Father's Day (United States, 1997)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Fathers' Day simply has to be seen to be believed. It's beyond my comprehension how a motion picture with so much talent associated with it -- actors Robin Williams and Billy Crystal, super-producer Joel Silver, and director Ivan Reitman -- can be such a complete waste of time. Fathers' Day isn't just bad, it's awful. Without a doubt, this is one of 1997's most disappointing motion pictures.

On the surface, the film looks like it could be good. The comic pairing of Robin Williams and Billy Crystal would seem to be a dream match belonging alongside such other recent high-profile couplings as Steve Martin and John Candy (Planes, Trains, and Automobiles) and Martin and Michael Caine (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels). In fact, Williams and Crystal might not even need a script -- just the two of them on camera together should be enough to garner laughs. As it turns out, that would have been a better approach, because the screenplay for Fathers' Day, written by feel-good scribes Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (City Slickers), saps all life and humor from the leads' performances. The painful, predictable result is a dearth of mirth. If you see Fathers' Day and laugh more than once, consider yourself lucky.

The plot, which is based on a early-'80s French film called Les Compères, tells the story of one mother, one son, and three fathers. It seems that the mother, Collette (Nastassja Kinski), used to get around a little back in the late-'70s and early-'80s. Sometime in that period, right before she married her true love (Bruce Greenwood), she slept with both Dale (Robin Williams) and Jack (Billy Crystal). Nine months later, a child was born, and she didn't know which of the three men was the biological dad. That didn't matter until 1997, when 16-year old Scott (an unpromising Charlie Hofheimer) decides to run away from home. Desperate to get him back, Collette calls up Dale and Jack, surprises them with the news about their paternity, and implores them to look for Scott. And, although the two start separately, they end up together on a chase that goes from San Francisco to Sacramento to Reno.

Fathers' Day wants to be a hilarious, screwball comedy that doubles as a buddy film, with a dash of family values thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, these concepts got lost somewhere in the translation (maybe Ganz and Mandel don't know French). Fathers' Day is a one-hundred minute bore without a single character worth caring about. Crystal and Williams generate no chemistry, and both look like they're on hand solely to pick up a paycheck. The feel-good moments, which are available in embarrassing abundance, border on nauseating. However, perhaps the most disheartening thing about Fathers' Day is its complete lack of energy -- even Williams' patented manic impressions come across as more scripted than spontaneous.

With the addition of Fathers' Day to his uneven resume, film maker Ivan Reitman can now boast "the ugly" in addition to "the good" and "the bad." As a director, Reitman has been responsible for several entertaining movies, including Ghostbusters and Dave, and an even larger number of mediocre-to-poor offerings, such as the Arnold Schwarzenegger comedies (Twins, Kindergarten Cop, Junior). But nothing he has previously accomplished equals this travesty. Hopefully, Fathers' Day will be nothing more than an unpleasant memory by the time the third Sunday in June rolls around.

Father's Day (United States, 1997)

Run Time: 1:45
U.S. Release Date: 1997-05-09
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity, Sexual Content)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1