San Francisco Chronicle
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).