One of the consequences of lowering the bar on scatology and extreme vulgarity on cable tv and the intenet is its seepage into mainstream entertainment. Exhibit A could be “The Comedian,” directed by Taylor Hackford with an all-star cast headed by Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Danny De Vito, Leslie Mann, Edie Falco, Patty Lupone - with cameos by Cloris Leachman, Charles Grodin, Richard Belzer and Billy Crystal. The plot is a very thin excuse for a series of shticks by an aging Jewish comic named Jackie Burke (ne Yakov Bernstein) played by De Niro, who at one time was a huge tv star (think Jackie Gleason, Kevin Hart or a slew of others) but now has fallen on hard times, made harder by a jail sentence for smashing a heckler with his microphone. For his stand-up comedy, think Andrew Dice Clay - someone who is no longer appealing to a much younger generation but is trying to make a comeback. Jackie is hardly a sympathetic character, he mooches off his brother and antagonizes just about everyone who is part of his life, yet he strikes up an unbelievable relationship with a beautiful, much younger woman he meets at the soup kitchen he’s assigned to as part of his community service sentence. That she turns out to be the daughter of a wealthy nursing home owner and real estate mogul in Florida is just another rung in a series of unlikely - never would happen circumstances that pepper the plot.
All the usual subjects are casualties of Jackie’s lacerating humor - women, gays, oldsters, non-lookers, parents, chilldren, sexuality, marriage - a fraction of it on target and funny - most of it simply prurient without benefit of cleverness. You will be guaranteed to feel as Jackie does after an unpleasant encounter with a comedian who steals his material - that you yourself need a power wash. The relationship between Jackie and Harmony (the soup kitchen lady) is stretched beyond credulity (much worse than unbelievable) as is its eventual consequence. The epilogue which takes place 8 years later is embarrassing to everyone concerned - actors and audience. If you feel the need to get down and dirty, just go to Cable TV. If you feel the need to see otherwise talented people sink to squeamish levels of acceptability on the big screen, here’s your opportunity. You won’t feel good about yourself after………….
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