Lawrence Sher's Father Figures is a tame R-rated comedy, with Ed Helms and Owen Wilson mostly just playing extensions of themselves, only with a lot less flare and excitement. It's not an awful film -- it's just far from good.
Lawrence Sher‘s Father Figures (formerly Bastards) has had a somewhat lengthy history getting to theaters, after having been shelved, re-scheduled and re-named before finally bowing into cinemas nationwide, just in time for the Holidays. Ed Helms and Owen Wilson deliver paycheck performances as they road trip across America, in search of their father, while also bonding as brothers that were never too close, mothered by Glenn Close.
As an R-rated comedy, Father Figures is rather tame and unoriginal, straying away from truly raunchy or filthy humor in exchange for dropping the “F” bomb a few times and referencing their mother’s long list of unprotected sexual endeavors. That’s where the film’s corny story comes into play, both brothers were raised their entire life thinking that their father passed away from colon cancer (dumb joke on that coming in a second). Peter (Helms) went as far as dedicating his entire career looking at buttholes to prevent colon cancer for others, which is referenced a dozen times as he voices his frustration and anger towards his mom (Close) and idiot brother Kyle (Wilson). HE’S BEEN LOOKING AT ASSHOLES HIS ENTIRE LIFE, PEOPLE!
The two brothers have grown distant and instead of simply hosting a family reunion, their newly-wed mother has decided to finally tell them the truth about their father, in hopes of bringing them together in their search for him.
This search leads them to Terry Bradshaw, J.K. Simmons and even Christopher Walken, before they reach the lame conclusion that is telegraphed from a mile away. Heck, even Katt Williams pops up as a random hitchhiker that helps them along the way.
The problem with Lawrence Sher‘s Father Figures isn’t that the cast is wrong or that his direction is incredibly plain (which it kind of is), it’s that Justin Malen‘s script is spotty and Sher’s direction isn’t strong enough to elevate the material or elevate the stars. Ed Helms and Owen Wilson have both been in much worse, but they’ve also been in a lot better. Their performances here are barely interested, if not mildly annoyed by their pairing up.
The supporting cast doesn’t stick around long enough to make an impact, despite J.K. Simmons‘ repeated robbery comments providing the most laughs.
There’s simply just not enough material on the table to be expanded on. Sher’s direction looks and feels very basic, like a polished commercial that doesn’t feel like taking any liberties, while Malen’s script is one-note and cares very little about actually investigating its characters and finding the root of their problems.
The film wraps things up into a nice little bow at the end, which is probably why WB decided to drop it into theaters around Christmas time. There’s not enough R-rated material to warrant the R-rating and there’s not enough excitement in the script to get its comedic stars to actually put forth the effort.
Father Figures is a paycheck movie for everyone involved and a time-waster for audiences around the world. I’m not going to lie and say that it made me mad, because it honestly felt brisk enough and harmless enough for me not to care too much, but it’s not something I’d suggest wasting your money on. I laughed a handful of times and I knew exactly where the story was headed. I just wish Helms and Wilson could’ve turned the film around, but they just didn’t seem to be invested enough into the material to care.