Bill Burr’s directorial debut, Old Dads, follows three middle-aged fathers as they adjust to a world that has moved past their cultural mores. They blinked and, suddenly, it was no longer cool to call your friends names for female genitalia. Each dad faces their own trials; Jack (Bill Burr) struggles with his anger, Connor (Bobby Cannavale) is controlled by his wife, and Mike (Bokeem Woodbine) is dating a young woman who doesn’t want kids and loves going to the gym. In essence, Old Dads is an opportunity for other middle-aged men to live vicariously through these three characters.
A huge part of that escapism relies on the film’s formulaic storytelling. In scene after scene, Jack encounters a person representative of the modern era, takes down that character by highlighting their hypocrisy or false moralism, and then moves on to the next scene to continue Burr’s proxy warfare against changing times. This structure is grating not so much for its outdated politics, but because of its repetition.
Jack’s gadfly act becomes tiresome quickly, though the film seemingly wants to criticize him for his stubbornness. Yet, the film never becomes a meaningful character study about obsolescence; instead, it remains a series of loose observations stitched together to prove how sanctimonious modern society has become.
Because of this, it is a movie full of thoroughly unlikable characters—including Jack—heavy in its criticism but sparse in its actual humor. Burr isn’t always off-target; the film’s attacks on start-up culture and private schools ring true, truer at least than his slamming of feminism or Neosporin.
The film is ultimately a mixed bag of social commentary that mistakes being cranky for being compelling. I only hope that if Burr chooses to follow up Old Dads with another feature, he learns some new tricks. R, 104 min.