[Screen It]


(2020) (Michael Jr., Dahlia Waingort) (PG)

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Dramedy: A one-time aspiring stand-up comedian turned unfulfilled family man and reality TV show editor finds a new calling in life as an Internet sensation, only to realize what he needs in his life is religion.

Back in the 1990s, Ben Marcus (MICHAEL JR.) was an up and coming stand-up comedian, but family tragedies snuffed out his spark. He now works as a reality TV show editor for the demanding and mean gardening show host Rosie (CHONDA PIERCE) and is friends with their studio's tech guy, Mickey (JOHNNY PACAR), who's studying to become a full-time preacher.

Mickey is under the assumption that Ben is a perfect Christian family man. Ben, however, is fully aware that he isn't a great dad to teenager Hannah (SHELBY SIMMONS) or her younger brother, Jack (JALON CHRISTIAN). That's something his wife, Jessica (DAHLIA WAINGORT), reminds him of daily, what with him moping his way through life and not helping much around the house. That's something she confides in to her best friend, Carol (KAREN ABERCROMBIE), who suggests that Jessica pray for him more, with Jessica hoping he not only gets out of his funk, but becomes more of a devout Christian like her.

Ben's life changes when -- after learning from Jack that people can make money from posting videos online and gaining huge followings -- his attempts to fix the toilet turn him into an instant Internet celebrity after Jack edits and posts a video of that disastrous handyman attempt. With Mickey wanting Ben to read his book about how to read the Bible and grow from that, Ben's online popularity grows via his fix-it alter-ego, "Selfie Dad." But Ben soon learns that the thing he needs to fix most is his relationship with his wife, kids, and God, and he uses Mickey's advice to help him do just that.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10

For reasons that pretty much escape me, it seems to be quite difficult to make funny movies where stand-up comedians are the protagonists. Yes, some are purposefully designed to show that things aren't all laughs and giggles when it comes to such people who ply their trade eliciting just that. And I'm okay with such approaches.

But others that take a lighter or straight-up comedy angle often fail to be funny, which is quite odd since so many comedians, like their material, are exactly that. Thus, with the opening of "Selfie Dad," I had high hopes.

And that's because the opening bit features stand-up comedian Ben Marcus (Michael Jr.) doing a bit about being a black man out jogging only to have a white female jogger end up in front of him and reacting with trepidation.

His joke-story character is oblivious to the racial implications and wonders if he should be nervous or scared by what she's apparently running from. It's a brief but hilarious minute or so of such material and I found myself thinking, "Finally, we might have a funny movie about funny people." Alas, little did I know that it wasn't written for the movie and instead was footage pulled from real-life stand-up comic Michael Jr.'s act from a number of years back.

Nor did I know that it was going to be one of those "preach to the choir" and "hit you over the head with a Bible" tales. But the second and frankly quite odd scene (because it's never returned to) of two cartoon stars in the sky discussing the comedian's need to find God or else, drove home that point.

What follows is the story of Ben all these years later, married to Jessica (Dahlia Waingort) who's not particularly pleased that he's a mentally absent father to Hannah (Shelby Simmons) and Jack (Jalon Christian), doesn't help around the house, and worst of all, isn't as religious as she is (although she points out to her even more devout friend that she doesn't like Christian movies).

He's also in a thankless job editing shows for a gardening show host (Chonda Pierce) who's uber-mean and condescending when she's off-camera, especially toward him. At least he has a friend in tech-wizard Mickey (Johnny Pacar) who just so happens to be studying to become a preacher, wants to interview Ben about being such a good Christian father, and wants him to read his guide about how to get the most out of the Bible.

Subtlety obviously isn't on the mind of writer/director Brad J. Silverman, but neither is reality as Ben is portrayed as a technologically challenged dad who doesn't know what a selfie is, has never heard of posting videos online and so on, despite being an award-winning professional video editor in the biz.

Regardless of that, his video-recorded attempts to fix the toilet turn him into an overnight Internet sensation that turns around his fortunes and outlook on life. But with Mickey figuratively banging a Bible on his head to knock some religious sense into him, Ben realizes what he truly needs to fix is his relationship with his wife and kids through his relationship with God.

All of which is fine and dandy had Silverman taken a more tempered approach at hammering home his message -- or made the film less sitcomy and matching or exceeding the funny opening bit.

If anything, the flick unintentionally benefits from the timeliness of some of its race-related material (that opening jogging joke, the older white woman being condescending toward a black man, and a scene involving a black cop pulling over the black protagonist and reaching for his gun at one point) that will take viewers out of the proceedings if they haven't already been removed by the overt preachiness.

I'll still wait for the funny movie about funny people, but this one isn't it. "Selfie Dad" has some potential, but ultimately rates as only a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed June 15, 2020 / Posted June 19, 2020

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