Blu-ray Review: Father Figures

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Father Figures arrives on Blu-ray and DVD via Warner Bros. Home Entertainment boasting a big-time cast led by Owen Wilson and Ed Helms. If this one flew under your radar last Christmas season, that's probably because you were busy with Star Wars, Jumanji, or any one of numerous other holiday hits. Father Figures, after a year-long delay, delivered one of the worst wide-releases in recent memory. Playing at some 2,900 locations, the Ivan Reitman production landed with a thud at number nine, barely $3 million, and almost immediately began a swift vanishing act.

However, tempting though it may be, never judge a movie by its box office gross. If ticket sales had any correlation with quality, the aforementioned (and execrable) Star Wars: The Last Jedi would be one of cinema's greatest artistic achievements. This of course doesn't mean that Father Figures is an unheralded masterpiece. But to be fair, it's really no better or worse than any number of more successful comedies of its ilk. As a rental, when you can't bring yourself to watch anything more challenging, it'll fit the bill for some easy laughs.

Wilson and Helms play brothers Kyle and Peter. Neither actor does anything they haven't done multiple times (and in better movies). They're overgrown adolescents who become desperate to learn the identity of their biological father. Turns out their mom Helen (Glenn Close) got around quite a bit in the '70s. While shes always maintained Kyle and Peter's dad passed away prior to their birth, they boys find out they've been lied to all their lives.

Most of the fun in Figures occurs early on as Kyle and Peter confront many of their mother's exes. This allows for a parade of supporting performances by the likes of J.K. Simmons, Ving Rhames, Christopher Walken, and a very funny Terry Bradshaw. As the unnecessarily lengthy running time (nearly two hours) unfolds, the good-natured vulgarity gives way to a mawkish sentimentality. First-time director Lawrence Sher wants Figures to be rude'n'raunchy and warm'n'fuzzy at the same time. The former qualities give the film a deserved R-rating, while the latter elements take hold too late (and insincerely) to give it much across-the-board appeal.

The result is something of a tonally-inconsistent mess. One baffling scene involves Owen Wilson and a young child peeing on each other in a public restroom while the boy's father sits in a stall yelling. For no reason.

And yeah, I chuckled at that scene even though I soon realized it had very little purpose. In fact, once upon a time—in the commentary track for Shanghai Noon (2000)—Wilson stated pretty clearly that he's no fan of that kind of lowest-common-denominator bodily function humor. He made an exception for Shanghai (a film that still holds up, believe it or not), but flash-forward nearly two decades and we have this obvious loosening of standards. And again, I laughed. As I usually do at that sort of thing. Your mileage may vary.

I had low expectations going into Father Figures and came out perplexed by some of the storytelling choices, but not before laughing a fair amount. The expert cast carries the material a lot farther than it probably would've gone in less-capable hands.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment wasn't too generous in their inclusion of bonus materials for Father Figures. Kind of hard to put together a big special edition for a movie that bombed so spectacularly. There is a selection of deleted scenes and—exclusive to the Blu-ray edition, not found on the standard DVD—a gag reel.


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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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