NEW YORK (WABC) --Robert De Niro is back on the big screen this weekend, playing a comedian who is trying to stay funny in the changing world of comedy.
Given that "The Comedian" is set in New York City with some of our finest comics like Billy Crystal making cameo appearances, expectations are higher than they should be.
The premise is terrific, with De Niro's Jackie Burke at that sad point in a performer's life when he is best remembered for a role he played decades earlier. It's a time that's still good for a few bucks, but bad for the ego as people call him not by his own name but that of the character that earned him fame so long ago.
De Niro's old pal and screen buddy Harvey Keitel takes a small role as the overbearing father of Leslie Mann's character. She is best known for her comedies, but here is the only reason to think about seeing the film.
The two meet doing community service after each has been charged with assault, and Jackie senses an opportunity.
He's offensive and makes no apologies for that, but slowly she warms to him despite a 20-plus year age difference.
Danny DeVito is hysterical as the father of the bride, and Patty LuPone has fun as the mother. But despite the stella cast, the film is doomed because De Niro just can't pull off being a comic.
Like the old saying goes, dying is easy, comedy is hard.
There is a good movie somewhere in this material, but "The Comedian" is destined to remain an interesting failure. It's a terrific premise and a fantastic cast, but they can't save a script that tries to be serious and funny but ends up falling flat somewhere in between.