Father Figures: Flaccid comedy with a criminally lazy script

Review: Owen Wilson phones in yet another riff on his character from ‘Zoolander’

Father Figures
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Director: Lawrence Sher
Cert: 15A
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, J. K. Simmons, Katt Williams, Terry Bradshaw, Ving Rhames, Harry Shearer, June Squibb, Christopher Walken, Glenn Close
Running Time: 1 hr 53 mins

Come back, Daddy’s Home 2; all is forgiven!

It takes all of three minutes for the unfortunate viewer to realise why this flaccid comedy was released without being screened for the press.

Father Figures presents as a slut-shaming paternity farce in which grown-up and estranged fraternal twins Peter (Helms) and Kyle (Wilson) learn that their biological father did not, as previously thought, die when they were young. Instead, their mother, Helen (Close), was a Studio 54 belle, who spent the 1970s "high and f**king".

The prime suspect is former American football star, Terry Bradshaw (playing himself), but as the hideously photo-shopped promotional poster for the film suggests, there are other gentlemen in the frame. Say hello to JK Simmons, a paranoid debt collector; Ving Rhames, playing (another) NFL star with biblical knowledge of mom that he's eager to share; and Christopher Walken, a veterinarian called Tinkler, a surname that is probably supposed to be amusing.


In theory, it's not the destination, it's the journey, or more precisely the road-trip that throws together tightly wound, divorced doctor Helms, and free-spirited, baloney-talking Wilson, phoning in yet another riff on the characters he has previously essayed in You, Me and Dupree and Zoolander.

A criminally lazy script from Justin Malen, author of the similarly abysmal Office Christmas Party, forgets to mine a single joke from the mismatched siblings. The closest this unbearably unfunny film comes to humour, is in reminding the viewer (early and often) that Helms is a proctologist. ("I look at assholes all day," he explains in his best medical terminology).

Elsewhere, thighs will remain thoroughly unslapped as we encounter an older lady swearing (a committed June Squibb, despite the poverty of the material) and a romantic encounter with a woman who may or may not turn out to be a biological sister.

Debuting director Lawrence Sher, a cinematographer who has brought a touch of class to many unlovely Hollywood comedies (The Dictator, the later Hangover movies), can do nothing with the material. To be fair, Billy Wilder's comic precision wouldn't have brought much to this party.

And the plot! Such as it is. The biological truth, when it is finally revealed in an over-extended denouement, will astound you with its inconsequentiality. Why did mom keep this a secret for decades? And where did that last two hours of my life go?

"The universe is an asshole," observes Owen Wilson, at the end of his unremarkable journey. The movieverse, while watching Father Figures, is a far more malicious orifice.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic