OLD DADS. Making fun of political correctness

Although “Old Dads” is rather average cinema overall, you can feel a connection with its characters.

Jakub Piwoński

5 November 2023

“There’s nothing like a healthy laugh at political correctness,” seems to say Bill Burr under his breath while writing the scripts for his works. It cannot be denied that he and similar comedians benefit today from the fact that reality is bursting with absurdities. The question is whether political correctness is so funny that jokes about it create themselves, or if we have simply lost the ability to discuss serious matters seriously.

Netflix, often criticized for being overly polite, as it tends to cater to all minorities in one production, excluding those who do not belong to any of them, recently released a surprisingly comedic piece. Surprising only to those who haven’t noticed that the platform has long allowed not only supporters of cultural change but also creators who miss the old status quo or openly mock the current one. One such person is the comedian and stand-up artist Bill Burr, whose shows are popular on the platform. In fact, it was in this space adorned with the red logo that he had the opportunity to create an animated series called “F Is for Family,” which he wrote and in which he voiced with his highly characteristic voice.

Now it’s time for Burr’s debut as a director of a full-length film. That it is a comedy should not surprise anyone. The theme Burr chose for his debut is also not surprising. Once again, we are dealing with an operation performed by a doctor on his own body. “Old Dads” is the story of men who have trouble fitting into the ethics of the modern world. It is also a story about male-female relationships in a situation of cultural changes and the decline of patriarchy. Frustration arising from social misfitting turns into anger, which is also the theme of this film (Burr has often emphasized that he himself has trouble controlling it). These guys are boomers who not so much don’t understand the new world as they are clearly conflicted with it.

Bill Burr, who played the lead role, chose his colleagues interestingly for the trio. Bokeem Woodbine, a specialist in B-movies, handles the comedic scenes quite well. But it’s Bobby Cannavale who plays as if he were let off the leash, contrary to the situation his character is in. His Connor Brody may be afraid of his wife, but he was played as if the actor had a lot of interpretative freedom. Importantly, he doesn’t cross the thin line of theatrical caricature. This produces a good effect and translates into positive energy between the three main characters.

As for the plot and the idea of presenting the leading theme of the film, the struggles of the characters with life, unfortunately, we won’t find any fireworks here. The jokes are not very original, and the plot, including the hero’s downfall – loss of a job, arguments with his wife, and final redemption – is a scheme so painfully worn out that it couldn’t be more repetitive. However, the safe framework of this story makes it very easy to identify with it, and the jokes, often accurate, unforced, and far from the gutter, make the film not groundbreaking but at the same time not causing any pain during the screening. In the age of comedies that flirt with the audience, trying so hard to be funny that they often fall into embarrassment, watching “Old Dads” is like applying a good, fresh cream to the face after years of smearing it with Vaseline.

One thesis that resonates from the film seems to dominate the rest and certainly adds value compared to the brotherly series “F Is for Family.” It is not just about mocking political correctness but also drawing attention to a significant social problem. There is a moment in the film when the main character can no longer articulate his thoughts clearly because anything he says is considered offensive. Gagging does not occur directly but indirectly, through exclusion from the community. I am convinced that many of us feel similarly; the fear of being canceled is a common phenomenon today. And because of this, although “Old Dads” is rather average cinema overall, you can feel a connection with its characters. And that’s already half the success.

Jakub Piwoński

Jakub Piwoński

Cultural expert, passionate about popular culture, in particular films, series, computer games and comics. He likes to fly away to unknown, fantastic regions, thanks to his fascination with science fiction. Professionally, however, he looks back more often, thanks to his work as a museum promotion specialist, investigating the mysteries of the beginnings of cinematography. His favorite film is "The Matrix", because it combines two areas close to his heart - religion and martial arts.

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