"The Comedian" lacks focus

Robert De Niro appears in a scene from "The Comedian."

With so much talent in front of camera, and behind, "The Comedian" should have been a can't miss crowd-pleaser.

Instead it proves to be a bit of a disappointment, an overstuffed character study that wastes the talented cast in a film that feels like it is several movies fighting with each other.

Robert De Niro stars as Jack Burke, an aging comic who can't shake his one claim to fame - an iconic television character that Burke has come to resent.

His career hits rock bottom when he is sentenced to community service after punching a heckling fan during a stand-up gig.

That community service proves to be a good thing however, when he meets Harmony (Leslie Mann), a younger woman with her own checkered past - which includes her sleazy real estate mogul dad (Harvey Keitel).

Jack and Harmony strike up a friendship, that may be the spark to help Jack revive his career.

If ever a movie is a mixed bag, "The Comedian" is it. 

For every scene that works, it seems to be followed by a scene that undermines the previous one.

De Niro and Mann headline a cast that also includes Edie Falco, Danny DeVito, Charles Grodin, Cloris Leachman and cameos from comedians (including a brief "Analyze This" reunion with Billy Crystal).

But as the cast expands, so does the story - which just feels more and more bloated and exhausting as it goes along. It's a movie that feels like it has five screenwriters (including comedian Jeff Ross, whose influence can be seen in the many scenes in comedy clubs).

The film eventually meanders down a pretty familiar path - evoking memories of the Tom Hanks and Sally Field film "Punchline" as well as De Niro's previous work in "The King of Comedy."

It all builds to a joke in the final scene that almost feels like the starting point for the concept of "The Comedian." By then the audience will be ready for "The Comedian" to get off the stage already.