greek Revolution of 1821, was held in an atmosphere of emotion and pride on April 14.

NEW YORK  — The historic hush money trial of Donald Trump got underway Monday with the arduous process of selecting a jury to hear the case charging the former president with falsifying business records in order to stifle stories about his sex life.

ATHENS - The New Democracy's ballot paper was presented at a special event at the Athens Auditorium on Monday.

JERUSALEM  — Israel’s military chief said Monday that his country will respond to Iran’s weekend attack, but he did not elaborate on when and how as world leaders urged Israel not to retaliate, trying to avoid a spiral of violence in the Middle East.

FRANKLIN, TN – After the amazing success of first two Annual Greek Adoptee Reunions in Nashville, TN, in August 2022 and in their homeland of Greece in October 2023, Greek-born adoptees are poised to converge on Louisville, KY, for the Third Annual Greek Adoptee Reunion, June 20-22.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. [email protected]

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.