‘Father Figures’ Movie Review: Owen Wilson and Ed Helms Find No Laughs in Their Daddy Hunt

Watching “Father Figures” is like finding a piece of food in the back of your fridge that you barely recognize, but know right away it’s not worth eating. Ostensibly a comedy in which Ed Helms and Owen Wilson try to find the dad they never knew, it unfurls its stale scenarios of familial grievance, R-rated gags and white male anxiety with a breathtaking level of laziness.

The weird thing is, a couple of smart, funny dudes this year have done well mining the neurotic Caucasian dad world for prickly, insightful entertainment: Noah Baumbach with “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” and Mike White with “Brad’s Status.” But “Father Figures,” which marks the directorial debut of “Hangover” cinematographer Lawrence Sher, and was written by Justin Malen (“Office Christmas Party”), exhibits the faint aura of a fill-in-the-blanks Hollywood assignment (for example, “plug up a hole in Owen Wilson’s schedule”), after which someone drew dirty pictures in the margins.

Helms plays Peter, an embittered, divorced father of a teenage boy (Zachary Haven) who hates him, and twin brother to a chill layabout named Kyle (Wilson) whose moneyed life in Hawaii with a sexy young bride (Jessica Gomes) is the exact opposite of Pete’s: charmed and carefree. Reunited at the wedding of their mother Helen (Glenn Close), the brothers learn that their dad wasn’t a husband who died when they were young, but an unknown out of many possible sexual assignations their mother had in the swinging ’70s.

Also Read: Sony Pictures Classics Acquires North American Rights to Glenn Close’s ‘The Wife’

The revelation is enough to send Peter and Kyle on a road trip together to find their father, and because they don’t get along — well, it’s really Pete’s churlish negativity versus Kyle’s untroubled positivity — the movie practically guarantees a certain amount of bickering and infantilized behavior. As Yoda might say to the screen, “The jinks are high with this one.”

In Miami, the pair scope out Terry Bradshaw (playing himself, which he’s good at) as a potential parent, and then must endure highly graphic depictions of their mother’s sexual prowess from the ex-Steeler and a fellow NFL retiree (Ving Rhames) before the brothers’ quest is known to the footballers. (That this requires you to imagine Glenn Close in these pornographic reveries is more like a joke played on a great actress than an actual joke.)

Tipped off that their dad might have been a Wall Street wunderkind who once partied at Studio 54 with their mom, the brothers then head off to find Roland Hunt (an expectedly committed J.K. Simmons), who turns out to be a dragon-tattooed, gun-wielding hermit whose antics nearly get them killed.

Also Read: Comedy Central Sets ‘Fake News With Ted Nelms’ Special Starring Ed Helms

Certain scenes are simply headscratchers: a rest area stop that leads to Kyle urinating on a boy, and the picking up of a hitchhiker (Katt Williams, valiantly playing along) that involves tying him up because the brothers think he’s a serial killer. (Um, Peter’s the one with serial killer eyes, no?) On their way to Wooster, Massachusetts, to explore the possibility that their dad was a decorated cop, Peter successfully flirts with a woman at a hotel bar, and when I jotted down, guessing, a certain sexual taboo in my notes, I was right.

A movie that makes Peter a proctologist partly for the rectum humor, that is race-queasy and glibly sexist, isn’t too hard to figure out in other ways. Sher shows no special affinity for comic pacing or enlivening dialogue scenes, either, so the movie just plods from scene to scene, building no momentum.

Also Read: TBS Greenlights Daniel Radcliffe-Owen Wilson Sitcom, Snoop Dogg-Hosted ‘Joker’s Wild’ Reboot

The autopilot vibe extends to the stars, too. Helms is running on fumes here with his humiliated-dweeb shtick, the movies he’s making a far cry from the sad sack promise he showed in “Cedar Rapids” and “The Office.” Wilson is Wilson — he always at least tries to have chemistry with his buddy vehicles — and it’s safe to wonder if he’ll still be trying to pull off the same beach-kissed, holistic groove when the movies are about retirees pulling off heists. (Grandpa Owen has a free autumn: sign him up!)

At the end, after Christopher Walken and a terribly used Ali Wong share scene time with a cat’s enlarged testicles in a veterinarian’s office, “Father Figures” makes a hard swerve into emotionality for the big reveal about the brothers’ origins. What you’re left with isn’t a warm feeling about mothers and sacrifice; you’ll just wonder why this had to be a big secret in the first place.

Neither committed to forging new comic ground with its wackiness, or savvy enough to make us care about a family journey, “Father Figures” is its own dad stereotype: it’s never there for you.



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Watching “Father Figures” is like finding a piece of food in the back of your fridge that you barely recognize, but know right away it’s not worth eating. Ostensibly a comedy in which Ed Helms and Owen Wilson try to find the dad they never knew, it unfurls its stale scenarios of familial grievance, R-rated gags and white male anxiety with a breathtaking level of laziness.

