There are those who recognize Gilbert Gottfried as the brash, squawky voice behind the parrot Iago in Disney’s “Aladdin” and, formerly, the Aflac duck; and those who know him as a fearlessly filthy-mouthed, politically incorrect comedian’s comedian.
Both camps are in for a sweet surprise with “Gilbert,” Neil Berkeley’s alternately hilarious and heartfelt documentary portrait of the diminutive 62-year-old eccentric as we’ve never seen him before — an attentive brother and adoring husband and father.
No one could be more shocked by the development than Gottfried, an intensely shy introvert who would appear more in his comfort zone going on the road to gigs at places with names like Zanies and Side Splitters rather than hanging out in a tastefully decorated Manhattan apartment with his wife, Dara, and two young kids.
Berkeley doesn’t skimp on those inspired bits of performance footage that earned Gottfried an early fan base that included Eddie Murphy, Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford, or on knowing commentary by the likes of Jay Leno, Penn Jillette, Whoopi Goldberg, Howie Mandell and Arsenio Hall, but it’s those domestic sequences that prove most revealing.
Whether it’s watching Gottfried accompany his acclaimed photographer sister, Arlene, to the hospital for cancer treatments (she succumbed to the disease in August) or seeing Dara vacuum-packing her notoriously thrifty, hoarder hubby’s sprawling collection of hotel room toiletries, “Gilbert” emerges as a tenderly observed, remarkably insightful keeper. No joke.
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; Ahrya Fine Arts, Beverly Hills