Father Figures (2017) ☆ ☆ ☆

Based on the preview I was expecting a very raunchy comedy, a genre which I don’t particularly like.  Certainly elements of the perverse are present — and yet this movie has great heart and chemistry, too.  The result is an adult comedy which I can recommend despite its occasional forays into cringe-worthiness.

Lawrence Sher’s comedy casts Owen Wilson and Ed Helms as unlikely brothers who learn that their mother has lied to them all their lives about their father, who is presumably still alive.  The boys set out to find him once and for all, zigzagging all around the country in an increasingly zany attempt to reconcile themselves to their mother’s wild past.  Possible candidates for the paternal role include Terry Bradshaw (portraying himself!), J. K. Simmons, Christopher Walken and Jack McGee.

What works in this scenario is the chemistry between Wilson and Helms, grown brothers who still have a lot of history to work through; between the the brothers and their mother (Glenn Close); and between the brothers and each of their potential fathers.  The film is so well written (by Justin Malen) that each new part of the adventure is fresh and funny — and meaningful.  As one would expect, the story explores familial issues almost constantly, but does so without becoming schmaltzy.  I was slowly won over by the ways in which Wilson and Helms grew closer, then apart, then closer with each new encounter.  I also want to give a shout out to Katie Aselton, the only other strong female role in the story; she’s terrific.

There is still too much crudity for my taste, but I was very happy to see that the humor supports the story, as opposed to the way so many modern filmmakers spotlight shock humor for its own sake.  This is a fun comedy with some real meat to it.  It takes a while to reel in the audience, but eventually I was hooked, and impressed.  ☆ ☆ ☆.  9 January 2018.

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