Fathers’ Day (1997)
Fathers’ Day (1997)

Genre: Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 38 min.

Release Date: May 9th, 1997 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Ivan Reitman Actors: Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Nastassja Kinski, Charlie Hofheimer, Bruce Greenwood, Jared Harris, Patti D’Arbanville




awyer Jack Lawrence (Billy Crystal) is surprised to see Collette (Nastassja Kinski), a woman he broke up with about 17 years ago, enter his courtroom. She informs him that her son, 16 year-old Scott (Charlie Hofheimer), has run away from home with his girlfriend Nikki Trainor (Haylie Johnson) – and that Scott is actually Jack’s son as well. The situation becomes more complicated when Collette visits another ex-lover, the anxiety-ridden, emotionally precarious, regularly suicidal Dale Putley (Robin Williams), to ask him to pursue the missing boy simultaneously.

After catching up with Nikki’s father (Charles Rocket) in San Francisco, the two searchers meet, not realizing that they’re tracking the same subject. When they get a lead from Nikki’s mother (Patti D’Arbanville), they also realize that Collette has lied to them. Jack, Dale, and even her current husband Bob (Bruce Greenwood) could be the real father. Although the mismatched duo eventually collects an unconscious Scott at a Sugar Ray concert in Sacramento, Jack must contend with keeping his wife (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) in the dark, all while the possible fathers continually lose sight of Scott, and are forced to pursue him across state lines.

Part road-trip movie and part comedy of misinterpretations and confusions, “Fathers’ Day” simply can’t stay focused on a tone or a brand of humor. The story itself similarly meanders around aimlessly, spending too much time on small supporting roles for the sake of unnecessary additional gags (such as a guy rolling down a hill inside a portable toilet, or Jack unleashing multiple head butts on adversaries) and slapstick sequences that possess potential but fail in the choreography. Swapping life lessons and educational lectures provides few chuckles, with most scenes cutting off prematurely and devoid of a hilarious payoff. “I used to be someone unstable,” comments Dale, recollecting an affair with his high school drama teacher and continually worrying about running over imaginary people on the highway. Even one-line jokes frequently fall flat.

Crystal and Williams deliver decent lines separately, but rarely have laugh-out-loud conversations together. Their chemistry isn’t as satisfying as audiences will surely expect. In fact, it’s a wonder that these stars couldn’t produce a funnier result, even with the faults of a weak script (based on a French film entitled “Les Comperes”) and poor pacing. And Scott, who serves as a stereotypical troublemaking youth, contributes zero believable humanity or comic relief (though extra mirth is hardly necessary in a film where nothing can be taken too seriously). The conclusion is correspondingly wanting of a genuine resolution, going so far as to create contrived scenarios for each character to have a nonsensically happy ending.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10