Robert De Niro (Robert De Niro) and another actor (not Robert De Niro) attend a Robert De Niro movie marathon in this commercial for Santander Bank starring Robert De Niro.
  • Robert De Niro (Robert De Niro) and another actor (not Robert De Niro) attend a Robert De Niro movie marathon in this commercial for Santander Bank starring Robert De Niro.
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Who coined the phrase “laughing all the way to the bank” and later amended it to, “You know that bank I used to laugh all the way to? I own it now.” None other than Mr. Showmanship himself, Liberace!

For the past decade or so, Robert De Niro has been skipping the same giggly path to riches as his glitzy predecessor.

Looks like his latest achievement — a self-reflexive turn in a TV commercial for Santander Bank — is Bobby D’s ground-floor endeavor to work his way to the top.

Signs of decay began appearing as far back as Neil Jordan’s wretched remake of We’re No Angels (1989) in which Bob and Sean Pean spend 101 minutes exchanging pop-eyed glances amidst Popeye production designer Wolf Kroeger’s eye-popping sets.

Angels was soon followed by the one-two punch of a duo of intellectually challenged (and critically challenging) characters. Did anyone actually buy into De Niro’s illiteracy in Marty Ritt’s Stanley and Iris or his mental rebirth in Penny Marshall’s mushy test of endurance, Awakenings?

Watching them again, as painful as it was, De Niro comes off as fresh and unaffected particularly in light of his recent spawn. For years I thoughtlessly credited Jackie Brown as the last time De Niro earned his paycheck. In looking over his filmography, my eyes must have skipped past 2001’s The Score, a nifty ‘gangster comes out of retirement to pull off one last job’ crime comedy co-starring Edward Norton and, in his last big-screen performance, Marlon Brando.

That was 12 years ago. The statute of limitations has once again run out.

Is there anything more amusingly pathetic than a man with no apparent sense of humor indulging in self-parody? When De Niro began reciting Travis Bickle’s “You talkin’ to me?” mantra in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, all hope was lost. The “greatest actor of his generation” had become (like Brando, George C. Scott, Mitchum, Lee Marvin, and John Wayne before him) an iconic God for Sale.

Fearless Leader was a performance of Stanislavski proportion in light of what was to come. At one point he confessed to making softer, gentler films that he could bring his family to. Fuck that! If he was so strapped for cash, De Niro would have been better off selling the kids to the gypsies rather than embarrassing the family name with dogs like Hide and Seek, Stardust, The Big Wedding, and Analyze This, That, and the other ‘focking’ franchise bonanza. I’d list more, but I’m too lazy to hot link all the titles.

Red Lights — which played San Diego on a few AMC screens — barely opened in other markets. I recently picked up the Blu-ray for $5. A De Niro movie that holds its premier at Big!Lots?! Next up, the self-parody wagon rolls on with Rocky meets Raging Bull — a dynamite concept were it 1982 — in this Christmas' Grudge Match.

No wonder he’s scrambling to accept all offers, including work in TV series and commercials. No stranger to commercial work — who will ever forget his compelling “My Life. My Card. My financial advancement” spot for American Express? — Bob is scheduled to appear in next year’s season opener of Criminal Justice.

When being Robert De Niro in a television commercial, his impersonation is so broadly drawn as to seem an intentional mockery. Why not bring the ferocity of Johnny Boy or Ace Rothstein to something as safe in nature as a 30-second TV spot? Now that you should see!

His latest performance is an extension of the De Niro character De Niro created for a Time Warner cable commercial. This time, instead of haranguing a married couple on their living room couch, chatty Bobby pesters an audience member at a festival dedicated to his films.

In the theatrical reworking, Bob goes so far as to drop Marty's name as a punchline. You could have said Justin Zackham, Paul Weitz, Jay Roach, John Polson, Matthew Vaughn, Peter Segal, or any number of lesser filmmakers you've worked with in the year's since Casino, but you said you and Him. That meant something, Bobby.

According to Ad Week, "Santander Bank is sparing no expense in its U.S. rebrand from Sovereign Bank. The company is reportedly spending $200 million on a rebranding campaign for signs, new furniture, and carpeting at its branches, new products, upgrades to its mobile app — and of course, advertising."

I'd like to think that De Niro's disgusted cries of "My character's lifeless...lifeless" or "I'm like a canoe, like a tree" were genuine, unrehearsed reactions to a screening of one of the above-mentioned train wrecks, not words provided by a screenwriter.

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Comments

shirleyberan Nov. 10, 2013 @ 10:57 a.m.

That laughing all the way to the bank, could have been something my (half) brother ed brand said but for it being 2008 when he was trying to own it. ha ha - and If you were DeNiro you'd take the money too.

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