Review – The hideously poor ‘Father Figures’ is a road trip down comedy dead ends

Poster for 2018 road trip comedy Father Figures

Genre: Comedy
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 16th February 2018
Runtime: 113 minutes
Director: Lawrence Sher
Writer: Justin Malen
Starring: Ed Helms, Owen Wilson, Glenn Close, JK Simmons, Christopher Walken, June Squibb, Harry Shearer
Synopsis: A pair of adult brothers learn their biological father is not who they thought he was, leading to a road trip in search of their true parent.



In the first scene of Father Figures, Ed Helms‘s character – a proctologist – finds a set of keys lodged up a patient’s anus. You’d be forgiven for thinking that’s the comedic low point in a story that gets better from there. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong, because that’s pretty much the level of hilarity at which Father Figures remains for the entirety of its utterly tortuous near-two-hour running time. It’s one of the laziest and most infuriating comedies of recent years, despite an impressive cast of top comedy performers.

The aforementioned Helms is the uptight Peter, who has pursued a career in proctology as a result of his father’s death from colon cancer before he was born. His brother is the laidback Kyle (Owen Wilson), who is filthy rich because he earns royalties from his silhouette being used on a barbecue sauce bottle. On her wedding day, the lads find out from their mother (Glenn Close) that their real biological father’s identity is actually unknown in a situation that is like Mamma Mia! but with far fewer laughs and without the uncomplicated joy of semi-regular ABBA songs. There’s plenty here that’s far more painful than Pierce Brosnan‘s singing voice.

The problems with Father Figures start with its central duo. Owen Wilson has relaxed so far into his relaxed shtick that it’s impossible to tell whether he’s awake or sleeping for most of the movie and Helms is playing a straight man so straight that he never even seems to attempt to get a laugh. Meanwhile, the supporting cast are all playing characters from different movies, whether it’s Christopher Walken‘s nervous vet or JK Simmons‘s gun-toting car thief.

It’s exhausting to watch this movie, which simply trudges between its various sketches, joined together by lame attempts at soul-searching and over-cranked comedy set pieces. Screenwriter Justin Malen, who has previously brought us such horrors as Office Christmas Party, delivers a script that reaches on occasion for an emotional poignancy that it simply doesn’t deserve, culminating in a final twist that might have been potent in a better film, but feels crass and ill thought out in this context.

Within just a few moments of Father Figures getting started, the reasoning behind its release date is evident. This is a comedy so poor that the best way for Warner Bros to dump it without it making too much of a stink was to offload it right in the heart of Oscars season, where there’s plenty for people to watch. In fact, the only people who’ve seen Father Figures are the sad, devoted critics who would rather have been absolutely anywhere else.



Pop or Poop?

Rating: Poop!

Ed Helms and Owen Wilson are comedic dead stars who are sucked into the all-consuming black hole that is Father Figures – a film so unamusing and insignificant that even its Wikipedia page isn’t sure what its title is. There isn’t a single laugh in the whole thing. I hope the cast were paid very well, because this would’ve been a miserable experience otherwise.


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