It took Justin Malin just thirty-six hours to sell the script for Father Figures, once titled Bastards. The fact that Paramount went on to drop it – spurring the first of many delays – suggests that they hadn’t read the script; the fact that Warner Bros. didn’t suggests that they still haven’t. Dull as dishwater.
Much like its journey to release, which was extended further by re-edits following poor test-screenings, Father Figures is an arduous experience. Ed Helms and Owen Wilson play unlikely twin brothers: Peter and Kyle Reynolds: one’s an uptight, Law and Order watching, prostate doctor, the other flows with the Universe and gives Hawaiian greetings with his hot, young partner Kaylani (Jessica Gomes) – bet you can’t work out who plays who.
When, at the latest wedding of their mother Helen (Glenn Close), Peter discovers that the father he and Kyle believed died of colon cancer in their youth was in fact a fiction of their mother’s creation, the pair set off on a road trip, so-called: ‘Operation Who’s Your Daddy’. Long-held family secrets are packaged for shocking revelation along the way, not to mention a succession of men ready to crassly declare Helen ’a dick whisperer’ and as having, in the seventies, possessed ‘the tightest ass’. If the gag’s awkwardly sexist the first time, it’s down right embarrassing the second, third and fourth…and fifth.
Repetition is the primary sin of this limp not-quite-comedy, directorial debut of The Hangover trilogy’s cinematographer Lawrence Sher. Composed like a lifeless Mamma Mia, Malen’s script sets up Terry Bradshaw (the actual retired American footballer), J.K. Simmons and Christopher Walker as potential ‘father figures’, with Peter and Kyle trooping around – courtesy of seemingly boundless financial resource – to repeat the same formula on each one. Basically: you’re our father-reaction-oops…you’re not our father-move on.
In between these forays to fatherhood, every single scene and diverting sequence has no more purpose than extending the lack of action, the worst of these being a tediously overlong escapade involving a hitchhiker. Not only is the development is totally irrelevant and utterly dim – a key plot point here is that said hitchhiker (Katt Williams) is black and weird – the whole thing is rendered infinitely worse when the three of them wind up squabbling in a car, in the middle of nowhere, about the women they’ve ‘banged’ and all the money they’ve wasted throughout their insipid lives. Not, of course, that you believe for a moment that these are characters with any vestige of real backstory to substantiate them to three dimensions.
The cherry, meanwhile, on this under-baked cake is that the poor material is being performed by the proven talents of Close, Simmons and Walken, each of whom must be receiving a substantial paycheque. At the centre of the film, and devoid of chemistry, you have Wilson on autopilot and Helms on the Titanic.
Whilst Father Figures itself suffers from a dearth of vigour, viewers will likely hurt similarly from its lack of wit or originality. Approaching one would-be papa, Wilson declares: ‘I’m getting good energy here’. God knows where from.