A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Father Figures is a raunchy comedy about twin brothers (Owen Wilson and Ed Helms) who go on a road trip to discover their birth father's identity. Violence (often played for laughs) includes fighting, cars hitting people, trains crashing into cars, and guns. Language is quite strong, with many uses of "f--k," "c--k," "p---y," and much more. The entire plot of the movie is based on the notion that a woman was so promiscuous in the 1970s that she doesn't know who her sons' birth father is. There's also passionate kissing, strong sexual innuendo, cleavage and people shown without their shirts, and a suggested hookup in a hotel room. A character drinks while sad; there's also social drinking and mention of "getting high." The movie relies on dumb, gross, forced humor, but it does eventually generate at least a little bit of sympathy for its characters (before an insulting epilogue).
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What's the story?
In FATHER FIGURES, Peter Reynolds (Ed Helms) is disappointed with his life. He's divorced, his son seems to loathe him, and he can't stand his job as a proctologist. He goes to his mother's (Glenn Close) wedding and runs into his twin brother, Kyle (Owen Wilson), who seems to have the perfect life (and a perfect girlfriend) in Hawaii. Peter learns that the man he thought was his father actually isn't, and that Peter and Kyle's biological father could be one of several men ("it was the 1970s," says their mom), including football legend Terry Bradshaw. So Peter and Kyle set out on a road trip to discover the truth, meeting Bradshaw's next-door neighbor (Ving Rhames), picking up a friendly hitchhiker (Katt Williams), and meeting several other paternal candidates, including a "repo man" (J.K. Simmons) and a veterinarian (Christopher Walken). But the truth is far more complicated.
Is it any good?
This almost totally fails as a comedy, with broad, unfunny, dumb jokes (such as Wilson and a young boy urinating on each other), though it's marginally better during the goopy, heartwarming parts. Father Figures relies on the narrowest, laziest definitions of characters imaginable, and the humor that springs from them always seems forced, as if the jokes had been shoehorned into place. One so-called running gag is that Bradshaw constantly ignores Kyle and pays attention only to Peter. The movie never explains why, nor why that's supposed to be funny.
As Father Figures goes along, however, it seems to start caring about the two brothers. Some of the characters' exchanges without jokes come fairly close to sounding real and heartfelt. The climax is, impressively, not an easy solution, and it makes for a couple of very nice moments while the brothers process it. Perhaps this could have been better as an indie drama? (À la Jeff, Who Lives at Home, also with Helms.) Unfortunately, the movie blows its encouraging ending with an embarrassing, insulting "one year later" epilogue.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Father Figures' use of sex and sexual situations. Even if not much graphic stuff is shown, what makes the various situations sexual in nature? Are there positive representations of sex in the movie?
What do the characters learn about themselves? Do you consider any of them role models?
Does this movie use stereotypes? If so, how? Is that OK?
- In theaters: December 22, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: April 3, 2018
- Cast: Ed Helms, Owen Wilson, J.K. Simmons, Glenn Close
- Director: Lawrence Sher
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters
- Run time: 113 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and sexual references throughout
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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