Old Dads (2023) Movie Review – Bill Burr’s extended standup/therapy session is neither special nor funny

Bill Burr’s extended standup/therapy session is neither special nor funny

Anyone who is familiar with Bill Burr and his content might know what to expect from Old Dads, Netflix’s new R-Rated comedy. The comedian has a distinct style and his humour is mostly centred around ranting about the old vs new belief system. This is his first attempt at helming a full-feature-length film. And it comes as no surprise that Burr does not have a clue about how to do it. Old Dads feels like an extended version of Burr’s obnoxious, relatable, and uncompromising standups. It does not have a creative direction or a narrative structure.

There is a semblance of it laid onto the material to give it the shape of a film but Old Dads lacks conviction, self-awareness, and cohesion to be called one. Perhaps the abundance of the first two ingredients is what becomes problematic when you zoom out and look at the overall picture. Random, foul-mouthed jokes on the woke culture and overtly politically correct discourse feel misplaced. And there are so many small jolts of them that Old Dads seemingly functions without a core story.

What we are offered are three old men – fathers – who struggle to connect with the ever-evolving moral code of the world. They are tethered to the old belief system and staunchly hold on to their ideals about how to live life. Jack, Connor, and Mike are three best friends who started a high-end jersey-making company. But they ended up selling it to a larger corporation and are now employees working under a new-age CEO with cutting-edge ideas. They face different challenges in their personal lives as well.

Mike is suddenly challenged to get serious by his girlfriend, who, by the chancest stroke of luck, gets pregnant. His laid-off, stress-free existence now threatens to revert back to the old days of anxiety and tension.

Connor’s efforts to “fit in” with Gen-Z notions of coolness are misdirected. He tries hard but doesn’t get any closer to cracking the code. His controlling and borderline paranoid wife is too free-spirited, so much so that his role as a father is almost null.

And then there is Jack, who has noticeable anger issues and learns the hard way that the modern world isn’t “my way or the high way” after all.

If it sounded before that I abhor Bill Burr’s worldview, that is not the case. In fact, I find his humour observant and relatable. It is like a breath of fresh air in a world where political correctness has scaled new heights. People are so afraid of getting cancelled that it has become a restraint on free speech. I expected nothing dramatically out of order in Old Dads but quickly realized that it did not work beyond a few minutes. Right from the moment Jack screams at a grown-up man riding a kid’s toy on the streets, everything about Old Dads becomes repetitive and routine.

Old Dads feels like one of Bill Burr’s high-octane standup specials that is neither funny nor special. Within the scheme of the film, it cannot become a catalyst for the storytelling and remains bound by its inherent limitations. My major beef with Old Dads is that it has no characteristics of a film and yet poses to be one.

The material is typical of Burr’s style and worldview but it needed some external push in the form of a plot. The writing structure is weak and there is a lack of clarity about the film’s identity. Jack’s anger issues and his dealings with Dr Lois do become a sort of handle that Old Dads tries to hold on to. But it is more of a compensating, last-ditch effort to put up something for show.

Jack’s arc is non-existent and handled very amateurishly. The acknowledgement of the problem is very lukewarm without actually completing it. That is why it feels that Old Dads does not have a start and a finish. 

Even as an ardent fan of Burr’s humility, honesty, and romanticism of the old world order, I cannot recommend watching Old Dads on Netflix. The film squarely falls on the nether side of Netflix’s creative spectrum, one that cannot shrug off its curse of mediocrity. 

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  • Verdict - 5/10

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