This is what comic purgatory looks like. Actors, trapped in a laugh-free road comedy called “Father Figures” — a paying (gullible) audience, slack-jawed in dismay, trapped there with them for two hours.
It co-stars Owen Wilson, with the fresh tailwind in his career that a supporting loving-dad turn in “Wonder” gives him, decided he just had to play one more surfer-doofus/free spirit.
Ed Helms plays Wilson’s character’s twin brother, an uptight proctologist who can’t find a laugh, even in the obligatory up-your-bum jokes. He’s got “The Ben Stiller Role” in this buddy comedy, twitchy, irked, the same facial tics. Hell, he even looks like Stiller in a couple of scenes — Stiller on stilts, anyway.
Whatever one thinks of Wilson’s aging, desperately-preserved screen persona, the only words that come to mind for Helms are, “What the hell HAPPENED to you, man?”
You’ve seen the trailers or the TV ads, so you know basically the whole movie. Mom (Glenn Close) finally admits to her 40something boys, on her wedding day that she’s lied to them about the father they never met.
Pete (Helms) has felt this void keenly, taking up his profession because Mom always said their father died of colon cancer. Funny. Divorced, bled by his ex and hated by his tweenage son, he can’t keep the bile down for long.
Kyle (Wilson)? He never really cared, just a lucky free spirit who stumbled into being the label model for a best-selling brand of barbecue sauce, lives in Hawaii, has a newly-pregnant young Hawaiian girlfriend.
But if finding their Dad will make his brother happy, he’s down. Mom’s first lead is this affair she had with footballer Terry Bradshaw, thrilled at the thought he might have two more sons (More proof of the NFL’s CTE cover-up?).
But he wasn’t the only Steeler of the ’70s she entertained. Ving Rhames plays a retired linebacker with equally explicit memories of Mom’s mammaries.
“We only cuddled.”
Their cross-country odyssey then takes them to a hunkered-down ex-Wall Street baron (J.K. Simmons) living holed up with his mom (June Squibb) and so on.
Some potential dads get misty-eyed over Mom, others launch into explicit descriptions of her sexual specialties.
“It was the ’70s!”
The script is all random encounters, “traveling shots” set to music and dead-end scenes — getting urine soaked in an interstate men’s room, picking up a sadly-subdued Katt Williams as a hitchhiker and getting hit by a train, a bar hook-up.
And hell’s bells, none of it is the least bit funny. You’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the movie. No, the trailer’s not funny either.
Cinematographer-turned-director Lawrence Sher took a job from any number of unemployed directs with talent. Screenwriter Justin Malen wrote “Office Christmas Party.”
And in a just universe, they’d be the only ones in two hours of comic purgatory, not us, and not the should-know-better Helms and the ever-hapless Wilson.
MPAA Rating:R for language and sexual references throughout
Cast: Owen Wilson, Glenn Close, Ed Helms, Christopher Walken, J.K. Simmons, Ving Rhames, Terry Bradshaw
Credits:Directed by Lawrence Sher, script by Justin Malen. A Warner Brother release.
Running time: 1:53