Father Figures, 2017.
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.
Road trip comedies survive or fall off the chemistry of the the leads and the situational comedy that arises from their trip. In the case of Father Figures, formerly known as Bastards, Owen Wilson and Ed Helms have good enough chemistry together, but they are not enough to save this film that’s largely devoid of true comedic moments.
Wilson and Helms play twin brothers who discover their mother has lied to them their whole lives about who their father is. The pair set off on a trip across the country to discover who their actual father is from a list of possibilities, meeting characters like a convicted felon now repo man, a veterinarian and NFL star Terry Bradshaw.
As stated, Wilson and Helms have good enough chemistry with each other, but neither does anything really new in their roles. They feel like a mix of characters from their previous films, with Helms playing the annoyed straight man and Wilson playing the aloof comedic one. Its nothing we haven’t seen before from them several times already and their dysfunctional relationship is given the stereotypical brotherly relationship in comedies such as this. Its not really delved into very deeply why their relationship is so tense and estranged to begin with except on a surface level.
Indeed, everything about this film stays on the surface. There’s some stuff about Helm’s rough relationship with his son, but the film never really goes into exactly why his son hates him (the majority of this story is left on the deleted scenes). Even their visits with the possible fathers fall into a predictable category. Each visit goes through the same motions and doesn’t really offer many surprises. The only two big revelations come towards the end of the film, one being genuinely funny and the other giving the film a nice emotional beat, but by that time its too little too late.
The rest of the supporting cast does okay, but none really stand out apart from J.K. Simmons as a former Wall Street executive turned convicted felon. Out of all the possible fathers, Simmons is the only one who breaths any life into them and adds a fair bit of comedy to the proceedings thanks to his line delivery and how unlike his other roles this is. Katie Aselton has some very good chemistry with Helms in one of the few funny scenes in the film, making it a shame she’s in it so little and is used primarily for shock value in her big scene. Glenn Close isn’t in the film very much at all, but definitely makes that emotional moment at the end of the film one of the few standout moments for the actors and story.
For a road trip comedy, the humour in Father Figures doesn’t help very much at all. Several of the jokes don’t land and often veer into crude territory for some cheap laughs. Owen Wilson, for instance, actually gets peed on by a young child and returns the favour while each of the potential fathers, Terry Bradshaw included, openly talk to Helms and Wilson how great of a lay Close was despite their obvious discomfort with such a topic. The only real light to the comedy are Simmons and Aselton’s scenes, but again they’re not enough to make the film funny.
The blu-ray doesn’t contain very many special features at all. There’s a 5-minute gag reel which, much like the movie itself, isn’t very funny and feels more like a collection of deleted scenes. The actual deleted scenes, however, run for 20 minutes and with most of them its easy to see why they were cut. Among those deleted scenes are more scenes involving Helms’ character and his son, played by Zachary Haven, which give more light into why exactly their relationship is so tense, and another scene between Helms and Aselton. The scenes between Helms and Haven actually provide a lot of context for what Helms’ character is going through and how he takes the lessons the road trip taught him to become a better father in his own right. Its strange why the film cut that storyline. Aside from the gag reel and deleted scenes, that’s all there is.
Father Figures is a comedy that lacks much of that as well as heart. There’s some nice emotional beats by the end of the film, but its too late at that point to really matter to change much in the film. Helms and Wilson are stuck playing variations of the same characters they’ve played previously and the supporting cast doesn’t do too much to help this film either. The blu-ray’s lack of bonus content also makes this an even more lacklustre blu-ray. It’s definitely a miss and a trip not worth taking.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ Movie: ★ ★