The weird thing is, a couple of smart, funny dudes this year have done well mining the neurotic Caucasian dad world for prickly, insightful entertainment: Noah Baumbach with “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” and Mike White with “Brad’s Status.” But “Father Figures,” which marks the directorial debut of “Hangover” cinematographer Lawrence Sher, and was written by Justin Malen (“Office Christmas Party”), exhibits the faint aura of a fill-in-the-blanks Hollywood assignment (for example, “plug up a hole in Owen Wilson’s schedule”), after which someone drew dirty pictures in the margins.

Helms plays Peter, an embittered, divorced father of a teenage boy (Zachary Haven) who hates him, and twin brother to a chill layabout named Kyle (Wilson) whose moneyed life in Hawaii with a sexy young bride (Jessica Gomes) is the exact opposite of Pete’s: charmed and carefree. Reunited at the wedding of their mother Helen (Glenn Close), the brothers learn that their dad wasn’t a husband who died when they were young, but an unknown out of many possible sexual assignations their mother had in the swinging ’70s.

The revelation is enough to send Peter and Kyle on a road trip together to find their father, and because they don’t get along — well, it’s really Pete’s churlish negativity versus Kyle’s untroubled positivity — the movie practically guarantees a certain amount of bickering and infantilized behavior. As Yoda might say to the screen, “The jinks are high with this one.”

In Miami, the pair scope out Terry Bradshaw (playing himself, which he’s good at) as a potential parent, and then must endure highly graphic depictions of their mother’s sexual prowess from the ex-Steeler and a fellow NFL retiree (Ving Rhames) before the brothers’ quest is known to the footballers. (That this requires you to imagine Glenn Close in these pornographic reveries is more like a joke played on a great actress than an actual joke.)

Tipped off that their dad might have been a Wall Street wunderkind who once partied at Studio 54 with their mom, the brothers then head off to find Roland Hunt (an expectedly committed J.K. Simmons), who turns out to be a dragon-tattooed, gun-wielding hermit whose antics nearly get them killed.

Certain scenes are simply headscratchers: a rest area stop that leads to Kyle urinating on a boy, and the picking up of a hitchhiker (Katt Williams, valiantly playing along) that involves tying him up because the brothers think he’s a serial killer. (Um, Peter’s the one with serial killer eyes, no?) On their way to Wooster, Massachusetts, to explore the possibility that their dad was a decorated cop, Peter successfully flirts with a woman at a hotel bar, and when I jotted down, guessing, a certain sexual taboo in my notes, I was right.

A movie that makes Peter a proctologist partly for the rectum humor, that is race-queasy and glibly sexist, isn’t too hard to figure out in other ways. Sher shows no special affinity for comic pacing or enlivening dialogue scenes, either, so the movie just plods from scene to scene, building no momentum.

The autopilot vibe extends to the stars, too. Helms is running on fumes here with his humiliated-dweeb shtick, the movies he’s making a far cry from the sad sack promise he showed in “Cedar Rapids” and “The Office.” Wilson is Wilson — he always at least tries to have chemistry with his buddy vehicles — and it’s safe to wonder if he’ll still be trying to pull off the same beach-kissed, holistic groove when the movies are about retirees pulling off heists. (Grandpa Owen has a free autumn: sign him up!)

At the end, after Christopher Walken and a terribly used Ali Wong share scene time with a cat’s enlarged testicles in a veterinarian’s office, “Father Figures” makes a hard swerve into emotionality for the big reveal about the brothers’ origins. What you’re left with isn’t a warm feeling about mothers and sacrifice; you’ll just wonder why this had to be a big secret in the first place.

Neither committed to forging new comic ground with its wackiness, or savvy enough to make us care about a family journey, “Father Figures” is its own dad stereotype: it’s never there for you.

Related stories from TheWrap:

Christmas Box Office Preview: Can New Movies Survive in 'Star Wars' Shadow?

Billy Joel, J.K. Simmons, Jimmy Fallon Belt Out Doo-Wop Version of 'The Longest Time' (Video)

Tina Fey, Robert Carlock to Receive Honorary Comedy Prize From WGA East

Beer and Boasting in Las Vegas: the Story of a Fox Comedy Premiere at 30,000 Feet

Father Figures is an Owen Wilson/Ed Helms comedy that’s barely there at all

It doesn’t speak highly of a comedy when one of its lead actors declining to do much actual comic shtick counts as a respite. Father Figures may be largely unfunny, in that few of its jokes work and they are given a vast, 113-minute expanse in which to not work, but at least Ed Helms isn’t playing another…

Read more…

It doesn’t speak highly of a comedy when one of its lead actors declining to do much actual comic shtick counts as a respite. Father Figures may be largely unfunny, in that few of its jokes work and they are given a vast, 113-minute expanse in which to not work, but at least Ed Helms isn’t playing another…

Read more...

‘Jumanji’ Roars Past ‘The Greatest Showman’ in Wednesday Box Office Opening

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” earned a solid $7.2 million on its opening day Wednesday, on track for its $45 million six-day opening.

