Raging Bull

Thirty years later, Jake LaMotta has become Jack Byrnes, the comic, glowering patriarch of Little Fockers (opening Dec. 22), which will earn Robert De Niro far more viewers—and far more money—than his Oscar-winning role in Raging Bull. De Niro has increasingly turned to comedy in his late career, a more respectable alternative than sad, fat LaMotta’s own stab at showbiz after the ring. Because, really, who can sustain all that tortured intensity? De Niro famously gained and lost 60 pounds to play the middleweight champ in Martin Scorsese’s 1980 biopic, the second of their great collaborations together. Afterward, nothing they’ve done—together or separately—has achieved quite the same terrible grandeur. Little Fockers, like its two predecessors, celebrates family through slapstick and humiliation (mostly suffered by Ben Stiller), and De Niro doles out most of the punishment. Conversely, his character in Raging Bull destroys his family with pathological jealousy, communicating only with violence (both giving and receiving). Yet however gentled in his current casting, De Niro carries LaMotta with him still; the actor builds comedy on a foundation of pain. (NR) BRIAN MILLER

Dec. 10-15, 7 & 9 p.m., 2010

 
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