Father Figures review – Fundamentally flawed, star-studded comedy that combines sexism and slapstick


Father Figures

Fundamentally flawed, star-studded comedy that combines sexism and slapstick

Filmed back in 2015 based on a script called Bastards, the amended title should have been the first of many drastic changes to this star-studded comedy, while Father Figures has been shelved for so long that the contents have curdled. A shaggy-dog story about two brothers delving into their mother’s love-life to discover the identity of their father, the film’s relentless enthusiasm for ‘slut-shaming’ is unlikely to appeal in the age of Me Too.

At the wedding of their mother Helen (Glenn Close), Peter and Kyle Reynolds (Ed Helms and Owen Wilson) are excited by her indiscreet suggestion that their real father was football hero Terry Bradshaw (played by the man himself). A trip to the ex-quarterback’s car dealership quickly dashes their hopes, but provides the first of a series of clues that send the Reynolds boys across America in a quest for their actual dad, with Christopher Walken and JK Simmons among those under consideration.

The script from Justin Malen (Office Christmas Party) relies too heavily on the casual misogyny of the Hangover / Wedding Crashers era of comedy, as each potential father reveals more unwanted details about Helen’s sex-life to her disgusted sons. When these objectionable jokes run dry, ancient slapstick comes into play; a contrived scene in which the twins bicker in their car, unaware that they’re parked on a railway line with a train bearing down on them, stretches credulity to the limit.

Debut director Lawrence Sher has a track-record as a cinematographer specialising in comedy (he worked on all three Hangover movies), but professional expertise can’t resolve the issues of a fundamentally misconceived product, and the accomplished cast – including Ving Rhames, June Squibb and Harry Shearer – are powerless to add value. Wilson and Helms are the right leads for this odd couple tale of friction between a laidback bum and his uptight sibling, but the central conceit (that women enjoying sexual freedom is funny) no longer passes for a joke.

General release from Fri 16 Feb.

Father Figures

  • 2 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 1h 53min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Lawrence Sher
  • Cast: Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close
  • UK release: 16 February 2018

Peter and Kyle Reynolds (Helms and Wilson) are excited by the idea that their real father was football hero Terry Bradshaw (as himself), but when he wasn’t, they go in search of the real man. Star-studded but casually misogynist would-be comedy, whose central problem is the delusion that women enjoying sexual freedom is…



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