My Father the Hero (United States, 1994)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Gerard Depardieu's interpretation of Cyrano De Bergerac was a definitive character in modern cinema, not to mention a jewel in the crown of his career. In fact, he was so impressive in that role that the producers of the comedy My Father the Hero took notice and gave him something similar -- a scene where, while in hiding, he feeds poetic lines of love to his daughter as she courts the favor of a reluctant boyfriend. For some odd reason, it just doesn't have the same impact.

The reunion of Andre (Gerard Depardieu) and his fourteen-year old daughter, Nicole (Katherine Heigl), is hardly a warm affair. Despite having planned their vacation to the Bahamas for a year, Andre is still the focus of Nicole's anger as the result of a past misdeed. After the pair arrives at their destination, Nicole does all she can to get away from her repressive ogre of a father. When she meets Ben (Dalton James) and her initial attempts to impress him fail, she tries a different tactic: claiming that Andre is actually her lover (and an ex-jailbird to boot). And, while the lie has favorable results for her, the same can't be said for poor papa, who becomes the object of suspicious glances, malicious rumors, and outright hostility.

Admittedly, this is an unusual premise for a comedy, and My Father the Hero sadly fails to take advantage of the possibilities. Instead of going for outright zaniness, the film attempts to stay within the bounds of "good taste" and family values (in spite of the obvious Oedipal inklings), which not only dilutes the humor but results in an unwatchable climax involving a water rescue. There are some funny moments, such as Andre singing "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" to a crowd of shocked onlookers, but there aren't enough laughs to justify the rest of this lame production.

Depardieu does the kind of job one might expect from a respected actor thrown into a stupid movie. He's fine, but the script doesn't give him much opportunity to show his range. Katherine Heigl has little acting ability, as becomes apparent when her attempted sobs come out as dry-eyed squints. No one is likely to feel a great upsurge of sympathy for Nicole during those moments.

I won't dwell overmuch on the numerous implausibilities that occur during the course of My Father the Hero. This is, after all, a comedy, and the rules of reality are often bent in the name of humor. Too bad the results aren't more impressive. Nevertheless, the greatest flaw in My Father the Hero isn't the feeble laugh-to-running length ratio, the limp characterization, or the mediocre acting. Instead, it's the feeling of unease that pervades the first forty-five minutes as Nicole and Andre clash while the film tries unsuccessfully to make light of their dysfunctional relationship. There are serious issues bubbling away here that the movie doesn't know how to address properly. Lighthearted motion pictures should never cause discomfort, but this one does.

It's easy to understand how one could be fooled into thinking that My Father the Hero might be worth a trip to the theater. After all, the trailers contain a few funny moments, there's some potential in the premise, and Gerard Depardieu lends an aura of respectability. Unfortunately, all of this means very little. As the old saying goes, "appearances can be deceiving", and, in this case, they are.

My Father the Hero (United States, 1994)

Run Time: 1:30
U.S. Release Date: 1994-02-04
MPAA Rating: "PG" (Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1