San Francisco Chronicle

Father Fig­ures

- By Carla Meyer Carla Meyer is a North­ern Cal­i­for­nia freelance writer.

Co­me­dian Katt Wil­liams, in a small role as a chip­per hitch­hiker, in­jects about 15 min­utes’ worth of fun into “Father Fig­ures,” an other­wise mostly dread­ful road com­edy in which Ed Helms and Owen Wil­son play twins search­ing for a man to call dad.

Too bad Wil­liams, whose char­ac­ter is a voice-of-rea­son ref­eree be­tween the ar­gu­ing broth­ers, can only af­fect the scenes he is in, and not change the past or fu­ture. Be­cause the past in “Father Fig­ures” — scenes that hap­pen be­fore Wil­liams shows up — in­cludes a mo­ment, set in a high­way rest stop bath­room, in hideously bad taste.

De­scrib­ing this mo­ment prob­a­bly would make it sound even worse than it is, in moral terms, be­cause of the nouns in­volved. At­tempts to de­scribe it in terms of cre­ativ­ity or Wil­son’s ca­reer also would fail, since “new low” does not cut it.

Scenes that fol­low Wil­liams’ exit from the story also are bad, in dif­fer­ent ways. They go on too long, con­tribut­ing to a slug­gish two-hour run time — and the tone shifts wildly among and within them. The movie’s light­ing and cin­e­matog­ra­phy of­ten do not flat­ter the ac­tors, de­spite rookie di­rec­tor Lawrence Sher hav­ing spent many years as a di­rec­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy.

“Fig­ures” at­tributes per­son­al­ity traits to the broth­ers ac­cord­ing to whim. Helms’ char­ac­ter, Peter, is sup­pos­edly a hot­head but comes off as a sweet­heart. His brother, Kyle, is so self-in­volved at the film’s start that he does not know the name of his pre­teen nephew. Yet Peter later tells Kyle he has the kind­est heart of any­one he knows.

The twins re­unite, af­ter years with­out see­ing each other, at the wed­ding of their mother, He­len (Glenn Close, not in the film long enough for it to stick to her rep­u­ta­tion), to their new step­fa­ther. Af­ter the wed­ding, He­len re­veals that she lied when she told the twins their father died be­fore they could know him. She is not sure who fa­thered them. It was the 1970s, she ex­plains.

The rev­e­la­tion one ex­pects will fol­low never comes: the one where He­len tells Peter and Kyle they are not re­ally twins. This would help us be­lieve our eyes, which tell us “fra­ter­nal” does not ex­tend far enough to cover Wil­son, 49, and Helms, 43, be­ing the same age.

One as­sumes at first that “Fig­ures” is go­ing an ab­sur­dist, “Step Broth­ers” route in call­ing them twins. But He­len even­tu­ally will lay out the ex­act cir­cum­stances of their births, on the same day, in a scene that tries for poignancy and whiffs.

This would-be se­ri­ous scene fails partly be­cause it ex­ists in a film that also con­tains the rest stop scene and that de­rives a lot of its jokes from the twins be­ing forced to hear what a sex­ual dy­namo He­len once was.

Terry Brad­shaw, play­ing him­self, cer­tainly re­mem­bers her fondly. Af­ter He­len names Brad­shaw as the twins’ pos­si­ble father, Kyle and Peter travel to Mi­ami to meet him. Brad­shaw turns out to be — news flash from 1972 — a lik­able goof. The trail also leads to a dreary se­quence in­volv­ing a less adorable dad can­di­date (J.K. Sim­mons).

Wil­son and Helms fa­vor Brad­shaw in lik­a­bil­ity. But they are not two hours’ worth of lik­able, in a film this flawed.

The twins re­unite at the wed­ding of their mother, He­len (Glenn Close, not in the film long enough for it to stick to her rep­u­ta­tion).

 ?? Warner Bros. Pic­tures ?? Kyle (Owen Wil­son, left) and Peter (Ed Helms) search for the man who fa­thered them in the 1970s, with Terry Brad­shaw play­ing him­self as one pos­si­bil­ity, in “Father Fig­ures.”
Warner Bros. Pic­tures Kyle (Owen Wil­son, left) and Peter (Ed Helms) search for the man who fa­thered them in the 1970s, with Terry Brad­shaw play­ing him­self as one pos­si­bil­ity, in “Father Fig­ures.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA