Fathers' Day

on May 09, 1997 by Susan Lambert
This farcical comedy, based on the French film "Les Comperes," is really just a set-up for two star comedians--"The Birdcage's" Robin Williams and "Forget Paris'" Billy Crystal--to riff and roll off each other while they steer moviegoers through a simple story about two very different men on the road together searching for a teenage runaway, Scott ("Boys'" Charlie Hofheimer), who one or the other of them might, or might not have, sired 17 years earlier.
   This is not the successful translation that "The Birdcage" (based on French film "La Cage aux Folles") was for Williams. "Fathers' Day" lacks the unique and classy mix of hilarious physical comedy churned with charmingly emotional sentiment. Williams and Crystal are funny, but the sheer nature of their personalities overwhelms this mild- mannered movie, and neither ever completely settle into his role. In fact, Williams--as the depressed, neurotic and fairly incompetent Dale Putley--is actually miscast, his manic energy at odds with the character. Crystal, as the head-butting but otherwise emotionally contained Los Angles lawyer Jack Lawrence, fares much better playing it straight. His character centers and grounds the story. Yet, despite their obvious efforts, not even the engaging Crystal or child-like Williams is able to infuse the story with true heart.
   There are few surprises, except for a bizzare cameo by Mel Gibson. (Look for a far more effective cameo by the superstar in Paramount's fall release "Fairy Tale: A True Story.") Director Ivan Reitman ("Junior") gets sidetracked by his stars and forgets to make the story believable, real or understandable. Nastassja Kinski ("Faraway, So Close!" is wasted in an inexplicable role as Collette, the former amour who sets the wheels in motion. Apparently, this mom is able to track down two long-lost lovers and set them on the trail of Scott, but she's completely incapable of even trying to find her son on her own; that's some kind of maternal parenting. No wonder "Fathers' Day" opens on Mother's Day.    Starring Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Charlie Hofheimer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Nastassja Kinski. Directed by Ivan Reitman. Written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. Produced by Joel Silver and Ivan Reitman. A Warner Bros. release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for some sex-related humor and drug references. Running time: 101 min
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