The high-higher-highest hopes engendered by titling your comedy “I Hate Kids” are pretty much dashed by this sentimental romp that never romps.
Joke by groaning joke, scene by clunky, unfunny scene, it’s a DOA farce that wastes another vampy turn by that vamp incarnate, Tituss Burgess of “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”
He plays a radio psychic who stammers through his blunders — “Your wife LOVES that dog!” — and bulldozes past even the simplest blown “reading.”
“I’ve got GREAT news for you, Charles.”
But “three months later,” as a title tells us, The Amazing Fabular’s most far-flung seed bears fruit. Meet Nick Pearson (Tom Everett Scott), popular author of “I Hate Kids,” a best-seller among unhappy parents AND the happily child-free.
Perhaps the biggest blunder of the Frank Dietz,/Todd Traina screenplay is not SAMPLING the book or making ANY effort at having Nick explain his “hate” stance.
He’s just a successful “tongue in cheek” writer whose jokes often land with a clunk, especially at his wedding rehearsal dinner. Nick’s a veteran ladies’ man who has finally found Ms. Right, who also happens to be Ms. “I hate kids, too!”
Sydney (Rachel Boston of “Witches of East End”) has just parroted back to Nick, in front of friends and family, “those three precious words, ‘I hate kids,'” when a 13 year-old boy (Julian Feder) interrupts the festivities with “I’m your SON.”
That’s a great prank to play on a New York Times best-selling author getting Porsche-rich off “I Hate Kids.” Or so everybody thinks.
But the kid won’t let it go. He got the “news” about who his father was from Fabular on the radio. And in his best, stammering Anton Yelchin impersonation, Mason interrupts the bum’s rush Nick is giving him to blurt out “I, I need you to find my mom!”
With The Amazing Fabular (and a DNA test) to “prove” paternity, Nick finds himself lying to his intended, running off with the boy Mason and Fabular and Fabular’s psychic-channel chihuahua Mr. Sparkles (“A service rat?” Nick asks.) in search of which among the many of women Nick slept with 14 years ago could have given up their child.
“Three Christines, two Jennifers, two Barbaras, four Pattys…”
Let’s take Fabular’s 62 Impala SS convertible and head up the California coast. Let’s hope for the best.
“Think she’ll remember you?”
“They never forget.”
We’ve barely established the future Nick is endangering, the thin justification for buying into the kid’s story and taking on his quest (blackmail via “scandal” is suggested, meh). Nick’s “wit” has barely produced a smirk, much less a giggle. But sure, let’s take this beater of a comedy on the road and see if the “mother” candidates can save it.
And let the insults fly.
“You have such a way with words,” Fabular purrs. “You really should be writing cards for Hallmark!”
“If YOU’RE such a good psychic, why can’t you SEE who Mason’s MOTHER is?”
Nick did NOT leave a lot of happy, amicable breakups in his wake. One woman punches him, and while it’s fortunate she’s not the karate instructor Schyler (Beth Riesgraf), she’s not the manikin collecting nut Janice (Arden Myrin, amusingly over-the-top) either. The manikin collector collects flame throwers (Shades of “The Blues Brothers”) too.
This isn’t going to be easy.
Dropping in on the millionairess Christine (Oscar winner Marisa Tomei) isn’t a good idea.
“I didn’t recognize you, Nick. You didn’t AGE well.”
Meanwhile, fiance Sydney is letting her pregnant and suspicious sister (Rhea Seehorn) convince her Nick is up to no good, in between labor pains.
Director John Asher (“A Boy Called Po”) can’t wring laughs out of the gimmes (a too-on-the-nose childbirth scene), much less the mostly sad parade of exes that Nick barges in on and quizzes. Scott, of “That Thing You Do,” cannot make Nick engaging or amusing. The “kid” isn’t funny in the least.
And Burgess, better when he’s working for Tina Fey and her antic stable of “Kimmy Schmidt” zinger-writers, cannot carry “I Hate Kids” with what this script gives him.
The sentimental stuff half-works, but “Kids” never works up any silly sense of “Hate.” Without that conviction, the characters don’t make sense, the scenes don’t set up a debate that sets off sparks and “I Hate Kids” plays like “Actually, I’m not all that keen on kids.”
And that truth-in-advertising title isn’t funny, either.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some suggestive material and language
Cast: Tom Everett Scott, Tituss Burgess, Rachel Boston, Julian Feder, Rhea Seehorn, Adren Myrin and Marisa Tomei
Credits: Directed by John Asher, script by Frank Dietz, Todd Traina A Freestyle release
Running time: 1:29