Meanwhile, Fox’s “The Greatest Showman” grossed $2.45 million on Wednesday. It’s projected to have a six-day opening in the low-to-mid $20 million range against an $84 million budget.

Made on a budget of $90 million, “Jumanji” will try to peel off some family audiences and the 18-35 demographic with its quartet of box office drawing stars: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan. The film also has critics on its side, currently giving it an 77 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film’s CinemaScore is A-.

Also Read: ‘Jumanji’ Star Nick Jonas on His ‘Bromance’ With Jack Black and the Viral ‘Jumanji, Jumanji’ Video

Directed by Jake Kasdan and based on the 1995 Robin Williams adventure film, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” follows four teens who wind up in detention and find a mysterious video game, which is actually the Jumanji board game from the first film transformed into a video game cartridge. When they play it, they get sucked inside the game and are transformed into their game avatars. With the help of another player who fell into the game 20 years ago (Nick Jonas), the quartet must find a way to escape. The film was written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner.

“The Greatest Showman” is directed by Michael Gracey from a script by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon with songs written by “La La Land” lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson and Michelle Williams star. The film has been nominated for three Golden Globes, including Best Musical or Comedy, Best Original Song, and Best Actor for Jackman.

“The Greatest Showman,” a musical based on the life of famed circus founder P.T. Barnum, has received mixed reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a score of 48 percent. However, it has received a CinemaScore of A.

Also Read: ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ Film Review: A Mainstream Moviegoing Miracle

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is expected to continue its winning streak in its second weekend at the box office, looking to exceed another $100 million. So far, “The Last Jedi” has earned $261.8 million domestically, and $536.6 million globally.

Christmas weekend at the box office is going to become more crowded, as Trish Sie’s “Pitch Perfect 3,” Lawrence Sher’s “Father Figures” and Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing” are also opening in wide release.

In addition to these wide releases, Fox Searchlight’s “The Shape of Water” and Focus Features’ “Darkest Hour” will expand nationwide while other awards contenders like Fox’s “The Post,” Sony’s “All The Money In The World,” STX’s “Molly’s Game,” and Focus’ “The Phantom Thread” will also make their entrance.

Related stories from TheWrap:

‘The Greatest Showman’ Film Review: Hugh Jackman’s Barnum Musical Is an Empty Tent

Watch Zendaya, Zac Efron Accidentally Collide During ‘Greatest Showman’ Outtake (Video)

Jack Black, Nick Jonas Debut Absurd ‘Jumanji’ Music Video

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” earned a solid $7.2 million on its opening day Wednesday, on track for its $45 million six-day opening.

Meanwhile, Fox’s “The Greatest Showman” grossed $2.45 million on Wednesday. It’s projected to have a six-day opening in the low-to-mid $20 million range against an $84 million budget.

Made on a budget of $90 million, “Jumanji” will try to peel off some family audiences and the 18-35 demographic with its quartet of box office drawing stars: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan. The film also has critics on its side, currently giving it an 77 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film’s CinemaScore is A-.

Directed by Jake Kasdan and based on the 1995 Robin Williams adventure film, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” follows four teens who wind up in detention and find a mysterious video game, which is actually the Jumanji board game from the first film transformed into a video game cartridge. When they play it, they get sucked inside the game and are transformed into their game avatars. With the help of another player who fell into the game 20 years ago (Nick Jonas), the quartet must find a way to escape. The film was written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, and Jeff Pinkner.

“The Greatest Showman” is directed by Michael Gracey from a script by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon with songs written by “La La Land” lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson and Michelle Williams star. The film has been nominated for three Golden Globes, including Best Musical or Comedy, Best Original Song, and Best Actor for Jackman.

“The Greatest Showman,” a musical based on the life of famed circus founder P.T. Barnum, has received mixed reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a score of 48 percent. However, it has received a CinemaScore of A.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is expected to continue its winning streak in its second weekend at the box office, looking to exceed another $100 million. So far, “The Last Jedi” has earned $261.8 million domestically, and $536.6 million globally.

Christmas weekend at the box office is going to become more crowded, as Trish Sie’s “Pitch Perfect 3,” Lawrence Sher’s “Father Figures” and Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing” are also opening in wide release.

In addition to these wide releases, Fox Searchlight’s “The Shape of Water” and Focus Features’ “Darkest Hour” will expand nationwide while other awards contenders like Fox’s “The Post,” Sony’s “All The Money In The World,” STX’s “Molly’s Game,” and Focus’ “The Phantom Thread” will also make their entrance.

Related stories from TheWrap:

'The Greatest Showman' Film Review: Hugh Jackman's Barnum Musical Is an Empty Tent

Watch Zendaya, Zac Efron Accidentally Collide During 'Greatest Showman' Outtake (Video)

Jack Black, Nick Jonas Debut Absurd 'Jumanji' Music Video