Few stars worked harder to promote their new film than Sebastian Maniscalco.
The 50-year-old comedian showed up everywhere to promote “About My Father,” from major TV platforms to a press junket that had him talking to dozens of journalists in one feverish day.
That’s on top of his social media work and time behind the mic at “The Pete and Sebastian Show.”
The film marks his bid to become a bona fide movie star following smart supporting work in “The Irishman” and “Green Book.”
“About My Father” is based on Maniscalco’s personal story and his brand – smart, funny, mostly PG-rated and infused with a love of family. It’s a rom-com, of sorts, but the couple in question is a father and son realizing they need each other more than ever.
And audiences stayed far, far away from the comedy over the weekend.
Not only did “About My Father” haul in an anemic $5.25 million over the four-day holiday frame, it lost out to “The Machine,” a less-heralded comedy by fellow stand-up Bert Kreischer.
What went wrong?
The film’s trailer leaned more on lowest common denominator laughs than the heart of the story, for starters. Co-star Robert De Niro has made too many flat comedies in recent years, from “Dirty Grandpa” to “The War with Grandpa.”
It doesn’t help that De Niro did his anti-Trump shtick while promoting another film in recent days, “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
The title should have been workshopped harder, too, but other problems were self inflicted.
The team behind “Father” could have cushioned the box office fall by connecting the film’s core themes to an audience too often ignored.
“About My Father,” like Maniscalco’s public persona, is all about the American dream, family and the value of hard work. A core film subplot has two key characters turning back generous offers to support their careers.
They’d rather earn it themselves, thank you.
That, plus Maniscalco’s anti-Cancel Culture mindset might have coaxed a few more Heartland citizens to give “About My Father” a try.
The most shocking VMA moment … ever!
Sebastian Maniscalco Triggers VMAs, Woke Journalists https://t.co/bVG5hlzzKR VMAs2019
— Christian Toto (@HollywoodInToto) August 27, 2019
Chances are, either the film’s marketing didn’t reach out to them or they didn’t realize the story spoke to Red State types in such a profound way.
That’s an unforced error. Consider:
They might have offered the film’s star to the only late-night show still cranking out original shows — Fox News’ “Gutfeld!”.
Of course, Greg Gutfeld explained to Adam Carolla why he can’t get more A-list stars on his show last year. Publicists fear any connection to right-leaning audiences.
Maniscalco similarly didn’t appear on “The Ben Shapiro Show” podcast or Glenn Beck’s syndicated radio program.
Would that have prevented “About My Father” from tanking at the box office? Possibly. Nothing is guaranteed in La La Land, and the film’s terrible debut may have been inevitable.
The film would have had a greater chance had it connected to a crowd eager to hear its message.