Movie Review: 'Father Figures'

Dimwitted comedy mistakes premises for jokes.

Was there a gun to someone’s head forcing them to make the movie Father Figures? I am struggling to understand how this movie exists. Father Figures stars Ed Helms and Owen Wilson as twins, we’ll get to that, who go on a road trip to visit men who may or may not be their biological father. The film seems to have been slapped together without much thought or care or with any semblance of humor.

Father Figures stars Owen Wilson as Kyle and Ed Helms as Peter. Kyle is a surfer bum who did some modeling as a younger man and lucked into a long term gig as a beer spokesman. Life has always come quite easily to Kyle but not so much to his brother, Peter. Though he was always a good student, he was also geeky and shy and instead of pursuing the life he wanted he settled for becoming a proctologist. To give you an idea of the humor of Father Figures, apparently just saying the word proctologist counts as a joke.

So, Peter is jealous of Kyle, Kyle’s life isn’t the paradise he makes it out to be, lather, rinse, repeat. You’ve seen these characters in a dozen other similar comedies. The brothers don’t get along so their mother, Helen (Glen Close), concocts a scheme to bring them closer together. On the day she is getting married she tells her sons that she doesn’t know who their biological father is.

This angers both men causing them to rent a car and investigate mom’s sexual history to figure out who their biological father might be. Naturally, this is a very sensitive subject that can be very emotional and lead to many questions about personal identity and the makers of Father Figures just want to use it is as a poor excuse for a raunchy road comedy.

For an interminable two hours we watch as Helms and Wilson, who, I remind you are supposed to be TWINS(!!!), awkwardly introduce themselves to various men and claim that man as their father. There is no lead up, no set up, no investigation or attempts at gently broaching the issue, no they simply walk up, ask someone for their name and without a word announce that person is their father, like a child asking a stranger for candy.

This is supposed to lead to wacky hijinks but the script is nothing but a series of premises. The twins are first convinced that NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw is their dad so they go to his home, knock on the door, and say they are his sons. Bradshaw immediately takes them in and they play catch and share awkward, unfunny banter about how sexually adventurous their mother was back in the day. I realize that the comedy of awkwardness has become the prevailing fashion in comedy in recent years but there is still something to be said for having an actual joke somewhere in the mix.

The twins will repeat this ritual three more times, give or take, with diminishing returns each time. J. K Simmons is wasted as a criminal with a soft spot for Close, Christopher Walken shows up to do a little of his Christopher Walken schtick, and the film winds on to a conclusion that I won’t spoil here though I am not sure if I actually could spoil it as convoluted and tacked on as it is. 

Father Figures is the first directorial effort from long time Cinematographer Lawrence Sher and just how invested is he in his directorial career? He’s already working as a cinematographer again on the next Godzilla movie. The screenplay is from Justin Malen who wrote last year’s Office Christmas Party, another movie about overgrown children where joke premises took the place of actual jokes.

Father Figures is dopey and moronic, lazy and slapdash. It’s the film equivalent of a shrug. The director doesn't care, the screenwriter just rehashed a few awkward notions and the cast is on auto-pilot, hoping that the checks clear. Glenn Close, for some reason, appears to be trying to act at times but that's about all of the effort you will see in Father Figures should you choose to waste your money. 

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Movie Review: 'Father Figures'
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