By Lynn Venhaus

This movie would work better as a stand-up routine, for taking Bill Burr’s familiar cranky white guy rant into a broader community setting makes for a chaotic buffet-style narrative that is mainly throwing jokes out there to see what lands.

Burr, who is a funny no-filter comedian that is reluctant to embrace societal change and unapologetic about his discomfort with woke mindsets, is often relatable about his struggles to fit in to the modern world.

“Old Dads” is about a middle-aged father and his two best friends after they sell their sports apparel company to a millennial. They find themselves out of step and behind the times as they struggle to navigate a changing world of culture, career, and fatherhood.

As Jack Kelly, a bitter 46-year-old but loving husband and father living in Woodland Hills, Calif., he’s not the only Gen X-Baby Boomer mired in the past, for his childhood buddies are not going gentle into the good night either.

Connor Brody, played in cookie-cutter mode by Bobby Cannavale, is an old dude trying to be hip and cool. Mike Richards, as played by Bokeem Woodbine, is content not to marry his girlfriend and doesn’t want more children because he has two grown Ivy League graduate sons by his ex-wife, is the most undeveloped and frustrating chauvinistic character.

There is humor in people not happy with anything past 1987 and the ever-changing times. But it also wears thin after incessant macho postering. Enough with anatomy jokes!

Dealing with competitive progressive pre-schools and parenting kids today is also ripe for mocking, especially tiptoeing around indulging, not disciplining, youngsters. And that is the movie’s saving grace, because helicopter parenting is ridiculous.

Burr’s belligerence can’t be softened, really, and that’s applauded by some while others cringe, such is the cultural zeitgeist these days. And don’t bring up white privilege to him. He’s good at poking fun at modern absurdities but does get carried away about victimhood (however, that’s his ‘schtick’).

Old Dads. (L to R) Bokeem Woodbine as Mike, Bill Burr as Jack, Katie Aselton as Leah in Old Dads. Cr. Michael Moriatis/Netflix © 2023.

As co-writer with Ben Tishler, Burr touches on many issues that are deemed offensive in today’s diverse, inclusive society that it becomes boorish midway and inexplicably, piles on lots o’ sex jokes. Why men behaving badly at a strip club that doubles down into Neanderthal territory is supposed to be some sort of epiphany? Clumsy at best, really stretching patience thin.

And are the sitcom antics of grown men not happy in their marriages still laugh-worthy? This is Burr’s directorial debut and he’s not convincing us, because the guys aren’t that likable with their self-centered stubbornness.

Oh sure, they love their wives and children, but do they really evolve beyond some supportive dialogue after a movie full of tirades? And parenting is only a fraction of this movie.

The wives, all beautiful, do show some gumption but they put up with a lot of icky. Katie Aselton is Jack’s pregnant wife Leah, Jackie Tohn is Connor’s controlling wife Cara, who speaks in psychobabble, and Reign Edwards is Mike’s pregnant wife Britney.

Now, what is funny is the changing workplace. When the three besties sell their business, they still show up for work, and it’s all New-Agey thinking on display. Playing the Millennial CEO Aspen Bell is Miles Robbins, who may look familiar because he is the son of Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, and his comedic instincts are sharp. He’s believable and fun to watch, and when he helps the guys out in the third act, his storyline goes nowhere after that.

The movie is such a mixed bag that a discourse on smoking cigars and vaping goes on interminably – with Paul Walter Hauser in a cameo. And speaking of drive-by appearances, Bruce Dern is a looney ride-share service driver? C. Thomas Howell is a guy who goes off the grid in New Mexico groomed to be the new face of the company’s sportswear?

Funny bits about e-scooters and planning school benefits strike chords, but obviously “Old Dads” is specifically meant for an audience who’d rather armchair-quarterback life than go out there and make the most of the 2020s, enlightened or not.

“Old Dads” is a comedy directed by Bill Burr, starring Burr, Bobby Cannavale, Bokeem Woodbine, Rachael Harris, Miles Robbins, Katie Aselton, Reign Edwards and Jackie Tohn. It is rated R for pervasive language, sexual material, nudity, and brief drug use and runs 1 hour, 44 minutes. Streaming on Netflix starting Oct. 20. Lynn’s Grade: C-

By Lynn Venhaus
A cheeky live-action prequel that delves into the down-and-out origins of one of Disney’s iconic villains, “Cruella” is a dark tale of dueling divas hell-bent on revenge.

