Fresh on Blu-ray: ‘FATHER FIGURES’ – a desperate and lame attempt at comedy

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James Cole Clay // Film Critic,

FATHER FIGURES

Rated R , 101 minutes
Director: Lawrence Sher
Cast: Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close, J.K. Simmons, Terry Bradshaw, Christopher Walken

FATHER FIGURES has a major identity crisis. It’s a movie that’s criminally unfunny and nauseatingly saccharin. Like a crummy comedian begging for laughs, this is the type of flick you’re just hoping you’ll connect with. Directed by HANGOVER cinematographer Lawrence Sher and released as Christmas counter-programming to STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI and JUMANI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE, it’s the movie the world has already forgotten.

There are too many options out there these days to waste time on a movie so inauthentic.
FATHER FIGURES follows two fraternal twin brothers, Peter and Kyle Reynolds (Ed Helms and Owen Wilson), who head out on a road trip to meet their father, who they thought was dead for decades. Their mother, Helen (Glenn Close), gives them a few options, and the brothers use this as an opportunity to do some detective work and bond along the way.

Owen Wilson, left, stars alongside J.K. Simmons and Ed Helms in ‘FATHER FIGURES.’ Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Sher can’t decide what he wants this story to be: a raunchy comedy, or a talkie indie? The ideas scratch the surface, but there’s nothing thematically to mine from these guys. The two leads give scattershot performances, bringing so-called comedic charm. Helms plays a depressed (another) dentist who spends his nights watching LAW & ORDER: SVU and trying to bond with his son. Wilson is the polar opposite; he’s a care-free rich guy. Each brother is equally irritating, and the performances Helms and Wilson give are thoughtless in every conceivable way.

On the road trip, the brothers meet a cast of (supposed) zany characters played in cameos by Terry Bradshaw, J.K. Simmons, Christopher Walken and Katt Williams. These red herrings are used as fodder to discuss the sexual exploits of their mother in the 1970s — from times at Studio 54, to other occurrences I’ve already forgotten. It’s just hard to imagine that this is a movie anybody, except men with an identity crisis, would watch. And even then, just go rewatch BREAKING BAD.

FATHER FIGURES is a textbook way of how to make a lazy comedy. It rests somewhere in the range of A BAD MOM’S CHRISTMAS and just above an Adam Sandler Netflix venture. The movie is filled with the same trite studio-approved bits — from elderly jokes, to using the only African American, Williams, to play a hitchhiker turned magician. It’s appalling and frankly just boring. These bits didn’t work in 2002, and they surely don’t work now in the “woke age” of filmmaking. And to add to it, as a cinematographer, Sher has very little interest in making this comedy visually sumptuous, using the same bland shot compositions mixed with bland soundtrack choices.

Wilson (who helped scribe one of the great familial comedies in THE ROYAL TENANBAUMS) and Sher seem like a match made for a good father-son tale. However, FATHER FIGURES is the antithesis of charm, and its intentions are transparent and desperate.

Grade: F

Extras:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Gag Reel (Blu-ray exclusive)