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December 27, 2017

'Father Figures' fumbles the comedic chemistry

Review: With such a promising cast, this movie should have delivered the laughs

"Father Figures" is a comedy that stars talented people like Ed Helms, Owen Wilson, Glenn Close, Katt Williams, Terry Bradshaw, Ving Rhames and J.K. Simmons, which makes it odd that its release date was moved three times and that, as of the day before its release, it had no Rotten Tomatoes score.

However, it is not odd at all. This movie is disappointing and, at times, is outright bad.

The premise of "Father Figures" is that two brothers – Helms' uptight proctologist, Peter, and Wilson's surfer-dude persona-as-personality, Kyle, learn after the death of their "dad" that he wasn't their true father after all – and so go on a road trip to find the real McCoy. In the process, they find out more about him than they ever wanted to know – and each other.

If this were played as a straight, crazy, raunchy comedy, "Father Figures" may have had fun with its outrageous premise. However, it falls into the trap of way too many comedies by trying to be a "dramedy," in which the supposed comedic moments are balanced by supposed "real" moments.

Not that this can't ever work. "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," for one prominent example, was crazily funny while still giving us touching, adult moments.

However, the difference is that in that movie, you never forgot that it was first and foremost a comedy. Making the laughs at the expense of characters we cared about made those "touching" moments more deep and real.

Here, the jokes are predictable and many just don't ring true. In one scene in particular, a character tells the brother how much of a "wh**e" their mother was, and not just once. He goes on and on to the point that just about anyone would be offended, and those who aren't might find it boring. It certainly isn't funny.

Another joke run into the ground is that Peter "looks at butts all day." The rest of the humor – save for a few quick moments with Bradshaw – is just predictable and falls flat. Even Simmons' character comes off as a caricature – and one that doesn't evoke any chuckles.

But what really sinks "Father Figures" is that it never settles on even trying to be a pure comedy. It tries so hard to be touching and meaningful. It's like Wilson's speech near the end of "Wedding Crashers," only by every cast member and for the entire movie.

The movie would have been better served going for all-out zaniness. Instead, way too much time is spent on non-funny surfer-dude speeches from Kyle and telling us for the 50th time how uptight Peter is.

This is a shame, because Helms and Wilson do have enough chemistry and look like they can make a funny movie together.

Unfortunately, "Father Figures" isn't it.