Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ed Helms, Owen Wilson, Glenn Close, J.K. Simmons, Terry Bradshaw, Christopher Walken, Ving Rhames, Harry Shearer, June Squibb, Katie Aselton, Zachary Haven
Written by: Justin Malen
Directed by: Lawrence Sher
MPAA Rating: R for language and sexual references throughout
Running Time: 113
Date: 12/22/2017

Father Figures (2017)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Oh, Brother...

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This almost totally fails as a comedy, with broad, unfunny, dumb jokes (such as Owen Wilson and a young boy urinating on each other), though it does marginally better at the goopy, heartwarming parts.

In Father Figures -- formerly titled Bastards -- Peter Reynolds (Ed Helms) is disappointed with his life. He's divorced, his son seems to loathe him, and he can't stand his job as a proctologist. He goes to his mother's wedding — she's met a man she loves — and runs into his twin brother, Kyle (Wilson), who seems to have a perfect life and a perfect girlfriend in Hawaii. He learns that the man he thought was his father was not, and that Peter and Kyle's real father could be one of several men ("it was the 1970s"), starting with football legend Terry Bradshaw.

So Peter and Kyle embark upon a road trip to discover the truth, meeting Bradshaw's next-door neighbor (Ving Rhames), picking up a friendly hitchhiker (Katt Williams), and meeting several candidates, including a "repo man" (J.K. Simmons) and a veterinarian (Christopher Walken). But the truth is far more complicated.

Father Figures relies on the narrowest, laziest definitions of characters imaginable, and the humor that springs from them always seems forced, as if the jokes had been shoehorned into place. One so-called running joke is that Terry Bradshaw constantly ignores Kyle and pays attention only to Peter. The movie never explains why, nor why it's supposed to be funny.

As it goes, however, it seems to start caring about its two brothers. Some of the exchanges without jokes come fairly close to sounding real and heartfelt (although not totally). The climactic denouncement is, impressively, not an easy solution, and it makes for a couple of very nice moments while the brothers process it. Perhaps this could have been better as an indie drama? (Think Jeff, Who Lives at Home, also with Ed Helms.)

Unfortunately, the movie blows this ending with an embarrassing, insulting "one year later" epilogue in which everything turns out just fine (and the brothers are rich, besides).

Best Buy Co, Inc.