"Father Figures" is intended as entertainment. At least, I'm pretty sure it is. But it would be more accurate to describe the experience as a nearly two-hour borderline hostage situation, with torture involving bad, offensive and unfunny "comedy."
The protagonists are twin brothers Peter (Ed Helms) and Kyle (Owen Wilson). Peter is a divorced doctor, with a kid who hates him and a personal life that consists predominantly of "Law & Order: SVU" reruns. He's deeply envious of Kyle, a beach bum who's made millions licensing his likeness to a barbecue sauce company.
At the wedding of their mother, Helen (Glenn Close), Peter, desperately unhappy with the banality of his cushy upper-middle class life, self-soothes with an episode of "SVU." He becomes convinced one of the actors is their long-lost father. He's not, but the suggestion triggers a round of questioning about his parentage, which sets the brothers on a cross-country road trip.
First, they head to Miami to find football star Terry Bradshaw, the name Helen initially throws out. But it soon becomes a wild-goose chase up the Eastern Seaboard dubbed "Operation Who's Your Daddy," as the bros dig up Helen's exes from the last days of disco.
Cinematographer Lawrence Sher (who shot all three "Hangover" installments) makes his directorial debut with the film, which is about as captivating as a flaccid noodle. Awkward bits of brotherly rivalry or ribaldry go on for far, far, painfully far too long, and the energy is strangely subdued and muted. All momentum is sapped from the film, which requires extreme amounts of patience to endure.
But the true offense comes from the blinkered and completely tone deaf script by Justin Malen ("Office Christmas Party"). That it's not funny and makes no sense would be bad enough, but there's a virulent strain of sexism, too. Every woman the brothers encounter is evaluated for her sexual potential, not anything else. Even the legendary Close is reduced to a running joke that involves the exes repeatedly describing their mother's sexual skills.
But the offensiveness is not limited to sexism. Racism shows up, too, in a wildly misguided and totally random scene in which the brothers pick up a hitchhiker, played by Katt Williams. Uptight Peter insists that he isn't suspicious because the rider is black. Nonetheless, Kyle demands to know if he's a serial killer before they give him a ride, but only after he's tied up with jump ropes in the back seat. How could anyone involved in this project possibly think this was a good idea?
There's an entire subgenre of films now expressing a collective white male anxiety about masculinity, but played for laughs, because why face issues head on? Those stories deserve to be told, but not at the expense of other people. The cast, which also includes J.K. Simmons, Christopher Walken and Harry Shearer, is capable of so much more than this. (And, yes, we even include Bradshaw in that category.)