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Movie Review: “Father Figures”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Father Figures

Theatrical Release: 12/22/2018

Theatrical Release: 12/22/2018

Synopsis

Twins Kyle (Owen Wilson) and Peter (Ed Helms) reunite on their mother Helen’s (Glenn Close) wedding day. Kyle and Peter do not really get along. Peter works really hard to be a responsible adult, but he has separated from his wife and has a disrespectful son. Kyle, on the other hand, does not seem to work hard for anything, yet he seems to have it all. This, naturally, causes Peter to resent Kyle so tensions are certainly high on their mother’s wedding day.

As if tensions were not high enough already, Kyle and Peter learn that their mother has been lying to them about the identity of their father for their entire lives. Neither son has any memory of their father, but their mother has told them countless stories about his death and what he did during his life. They learn that their father may be very much alive, but they also learn that their mother had several partners during the time she conceived the boys. They do not know who their father is, but they have a lead on the most likely candidate, so the brothers embark on a road trip to meet their father. Now they just need to tolerate each other long enough to meet him.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

The Premise (+4pts)

The Mom (-4pts)

The Brothers (+5pts)

Predictable (-6pts)

The Comedy (+4pts)

Unsatisfying End (-6pts)

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Pro: The Premise (+4pts)

This was a pretty good premise for a comedy movie. Two brothers who did not get along went on a road trip to find out who their dad was because their mother had so many romantic partners that she did not truly know who their real father was. It was an amusing premise, because of the awkward situations it put the protagonists in. They learned of their mother’s adventurous past, and were hunting each one down, hoping they would learn the identity of their father. The situations these characters found themselves in were pretty entertaining to see play out. It could have been executed better, but the premise was really strong for a comedy such as this one, and made way for a number of amusing moments, despite the movie's issues.

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Con: The Mom (-4pts)

A lot of the believability of this premise relied on the mother and the reason she had for not knowing who the father was. I am not going to give away that reason, but the mom never seemed to justify it at all. Why did the mother decide to lie to her sons, saying that their father was dead? Because reasons. Why did the mother continue to lie about the identity of the father after her sons figured out their father was probably alive? Because.

I understand that this was a silly comedy and I should not take the plot too seriously. However, the writers could have easily justified the mother’s motivations. The very foundation of this premise relied on the mother's decisions. The writers did not need to make this a compelling character, but they needed to make her actions make sense, and I did not think they managed to do so. In order to get any satisfaction from this movie, the filmmakers ask you to suspend your disbelief throughout the entire setup of the story. All this did was make the setup feel like a waste of screentime while somewhat diminishing the ability for the audience to get invested in finding the father, because the whole mystery felt unnecessary.

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Pro: The Brothers (+5pts)

Before seeing the movie, I did not know if I would buy Ed Helms and Owen Wilson as brothers, not to mention buying them as twins. After seeing the movie, I still do not really buy them as twins—even though I had friends in high school who were fraternal twins, I had to keep reminding myself that these characters were twins—but I thought their relationship was one of the better parts of this movie. I got a sense of how far back these two characters went. Their chemistry together felt natural so it was easy to believe the two characters had known each other their entire lives.

I liked the chemistry between the two actors, I enjoyed the dynamic they had together, and I found myself caught off guard by how much heart they gave this movie. It was a very silly movie with a ridiculous premise, but at its core, this movie was about two brothers coming together. They did not exactly get along with each other, but they developed bond over their shared goal. Although I thought it would be one of the movie’s weaker areas, the dynamic between these two actors ended up being one of its strengths.

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Con: Predictable (-6pts)

I liked the premise but, after everything was setup, I knew how the story would end. This story would only end with the brothers finding out the identity of their father. I did not know if the father was still alive, and I did not know who the father was, but I knew the characters would find out before the movie ended. The problem was not that the ending was predictable, the problem was that everything leading up to it was. Have you ever seen an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation or Law and Order: Special Victims Unit where they catch “the bad guy” only twenty minutes into an hour long show? As a viewer it was obvious that it the first suspect would not actually be the bad guy, because it was way too early into the story. That was the same problem that this movie had.

This made the first few potential fathers feel like a waste of time, because the movie's runtime made it obvious that they were not the father, yet we had to sit through the protagonists thinking that they were. This caused the movie to lose a bit of steam, in my opinion. The brothers would get all excited to meet their father, but the audience was not invested in it, because they knew it was not really him. This made the first few fathers feel like filler.

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Pro: The Comedy (+4pts)

Father Figures was a silly movie. The premise was ridiculous, the main actors were talented comedic actors, and the characters ended up in plenty of awkward and comedic situations. It was not the funniest, most original comedy out there, but it was mildly entertaining. Father Figures was full of plot issues, but the comedy worked. It worked because it never took itself too seriously, and while the comedy was not very memorable, it will keep audiences laughing throughout.

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Con: Unsatisfying End (-6pts)

Maybe this had to do with the story losing so much steam after meeting multiple potential fathers, but once the brothers found out the truth, I found myself pretty disappointed. It was just that it did not feel like there was a significant payoff to justify the whole movie. In addition to learning the fate and identity of their father, we also learned more about the mother that made the whole story feel pointless. It was just a very messy and unsatisfying end, that gave me the impression that the filmmakers were given a premise, then sort of just made the rest up as they went.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: C- (72pts)

Father Figures had the kind of ridiculous premise that you want from a silly comedy like this. Unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, the plot suffered from a few issues. The mom seemed entirely unjustified in her reasons for lying to her sons for so long, and the story got pretty predictable due to meeting potential fathers too early in the story. While I do not like picking apart the plot of silly comedies, these issues hurt the viewer‘s ability to get invested in the story.

Fortunately, the premise created a lot of amusing, awkward moments and the comedy, for the most part, worked. Owen Wilson and Ed Helms are both talented comedic actors who are no strangers to awkward comedy at their characters’ expense. One element of the movie that pleasantly surprised me was the relationship between the two brothers, as I enjoyed watching them interacting with one another, and I enjoyed watching them growing closer together through their shared experience. Father Figures had a lot of plot issues, but the comedy was moderately entertaining and the relationship between the brothers gave the story a a decent amount of heart.

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