This doc loves this comic legend as much as we do.
“Taxi Driver,” “Modern Romance,” Broadcast News,” “Defending Your Life,” “Finding Nemo,” “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World,” and “Drive.” The list goes on and on, because Albert Brooks has made a name for himself as a comedian and an actor. The new made-for-Max doc “Albert Brooks: Defending Your Life” knows how to tell his story, despite its 28 minute length, and it knows him and wants to get his story out there.
Albert Brooks was born Albert Lawrence Einstein (you know Albert Einstein), because his father-comedian Harry Einstein (A.K.A Parkyakarkus)-wanted to see if the theory of relativity was proven wrong. Well, look where it led into. Let’s just stick to Albert Brooks for the time being, shall we?
Director Rob Reiner makes this documentary with a “My Dinner with Andre” theme as he and Brooks sit down in a restaurant to talk about the comedian’s career. It ends up making sense because they’re both sons of comedians and singers, and they’re both born the same year: 1947 (not that it’s a big deal or anything).
He also has to interview a number of people (Conan O’Brien, Chris Rock, Wanda Sykes, Sarah Silverman, Tiffany Haddish, Jon Stewart, Steven Spielberg, Jonah Hill, and Larry David, etc.) about how he influenced them and made them laugh.
Albert is able to talk about his father’s success, when he knew how to make the audience laugh and read a menu very quickly. And he also talks about his actress mother Thelma Leeds, whose credits include “The Toast of New York,” “New Faces of 1937,” and Brooks’ “Modern Romance.”
He was even approached by Lorne Michaels to make him the star of a sketch comedy show, but he suggested he show instead host “Saturday Night Live” with different hosts. He did, however, direct six short films for SNL. So, I guess we have him to thank in those notions.
I first learned Albert’s name was when he voiced the overprotective clownfish father Marlin in “Finding Nemo.” That was a classic Pixar film from my childhood, and I’m so excited for the film to talk about that, as well as his guest voice work on “The Simpsons.” You know when he was credited as “A. Brooks.” He’s able to talk about how Pixar put his “Defending Your Life” lines into Marlin as a sample, and how his son got scared of the film’s opening scene regarding the death of Marlin’s wife Coral. So, it’s very rare we get to see a documentary talks about animated movies on the side, and I was even glad when they include his characters on the poster.
“Albert Brooks: Defending My Life” may be shorter than the Sylvester Stallone doc “Sly,” but it still shares its passion for the great comedian, who has been able to expand his horizons as an actor and filmmaker. Reiner directs the film and interviews the actor with a fun and considerable vibe, and his interviewees are able to speak their hearts out about Brooks.
If you’ve seen some of his best stuff, then you should see this doc for representing them with the right timing.
Streaming on Max this Saturday
This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA strike.