‘Father Figures’: It’s not your mother’s (or brother’s) kind of comedy

SHARE ‘Father Figures’: It’s not your mother’s (or brother’s) kind of comedy

The hot-tempered Roland (J.K. Simmons, center) gets a visit from Kyle (Owen Wilson) and Peter (Ed Helms) in “Father Figures.” | WARNER BROS.

Comedies are strange.

You can bring together a cast of funny people and they can make you laugh — sometimes quite a bit — yet in the end all that doesn’t add up to a good movie.

If you’re looking for proof, go see “Father Figures.” Because that’s really the only reason to go see it.

The cast is outstanding: Ed Helms, Owen Wilson, J.K. Simmons, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken, June Squibb and more (the “more” including football great Terry Bradshaw).

But Lawrence Sher’s film (from a script by Justin Malen, who wrote, ahem, “Office Christmas Party,” another misuse of comedic talent) never amounts to much.

The story is straightforward enough. Peter (Helms) is a proctologist who we meet doing what proctologists do. He’s divorced and his son doesn’t like to be around him. His mother, Helen (Close), is remarrying, so he shows up for the wedding, as does his twin brother Kyle: Wilson at his Wilsoniest.

Kyle made a fortune bumming around a beach in Hawaii when someone asked if they could use his likeness on a brand of barbecue sauce. Millions of bottles later, he’s rich and as carefree as Peter is uptight.

Long story short: At the wedding the brothers find out that their father did not die of cancer, and that in fact Helen isn’t sure who he was. (“It was the ’70s” is the basic explanation.) So Peter and Kyle set out on a trip to find their real father.

What follows is not so much a movie as a series of set pieces as the brothers meet one candidate after another. There’s Bradshaw, the sketchy Roland (Simmons) and veterinarian Dr. Tinkler (Walken).

The idea is that as they search for their father they will find themselves, or some such thing. There are weird bits of drama tossed in as age-old resentments flare. Katt Williams is funny as a weirdly wise hitchhiker they pick up on their journey. But really, if you’re going to throw in a possible-incest subplot, you really have to have the audience on your side. “Father Figures” doesn’t really manage that.

Of course there are some laughs. These are funny people, doing ostensibly funny things. That’s the idea, anyway.

But everyone here has been better, and funnier, in other things. This is a lazy story, wholly dependent upon the likability of its cast which, while considerable, isn’t enough to make it worth the trouble.

Bill Goodykoontz, USA TODAY Network


Warner Bros.presents a film directed by Lawrence Sherand written by Justin Malen. Rated R (forlanguage and sexual references throughout.). Running time: 113 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.

The Latest
About 5 a.m., a car was traveling south in the 7000 block of South Jeffery Boulevard when it ran over four males.
Victor Manuel-Reyes, 36, was arrested Friday after he was identified as the person who rode on a scooter and sexually assaulted women.
The announcement from his agent followed news that the lauded writer was removed from a ventilator Saturday and able to talk and joke.
The Chicago Botanic Garden, marking its 50th anniversary with outdoor art, strives to delight, preserve and teach.
The area’s top 10 pass catchers include a Notre Dame commit, the Public League’s top prospect and four Big Ten recruits.