That’s an unexpected underdog twist – and this glossy reimagining bursts with a bold, brassy attitude.

Estella de Vil (Emma Stone) wasn’t born to be bad, but she was a nonconformist at an early age.

Born with the unmistakable two-tone hair, Estella’s a creative but mischievous child (a spunky Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) who is a handful for her mother (Emily Beecham).

When she strikes out on her own on the streets, that begins her relationship with Jasper and Horace, who are rakishly played by character actors Joel Fry of “Yesterday” and Paul Walter Hauser of “Richard Jewell” as adults — good-hearted blokes. They survive as grifters.

But the future fashionista has a dream and is singled out by superstar designer The Baroness (Emma Thompson), who likes her style – and appropriates it for her collections. Haughty and vain, the Baroness has destroyed everyone in her way – but has she met her match in Cruella? The rebellious alter ego of Estella, Cruella’s punk rock outfits are redefining fashion in 1970s London, and it is game on!

The story, long in the works, was first drafted by screenwriters Aline Brosh McKenna, Kelly Marcel and Steve Zissis. McKenna wrote “The Devil Wears Prada” and you see those fingerprints all over this latest chapter in the “101 Dalmatians” oeuvre by co-screenwriters Dana Fox and Tony McNamara.

This is where Emma Thompson takes over, commanding every frame she is in, with personality and pizzazz, as she forges Estella/Cruella’s identity.

A chance encounter with The Baroness von Hellman, the prima donna of haute couture, puts Estella on the path to realize a career as a designer. As played by Thompson, the wickedly evil Baroness is a despicable human and corrupt fashionista. As Cruella learns more, she stakes her claim as  “The Future” of fashion. She takes swinging London by storm.

This is when the movie explodes with fresh and fun outfits in a swirl of black, white and red — the notorious colors associated with all things Cruella. Jenny Beavan’s costume designs are marvelous, a big loud rebel yell of punk-inspired outfits and gorgeous evening garments perfect for dramatic entrances. Beavan’s won Oscars for “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “A Room with a View,” and her use of different fabrics and textures is stunning.

These costumes are worn with flair by two of our best actresses, Oscar winners Stone and Thompson, who have a ball with the campier aspects of their roles — but also vividly create their characters’ dead-serious nature.

As for the Dalmatians that first created the Disney franchise all the way back to 1961, three mean ones appear as the pets of the Baroness. Hence, Cruella’s aversion to the spotted creatures. Estella’s own pet dog is a beloved mutt named Buddy.

Stay past the credits to find more on Anita and Roger, a nod to Pongo and Perdita’s future family.

The source material for all of the successive movies, including the live-action “101 Dalmatians” in 1996 and the 2000 “102 Dalmatians” starring Glenn Close as the imperious villain, has been Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel.

She turned a character’s last name from Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” Count de Ville, into this greedy villainess, driving a Rolls Royce and barking orders to her henchman, to fill her insatiable need for animal fur.

Where the franchise is headed after “Cruella” is anyone’s guess – because how would Stone’s character turn into the menacing de Vil that steals the dogs for their fur?

Well, that discussion is for another day, but it’s a logical question – where does it go from here after Cruella takes over Hell(man) Hall?

As for a stand-alone movie, “Cruella” is a vibrant creation with a banging period soundtrack and a game cast.

Just as he did with “I, Tonya,” director Craig Gillespie zigs when you expect him to zag.

The Baroness’ actions are too frightening for young children, so parents be aware. There is nothing remotely cute about this movie.

But as it is Disney, expect lots of merchandise, tie-ins and another one in the works. That’s about the only predictable element to this film.

“Cruella” is a 2020 comedy-drama directed by Craig Gillespie. Starring Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Kirby Howell-Baptiste and Mark Strong. Rated PG-13 for some violence and thematic elements and the run time is 2 hours, 14 minutes. It is available in theaters and on Disney Plus for a one-time premium access fee on May 28. Lynn’s Grade: B+

In theaters and on Disney Plus with Premier Access one-time additional fee May 28