If you want to respect how hard it is to be a stand-up comedian, observe how hard it is for movies to create fictionalized versions of stand-up comedians that aren’t clearly awful at it. Four writers contributed to the tale of Jackie Burke (Robert DeNiro), once the star of a beloved sitcom, now having as much trouble sustaining his career—made up of small-time club gigs and nostalgia conventions—as his relationships. If that sounds a lot like the premise of BoJack Horseman, that’s because it is, only without any of BoJack’s pathos and wit. The story gives Jackie a friendship with a messed-up woman (Leslie Mann, bringing a spiky energy this movie doesn’t deserve), and dwells on Jackie’s collision with new media models he doesn’t understand, like humiliating reality shows and viral videos. But mostly, it’s just excruciatingly unfunny whenever Jackie has the microphone doing his “outrageous” insult-comedy shtick—which, sadly, is a significant chunk of the running time. We know that the journey is towards Jackie making peace with where his life has taken him; it’s hard to make peace with how dreary the audience’s journey is towards that same point.
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