Father Figures, 2018.
Directed by Lawrence Sher.
Starring Ed Helms, Owen Wilson, Glenn Close, J.K. Simmons, Harry Shearer, and Ving Rhames.
Peter (Ed Helms) and Kyle (Owen Wilson) are polar opposite twin brothers; the former is a physicist who specialises in the colon, the other a lucky lay about who got rich from being in the right place at the right time. When they discover that their presumed dead father is actually alive, they embark on a road trip to meet all of their mother’s (Glenn Close) ex-partners in order to find him.
Here’s a fun fact, and that might be the only time the word ‘fun’ is used within the next few hundred words, Father Figures was originally titled Bastards, which is problematic when it comes to the film display outside your local multiplex. However, it should have been the least of the film’s concerns, because hidden behind the middle-of-the-road name change is a film full of crass jokes that you’ve heard countless times before, and a road trip movie in which “are we there yet?” has never felt more appropriate.
Father Figures is from another time, not just because it feels as though this is a script that has been dusted off from the rejected pile during the Will Ferrell/Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughn era of success, but due to the standard of laughs on offer. There is a moment in which Owen Wilson’s character (names aren’t important) fondles a woman’s breasts because a drink has been spilt on them. That hasn’t been funny or acceptable since 1970’s British sitcoms.
On Wilson, he appears to be channeling his Meet the Parents shtick, a film that Father Figures is striving so hard to be. As with Hall Pass and The Internship, he seems content to revisit the same character over-and-over again with diminishing effect. The only real joke that lands for him is a Luke Skywalker gag, but much like the rest of the movie, you’re pretty sure you’ve heard it all before.
Helms doesn’t fare much better, with the cripplingly unfunny nature of it all only exacerbating his repetitive uptight performance. Remember his role in The Hangover? Copy and paste that and you’ll get the idea.
In fairness, despite the barrel scraping lowbrow nature of scenes like Wilson peeing on a child in a bathroom (seriously), there are some laughs to be had. Glenn Close reliving her Studio 54 days of hedonism is quite chucklesome, there’s a whispering receptionist, and a revelation at a wake provides some dark laughs.
The film is just too long though, even with a paucity of laughs the concept is stretched to breaking point. There’s a moment an hour in during which the characters are having their final reel epiphanies, only for you to look at your watch and see you have another forty minutes to endure.
This is where Father Figures fails completely, by attempting to play the emotional card. Had the characters been worth investing in, their game of who’s-the-daddy? might have paid off, but when you’ve sat through male wish fulfillment (beautiful girl at a bar who’s willing to fall for their complete lack-of-charm), toilet humour, and lots of arse gags, you couldn’t care less.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★