Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Review: Father Figures

Father Figures
Cert: 15 / 113 mins / Dir. Lawrence Sher / Trailer

Well, you know you've had a challenging day at the flicks when you're pinning your hopes of a smile on a Warner Bros comedy about an absentee sperm-donor...

Twin brothers Peter and Kyle Reynolds (Ed Helms and Owen Wilson, and before you ask - no, their completely differing looks aren't the punchline for a single joke in here. Twins don't have to be identical of course, but it's almost as if one of them was second-choice casting after the script had been completed). I'll start again...

Twin brothers Peter and Kyle Reynolds are both nominally successful in their chosen fields as a proctologist and the branding-face of a barbecue sauce respectively, but both have a midlife crisis on the horizon. This is accelerated when their mother Helen (Glenn Close) lets slip that their estranged father isn't the man she always said he was. Now, the two have to overcome their superficial differences to venture on a cross-country road trip and track down their real, biological dad. Hilarity ensues. Or at least I imagine those were the final two words of the pitch that secured funding for this to be made.

My laundry-list of complaints with Father Figures is lengthy, broad and simultaneously petty, but I'll try to keep this brief. First and foremost, it's actually amazing - considering their genre-history - that two established comic actors such as Helms and Wilson share absolutely no chemistry on-screen. Their characters have been written to be diametrically opposite at the beginning of the film, but there's little-to-no closure of the gap as it wears on. The road trip formula provides the pace and changing scenery required to drive (no pun intended) a movie of this type forward, but it lacks the sincerity to be either moving or funny, both of which it's clearly aiming for.

The whole thing is just so slack, as if the string of setpieces have been penned by a different writers who have never met, or been given character outlines*1. The twists in each strand are so telegraphed that the film may as well include a synopsis in the opening titles, and the gags use lowest common denominator humour (to be expected), but delivered by a cast who are at least 25 years too old to be doing so with any level of confidence. While (despite the best efforts of writer Justin Malen) the film never quite crosses the line into hateful territory, it's oddly bereft of atmosphere, zest or flow. Like a dress-rehearsal for blocking and lighting purposes, but where the cast assume that the cameras aren't rolling.

Naturally, all of this builds to a sentimental crescendo and closing moral-message which the film has not earned in any way whatsoever. It's by no means the most ill-judged movie I've watched in recent memory, but Father Figures fundamentally fails in its remit as a comedy. Although what can we really expect from a screenplay which uses special needs, incest and colon cancer as throwaway punchlines?

To be fair, one patron found the movie consistently and vociferously funny. Then they packed up their vast collection of snacks and left fifteen minutes before the end, not to return.

Even the fans of Father Figures fucking hate Father Figures...

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Imagine a car crash involving a gender-flipped Mamma Mia! and Identity Thief, except worse than that sounds.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Stream in haste; repent at leisure.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It's not.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Well I'd be delighted to hear your opinions about the film, put it that way.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Well this film's got that Ving Rhames in it, and he was in that Pulp Fiction alongside Sam 'Mace Windu' Jackson, Bronagh 'Maoi Madakor' Gallagher and Phil 'Rebels Bail Organa' LaMarr.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Most telling dialogue exchange: "Hey, at least buy me dinner first, next time!" quips Peter's patient at his proctology clinic. "That's really funny, I've never heard that one before" he deadpans back. But the jaded medical professional does this 30 seconds after saying "Well, the good news is I've found your car keys in here!", which one assumes he uses at least six times a day, pretty much negating any criticism of clichéd responses. It's this sort of glaringly inconsistent characterisation which further embarrasses a cast who appear to plotting how to get the film removed from the IMDB while it's still being made... [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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