Dad Stop Embarrassing Me! review: Netflix show is a trashy, dated return for Jamie Foxx to the small screen
Dad Stop Embarrassing Me! is probably what kids these days might term as a 'throwback' to simpler times, nut that's no excuse to re-manufacture silliness from a bygone era.
Sometimes it's fair on a viewer's part to be confounded by an actor's choice of project. Why would a Bryan Cranston, on the heels of superstardom because of Breaking Bad, and a maiden Oscar nod for Trumbo, choose to star in a trashy Hollywood comedy like Why Him? Especially in the same year where he's co-producing and starring as Lyndon B Johnson in the critically-acclaimed TV movie, All The Way? What explains this varied interest? It could possibly be an 'easy paycheck' or an actor wanting to do a 'light movie' where they don't have to suffer for the sake of their art. Who can dismiss the fact that even 'serious' actors want to have fun on some sets? Closer home, whenever I've interviewed serious actors like Sanjay Mishra or Pankaj Tripathi about why they continue to play supporting roles like a Total Dhamaal or a Golmaal 4, their reasons are quite similar. They compare these so-called 'commercial' films to T20s, while an actorly assignment is more like a Test match. One needs to have sound technique to do well in both. After all, actors who spend a large part of their careers kneeling in the temples of their art, want to make an impression on the masses too.
And this perhaps is one of the reasons why we're witnessing Jamie Foxx's return to the small screen, after nearly two decades as a feature-length Hollywood hero. However, one also wonders if he put enough love and sincerity into this 'comeback' like he has in some of his recent films, like 7Pixar's Soul or a prestige production like Just Mercy. The answer is... a long and hard 'no'. Dad Stop Embarrassing Me!, currently streaming on Netflix, is a trashy and flippant encore for an actor, who has proved his mettle in better projects. To think that Foxx is even co-producing this sitcom does more harm to his legacy, than good.
Seeming like a 90s show lying in the cans for almost two decades, Dad Stop Embarrassing Me! is primarily built around a dysfunctional relationship between Brian Dixon (Foxx) and his daughter, Sasha (Kyla Drew). After her mother's untimely death, Sasha moves to live with her father, who runs a cosmetics business in Atlanta. Brian and Sasha are accompanied by Brian's father, Pops (David Alan Grier) and Brian's sister, Chelsea (Porscha Coleman) in the house. There's a stock white character, Johnny (Jonathan Kite), who also happens to spend an unnatural amount of time in the Dixon household. It's a typical sitcom set-up, where everyone screams their dialogue to each other, there's no room for subtlety. Brian and Pops frequently break the fourth wall, looking into the camera, and provide an unnecessary voice-over for the scene. It never quite seems to land as a 'trick' till the very end of the show.
There are the usual gags of Foxx playing a clueless father asking his teenage daughter what Tik Tok is? He also plays the part of the overprotective father of a teenage girl, who goes around issuing threats to teenage boys without the slightest hint of novelty. Pops is used as a device to slip in one 'inappropriate' joke after another, only for characters to remind him how 'he could get cancelled' for this. In a track where Brian is being 'seduced' by a model half his age, Foxx's character looks into the camera and says something to the effect of "In another time I would have acted differently, but I gotta be responsible now. After all, she works for me..." The sitcom seems to be bemoaning the evolution of the genre in the last 20 years, which take the low-hanging fruits out of the picture. The 'comedy' in this show seems right out of a time capsule from the 90s, where Foxx exaggerates the struggles of fitting into skinny jeans, and plays other characters like a hippie reverend, a grumpy pot-bellied relative, and a smug bartender. Foxx isn't lacking in enthusiasm, but all these roles are painful to endure, considering how they're played without a hint of irony.
The show is incompetent through most of its running time, but it becomes borderline 'abominable' when it tries to mine jokes out of a 'white cop' character dealing with a Caucasian thief inside a 7/11 convenience store. The show's production possibly began around the same time when America was witnessing the 'Black Lives Matter' protests, for the murder of George Floyd. Foxx, with his celebrity and influence, trivialises the matter of police violence, using it to come up with a feeble punchline. It seems incomprehensible why the makers would go ahead and include such a sequence in the show, even if they shot it before George Floyd's death. The sensitive thing would be to take it out, considering the delicate circumstances. It's also the same episode where, Foxx's character reprimands his white friend for doing a Bill Clinton impression from when he confessed to having no 'sexual relations' with Monica Lewinsky on national television. Foxx says "this isn't 1994" -- something he should have also said to his writer's room.
Dad Stop Embarrassing Me! is probably what kids these days might term as a 'throwback' to simpler times, however that's no excuse to re-manufacture silliness from a bygone era. This would work if there was any real intent to do it, like say, how Wanda Vision did. But that's the thing with this show, it has no vision. It wants to be 'entertaining'. Dad Stop Embarrassing Me! seems like a culmination of all low-hanging fruits one can imagine from a bygone sitcom era. One-note characters, who are forced to play a 'type' throughout the entire show's run-time: check. Rampant sexism, racism parading as pointed 'humour': check. An overdependence on Jamie Foxx's movie-star charisma: check. Foxx goes so far to invoke his character from Django, where the 'D' is silent' to mine laughs. At which point, even the most loyal fans might feel sorry for him and look him in the eye while saying - "stop embarrassing me, Jamie."
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