‘Father Figures’ is offensive, borderline hostage situation


“Father Figures” is a movie, ostensibly. I’m pretty sure it is. Moving images were projected, along with recorded sound, which indicates it is a movie. But the effect was so listless, low-energy and profoundly unentertaining that I jotted down in my notes, “what even IS this?” It would be more accurate to describe the experience as a nearly two-hour borderline hostage situation, with torture involving bad, offensive and unfunny “comedy.”

The protagonists are brothers Peter (Ed Helms) and Kyle (Owen Wilson), who are “twins.” Sure. Peter is a divorced doctor, with a kid who hates him and a personal life that consists predominantly of “Law & Order: SVU” reruns. He’s deeply envious of Kyle, a beach bum who’s made millions licensing his likeness to a barbecue sauce company.

At the wedding of their mother, Helen (Glenn Close), Peter, desperately unhappy with the banality of his cushy upper-middle class life, self-soothes with an episode of “SVU,” when he becomes convinced one of the actors is their long-lost father. He’s not, but it triggers a round of questioning about his parentage, which sets the brothers on a cross-country road trip.

First, they head to Miami to find football star Terry Bradshaw, the name Helen initially throws out. But it soon becomes a wild goose chase up the Eastern Seaboard dubbed “Operation Who’s Your Daddy” as the bros dig up Helen’s exes from the last days of disco.

Cinematographer Lawrence Sher makes his directorial debut with the film, which is about as captivating as a flaccid noodle. Awkward bits of brotherly rivalry or ribaldry go on for far, far, painfully too long, and all of the energy is strangely subdued and muted. All momentum is sapped from the film, which requires extreme amounts of patience to endure.

But, the true offense comes from the blinkered and completely tone-deaf script by Justin Malen. That it’s not funny and makes no sense would be bad enough, but there’s a virulent strain of sexism, too. Every woman the brothers encounter is evaluated for their sexual potential, not anything else. Their own mother, played the legendary Close, is reduced to a running joke that involves the exes repeatedly describing her sexual skills.

Tack on a wildly misguided and totally random scene wherein the brothers pick up a hitchhiker, played by Katt Williams, and things go from bad to worse. Uptight Peter worries about the safety of picking up a stranger but insists he isn’t suspicious because the potential rider is black, so Kyle demands to know if he’s a serial killer. They give him a ride — tied up with jump ropes in the backseat. The brothers then bicker over how many girls they each hooked up with in high school and how much money they make. How could anyone involved in this project possibly think this was a good idea?

There’s an entire sub-genre of films now where Helms is the vessel for expressing a collective white male anxiety about masculinity, but played for laughs, because why face issues head on? Those stories deserve to be told, but not at the expense of others, and the limited, privileged worldview of “Father Figures,” which is laced with a cutesy, insidious streak of sexism, homophobia and racism makes for a bromantic comedy that illustrates how exclusion will be Hollywood’s downfall.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Movies & TV

It’s a Deal: We will follow wherever the Breeders want to go
It’s a Deal: We will follow wherever the Breeders want to go

There’s a decent argument to be made that Kim Deal has had one of the most free range, “do what I want, when I want” careers in music. The Breeders perform Saturday, April 21, at Emo’s in Austin. Kyser Lough/For American-Statesman From a late ‘80s/early ‘90s string of classic records with the Pixies to...
Old Settler’s music and spirit shines through, in all kinds of weather
Old Settler’s music and spirit shines through, in all kinds of weather

You want variety of music AND weather? The Old Settler’s Music Festival had it covered on Saturday. Blues to bluegrass to country to classical to gospel to folk to rockabilly: Check. Cloudy to light rain to heavy rain to rainbow to sunset to starshine to dense fog? Check. Storms were in the forecast for much of Central...
This week’s music picks: Perfume Genius, Haim, Marcia Ball, Wine Down and more
This week’s music picks: Perfume Genius, Haim, Marcia Ball, Wine Down and more

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-XQkDyEwQo&w=492&h=307] Monday: Perfume Genius at Emo’s. “No Shape,” the 2017 release from Perfume Genius, is a lush and lovely collection of ebullient synth jams and heart-tugging ballads. In his early work, openly gay frontman Mike Hadreas explored his struggles with addiction...
Will calorie counts on menu items do more harm than good?

Starting in May, you can expect to see calorie information labels on more restaurant menus, as the Food and Drug Administration starts enforcing the national menu labeling law that was passed in 2010 as part of health-care restructuring. All chain restaurants and other food establishments with 20 or more locations will need to post calorie information...
What is Earth Day? 5 things to know
What is Earth Day? 5 things to know

Sunday is Earth Day 2018, and more than one billion people across the globe are expected to celebrate with environmentally friendly events. But what exactly is Earth Day? Here's what you need to know: >> Read more trending news  The first Earth Day celebration took place 48 years ago, in 1970, after a devastating oil spill in America brought...
More Stories