FATHER FIGURES, US, 2017. Starring Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close, Harry Shearer, Terry Bradshaw, J.K.Simmons, Katt Williams, Christopher Walken, June Squibb, Katie Aselton, Jack McGee, Ving Fhames. Directed by Laurence Sher. 113 minutes. Rated M (Sexual references and coarse language).
Two 40 year old men, who are revealed to be twins, definitely not identical, played by Owen Wilson and Ed Helms, go to their mother’s wedding ceremony. So far, so all right. But Peter, Helms, is an extremely uptight doctor, expert proctologist, divorced and with a son who doesn’t like him, takes the opportunity to ask his mother about their father about whom she has never spoken. Kyle, Wilson, on the other hand is, well, Owen Wilson as in so many of his films, laid-back, easy-going, getting a huge royalties income from the fact that a photo of him as a surfer has been on millions of sauce bottles.
Mother is played by Glenn Close. She has stories about the 1970s, the easy morals, the promiscuity, doubts about paternity… But, she gives them a clue, sending them on a quest, something significant because the two have had difficulties in getting on, Peter, the older, being severely protective and Kyle, the younger, needing a father figure. At this stage, his Hawaiian girlfriend, reveals that she is pregnant so finding a father figure is significant.
Luckily, money and buying tickets is not a problem! Following the clue, off they go to Miami, tracking down a famous football player from the 1970s, Terry Bradshaw. Non-football fans will get a surprise at the final credits to find that Terry Bradshaw is being played by – Terry Bradshaw. The twins are excited, have always been fans of Terry, happy memories of him. Terry takes a shine to Peter and tends to ignore Kyle. Anyway, you will have to see the movie to get the details, but he is not the one.
Next candidate is a financier whom Terry and his friends looked down on. They track him down and he turns out to be Roland Hunt, played by J.K. Simmons, not quite the financier they were expecting. In fact, the opposite. He explains that he is involved in repossession of cars and, eagerly, they join him in one of his quests but it turns out that he is a sham and a con man. He is not the one.
Peter is inclined to give up except that Kyle has a theory that the universe is talking to them and that they need to pursue their quest. Actually, the universe responds by getting them stuck in a traffic jam, seeing a hitchhiker and Peter, of course, wanting to look the other way. Kyle, on the other hand, reaches out. Hitchhiker is African- American (so a lot of comments on race issues) who wants to get home to his wife and children for a birthday celebration. Katt Williams is very genial in the role of the hitchhiker, being tied up the brothers in case he is a serial killer, trying to arbitrate in the squabble between the two brothers and, if a reviewer were to claim that they are stuck on a level crossing with the train approaching, the reader would be inclined to disbelieve. But…
Then the universe speaks to them in the form of police who know well the next candidate to be their father. This time they are off to Boston. Kyle has led a very free and easy life in Hawaii. Peter is in no way free and easy but actually gives in to Kyle’s advice in a casual encounter with a sad young woman at a bar. Actually, this leads to even more complications than might have been anticipated and the possibility that their father is a very well-known and respected policeman. But, with a lot of discussions, he is not the one.
They go home, go to see the local vet, Christopher Walken, who put down their pet cat years earlier. They aggressively believe that he must be their father and attack him but mother comes to see them and, there is a twist in the revelation of their parental identity.
Some tears at the end as well as some smiles. Not a must-see but, in many ways, a pleasant enough pastime moving from the raucous, as in so many American comedies, to the moral and moralising.
Roadshow Released February 1st
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.