‘Before watching “Old Dads’’ we all know what kind of film we’re getting into. One of the film’s thumbnails also shows a freeze frame of Bill Burr screaming at someone. It is enough to repulse a particular type of audience and attract another. The streaming giant is smart enough to understand that it needs to cater to this subset of the audience – that feels ”underrepresented’ in the current landscape of film and TV. So, these characters are, predictably, old men getting angry at how the young generation operates and is different from theirs.
If you have seen any of Bill Burr’s stand-up specials, you know his style is ranting against anyone or anything he hates. Even a mild dislike becomes a great source for a rant. This is because it is inherently funny that a grown man gets angry at the most minor inconveniences. Old Dads is not much different than that. Written by Burr with Ben Tishler and directed by Burr himself, the film is a screenplay translation of his strong beliefs. He does not like the way today’s world operates. As expected, he is furious that the so-called woke culture does not allow him to be as reckless as he once used to be.
Burr’s character – Jack Kelly, has the same temperament issues that his stand-up persona does. He is furious that the millennials or Gen Zs are making his life a living hell. Because of them, he cannot swear, curse, or talk as he once used to. His old dad friends – Connor Brody (played by Bobby Cannavale) and Mike Richards (played by Bokeem Woodbine), also suffer from the same anxiety – are we outdated? Or maybe the question – why are we outdated? Since they feel outdated, they make others feel terrible about it. That is essentially the core of this script.
Because of this feeling, Connor tries assimilating by using slang terms. He wants to be perceived as a young man. Mike tries to process his mid-life crisis by making extravagant purchases. These three friends love the camaraderie they have built over the years working together. So, none of them take each other’s words seriously. However, they face an obstacle when someone buys their apparel company. It turns them from owners to employees overnight. They struggle not just to accept that but to conform to the moral code the young folks establish in the company.
With all the things explained until now, almost anyone can guess what the remaining script would entail. Does the self-righteous dude accept his anger issues and decide to change for the better? Yes. Does he behave in ways that could offend others for most part of the film? Also, yes. Does he end up making some ‘valid points’ along the way? Well, I don’t know. He mentions the lack of privacy while working in today’s corporate world. Besides, he also points out the silliness of some of the ways parents raise their children. The script also pokes fun at the moral superiority the young generation feels for some of their choices.
These moments are often overshadowed by the film’s old-dad anger. It kills any validity of his points if there is any, to begin with. I mean, the ranting part can definitely make many men feel enraged and scream, ‘hell yeah!’ But on the other hand, the script just diminishes everything in comparison to Jack’s anger. The self-righteousness that permeates throughout the film from Bill’s character suddenly takes a swift turn at a pivotal life moment. But this cliché character arc does not feel remotely believable – because Burr’s schtick is the exact opposite – he is not willing to change himself one bit.
That brings me back to a conversation Bill had with Conan O’Brien on his podcast. After laughing at Burr’ss rants, Conan pointed out how most of his anger toward the younger generation ‘having it better’ may be rooted in issues in his upbringing. Burr briefly accepts that but goes back to his rant soon after. On one side, that’s what made Burr funny for the longest time – he is that angry old man who rants in all the possible ways. The film is an awkward mix of that persona, and the ‘old man accepts she’s wrong’ arc. It ends up being a miserable mishmash with a few chuckles along the way. ‘That brings me back to a conversation Bill had with Conan O’Brien on his podcast.
Cannavale is predictably good in his comedic timing, and actor-director Katie Aselton is also great in her role as Jack’s wife. But none of it really rises above the generic narrative and poor character development that is easily forgettable.