Netflix’s ‘Old Dads’ is a recycling of PC grievances and a Bill Burr career nadir
The new Netflix movie “Old Dads” has a title problem. It really should be called “Old Dads Yelling at Clouds” or “Old Dads Raging at QR Codes.” It’s designed for people who find it hard to navigate the Netflix scroll and so blame millennials for being woke.
Bill Burr, who directs from a script by him and Ben Tishler, leads a meandering, unfunny assault on PC culture that would seem perfectly in place in the 1990s alongside “Illiberal Education” by Dinesh D’Souza and the rantings of Pat Buchanan. It’s so dated there’s even a mention of Halliburton.
The whiff of deep, old school morass about modern life comes from the moment the movie begins with the Miramax logo and a rock guitar solo, two clear signals we’re going back in time when making fun of Starbucks cup sizes was funny.
Burr, who plays a 51-year-old dad with a young son and another child on the way, is immediately ranting about the lack of parking spots, mechanical scooters, pre-school etiquette, Twitter, emotional learning, vaping and paper straws. Cutting edge humor, this is not.
Burr, who has also conspired to sully the reputations of onscreen buddies Bobby Cannavale and Bokeem Woodbine by inviting them into this mess, goes on to mock trans identity and the notion of “check your privilege.”
“No offense, you’re just coming across a little old, you know? A little out of touch,” a younger guy tells Burr, who responds: “Like your generation? Filming yourselves while you’re flipping water bottles?”
The plot is loosey-goosey, never anything engrossing and more like a series of set pieces for Burr to act badly. The three old dads once owned a high-end throwback jersey company — throwback at least is on brand — and have sold it, returning as employees to a 28-year-old new boss, who fancies himself a disruptor. “I appreciate you,” he tells them, which naturally enrages them.
Strap in for a lot of purposely baiting slurs and then amazement that there’s push-back. “Is it ever over with these people?” whines Burr’s dad, whose style of parenting is to rub dirt into a child’s wound to make them more macho.
While Burr is a boiling cauldron of grievances, Cannivale’s dad tries too hard being cool — saying things are “fleek” and that he has “gotta bounce” — and Woodbine’s carefully curated life is suddenly under threat. Things go south for all of them when they “exercise free speech” — in other words, spew misogynist hate.
Their friendships begin to rend and their wives — portrayed as either cold, needy or intimidating — begin bickering. Mostly because Burr is a Gen-X anti-social warrior, prone to go on an angry rant no matter the consequences. “What, you’re mad?” he screams at his pregnant wife. “Cause I’m honest?” No, ‘cause your toxic, dude.
In one scene, the three old dads try to trap a millennial into using the n-word when he sings along to N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton.” Why? That will apparently expose the hypocrisy of the younger generation. But it doesn’t. It’s also a moment lifted from another earlier Netflix movie, “You People.”
There’s no way this cinematic slop would lead to a strip club, is there? You bet your G-string it does. That’s where Burr’s old dad comes to a realization, and where the others come to their own realizations. That they should be better men? No, it’s too late for that. You can’t teach an old dad new tricks. As for you, gentle viewer, you’re better off watching water bottles flip in the air for 100 minutes.
“Old Dads,” a Netflix release, is rated R for “pervasive language, sexual material, nudity and brief drug use.” Running time: 104 minutes. Zero stars out of four.
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