Mr. Birthday

Eric Roberts doesn’t have a clue why he took the role either.

(2021) Family Comedy (VMI) Jason London, Eric Roberts, Anna-Marie Dobbins, Charlotte Ciano, Fred Sullivan, Tanja Melendez Lynch, Mike Messier, Ainsley Drury, Rachel Dulude, Audrey Fratelli, Joshua Maurice Johnson, Isabella Sousa, Gabriella Spinney, Chelsea Vale, David Gere, Michel Badejo, Connor Holden, Michael Dubuc, Robert J. Morgan, Scout Lyons, Cynthia Souza. Directed by Dan Hunter

 

The trouble with family comedies is that in general, the things that kids find funny are very different than what adults find funny. Kids tend to prefer a broader, direct kind of humor – and if you can work farts and toilet humor in, so much the better – while adults need a little bit more subtlety. Although, truth be told, some adults tend to get their yuks from stuff more along the lines of what kids do.

Barry (London) is a single dad, raising his little girl Emily (Ciano) in a new city. He works as a maintenance man in a high-end apartment building with an overbearing boss (Lynch) and snide residents like Rick (Roberts). Emily is doing her best, but she is very lonely – no friends to speak of, other than Alex (Johnson) who is the only one to show up to her birthday party. Kind-hearted Barry does his best to soften the blow, but it isn’t easy; he’s feeling the pain himself, although the comely Jess (Dobbins) looks to ease some of his burden.

But the mysterious Mister Jay (Sullivan) offers Barry a new job – with the International Birthday Network, an organization dedicated to making sure no child has a crappy birthday anywhere on the globe. Barry proves to be uniquely well-suited for the position, but can he make this new life work for both him and Emily?

The emphasis here on the movie is in treating others with respect, working hard and chasing dreams, all good lessons for kids. Both Barry and Emily prove good role models for the youngsters. Still, the small set might find the movie’s pace to be a little bit slow for them – the movie doesn’t even introduce the IBN until nearly two thirds of the way through, although once it does the movie does pick up steam.

London comes off a bit like a poor man’s Tim Allen in both delivery and character (Allen did a number of these types of roles in a string of children’s’ movies in between Home Improvement and Last Man Standing). He does capture a certain good-hearted Dad vibe and his chemistry with Ciano is genuine and natural.

I don’t have anything about kidflicks; kids deserve good entertainment too, and some movies that cater to them are simply not going to appeal to adults and that’s okay; eating plain hamburgers without anything on them doesn’t appeal to me either and that’s how my kid used to eat them. Tastes develop; they don’t appear overnight. Still, from what I can remember from my increasingly distant years back as a child myself, I can’t see this movie appealing heavily to either kids or their parents, except in the most mild and non-passionate way.

REASONS TO SEE: Their heart is certainly in the right place.
REASONS TO AVOID: Slow-paced to a fault; doesn’t really get going until more than an hour in.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some rude humor and bullying.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Jason has a twin brother Jeremy who is also an actor.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Google Play, Hoopla, Microsoft, Redbox, Spectrum, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS:  As of 1/18/22: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Santa Clause
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
Being the Ricardos

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