Till the end of Old Dads, we kept wondering whether the film had a moral lesson, misguided or not, at the core of it. Eventually, we realized that it was just about a bunch of men who were struggling to accept the changes in their lives and the world around them, which did not seem to be cut out for them anymore. It was a movie we enjoyed, along with all of its characters, whose flaws are never brushed over, no matter how funny they are. The thing to understand is that we agree with a lot of what Jack, played by Bill Burr himself, says, simply because it is funny to us from an outsider’s perspective. But the people in the Old Dads universe don’t give him that kind of a free pass, and neither do they do that for the follies of the others. It certainly helped that Bill Burr is our favorite rude comedian, and he has written and directed the movie, meaning that it has as much profanity as self-awareness and the wish for an eventual happy ending. We cannot deny the man his fantasy after he put in all that work into the story.
But we must mention that despite the self-awareness of a mid-life crisis, the men are still the ones who are written for sympathy and relatability, while the women remain in stereotypical boxes. One is a soccer mom, the other is a yoga mom, and the third is about to be a mom after years of being the most desirable girlfriend. And all of them are impossibly young, next to men who are admittedly old. The only reason we consider this sexist and not just average Hollywood fare is because while the age of the men is a requirement of the script, the age of the women is not, and it was a deliberate choice only to enhance the desirability of the male characters. They needed to be shown as aspirational while being flawed, and that could only happen if they had women like their on-screen partners by their side. This is what makes us realize that women were not the primary target of this film. They can undoubtedly enjoy it by being immune to this one factor, but it would be foolish to ignore it. Even in the film, there is one particular joke where Bill Burr says that the oppression of women cannot be equated to slavery. We won’t say he is wrong, but his implication about the latter being dismissible or not even a factor to consider was problematic. But Bill Burr is problematic, and he has written problematic characters for his film, so we know what we are signing up for.
But the thing about the film is that the aforementioned self-awareness still seems to paint the characters as victims. There is an acknowledgement of the anger of the characters being a problem, but in the way that it is right by feeling but not by expression. Bill Burr fails to draw the line between actually being woke and putting on a performance of it, which makes the film look like an attack on new-age sensibilities. There seems to be a saving grace here and there, but unless you are familiar with the work of Bill Burr, it is very easy to misunderstand the intention of the comedian.
Moving on from that, the film is almost entirely enjoyable. There is seriously never a dull moment, as long as you remember that you shouldn’t get trolled by someone trying to rile you up. We have genuinely laughed at a lot of the moments, and the art of ‘missing the point’ has never been this hilarious. Those moments usually make us deeply uncomfortable, but in this context, we were able to see the point being made, which, in hindsight, is proof of really clever writing. The thing to realize about comedians writing stories is that they will be making fun of things and people by showing them in the worst possible light. It will be stereotypical and, at times, caricaturish, but that is to be expected. That is why it is not a surprise that everyone Bill Burr’s character did not get along with turned out to be a distasteful villain. We feel the angry comedian just found an outlet for his emotions through Old Dads. Maybe it was prescribed by his therapist?
There is plenty to praise about Old Dads. The actors know their job, the writing is on point, the stereotypes are played upon sharply, and the calling out is also very clever. No one is spared, not even Bill Burr himself, and the lens through which the audience is made to see him is much kinder. We would definitely recommend this movie because of how fun it is and how you genuinely cannot stop watching it once it starts. But we also consider any content by comedians to be a double-edged sword. The egoistic self-service is very evident, but because it is funny and a lot of things are said that people were generally struggling to find the words for, we accept the ego of the artists as a forgivable flaw, not understanding the danger of their words that are being written in a bubble of their ideologies. How easy was it to like Bill Burr after you watched this film? If you haven’t watched any of his comedy specials before, you would believe that this is the real personality of the man, and that enhances his reputation off the screen as well. That is the only line that we need to be careful of when watching movies written by and starring comedians. It is never a good idea to think that they are good people based on how funny their jokes are.
On an entirely different note, despite the name of the film, fatherhood was the least important factor of it. It was the facet of the protagonists’ lives that earned them forgiveness for their flaws, but otherwise, it did not really hold any defining importance to the overall story. But we don’t care about that because, as we said, this was a fun film, and that is all that matters. Old Dads is the movie to be watched at any cost if you are looking for a good time.