It looked like the out-of-tune “Pitch Perfect 3” had swooped in at the last moment to make a firm bid for being the most disappointing film of 2017.
Not so fast.
That attempt to win the honor was obliterated with the release of “Father Figures,” a movie that starts with an uninspired plot idea, moves along on a wave of jokes that are more F-U than F-U-N and finishes with an ending that goes beyond being completely unsatisfying to the point of being viciously cruel.
The urge is to reveal what happens when bickering fraternal twin brothers Kyle (Owen Wilson) and Peter (Ed Helms) go on a quest to discover the identity of their father to save as many as possible from wasting time and money with “Father Figures.” Just because this ill-conceived film is a comedy that’s almost void of humor is no reason to spoil the experience for those who opt to see this trainwreck (literally) instead of the numerous other holiday season film options. Just remember. You’ve been warned.
What pretends to pass as the key to the Justin Malen (“Office Christmas Party”) script is the brothers find out on their mother’s (Glenn Close) wedding day the man she said was their father was all a lie. The only clue Mom provides is that she was sexually free in the ’70s and the potential dads are as plentiful as those who boogied the nights away. She starts them with the possibility NFL great Terry Bradshaw (who plays himself) could be the one.
What transpires when the brothers confront Bradshaw is an example of how any hint of logic must be ignored to keep the story moving. They approach Bradshaw at the opening of one of his car lots with the idea he could be their dad. Instead of doing the logical thing of either calling the cops or at least suggesting they do more investigation, Bradshaw greets them like they have birth certificates proving they are his offspring.
Each potential dad — from the low-life played by J. K. Simmons (who deserves much better roles than this) to the befuddled vet portrayed by Christopher Walken — the encounters get more pathetic. Malen’s script makes each potential pop nothing more than a stereotype that first-time director Lawrence Sher guides his actors to lackluster performances.
The quest by the brothers is made up of an endless series of meaningless scenes where they squabble between each failed attempt to meet the father who obviously never cared enough to look them up after they were born. The movie’s being billed as a comedy, but Malen’s idea of humor includes: an adult urinating on a 3-year-old boy, the racial profiling of a hitchhiker, multiple jokes about incest, a complete lack of filter by everyone so sex is discussed in the vilest way possible and near-death by locomotive.
If that isn’t uncomfortable enough, the brothers don’t seem all that upset when their mother’s sexual appetite is described in great and graphic details. At one point, Wilson’s character shows a deep admiration that his mother was — as Ving Rhames describes her — a “sexual ninja.”
Wilson’s performance is the most disappointing. He has just turned in one of his most memorable acting efforts in “Wonder,” where he showed he could be funny in a film filled with sentiment. Anyone who is a fan of Wilson should skip “Father Figures” so as not to taint his accomplishments in “Wonder.”
The crassness of the attempts at humor in “Father Figures” would have come at least a little closer to working had Sher gone for the kind of over-the-top approach that made movies like “The Hangover” work. Instead, Sher treats this fiasco like a sweet tale of brotherly love being guided by a manipulative universe. Once you have an adult urinate on a child, there’s no way to regain the cuddly feeling he tried to inject into the movie.
Even if all the mistakes made by the director, writer and cast had been corrected, “Father Figures” ends on such an infuriating note, it would have been enough to kill the production. There’s an attempt to show all is right with the world with an epilogue that updates events a year later. Instead of creating that “Ah! Isn’t that sweet” moment, the final scene reinforces what a complete waste of time the movie has been from start to finish.
It will take a catastrophic release to knock “Father Figures” out of the top spot for being the film with the most talent that ends up a total waste of time.