Confess: you think of the movies, when you think of them at all, as little more than a keen way to kill a couple of hours — a Saturday night on the town, a Wednesday evening on the living room couch. If pressed, you might be willing to concede that the best of them constitute a bona fide art form. But has it ever occurred to you that motion pictures are single-handedly responsible for the perpetuation of the human race over the past century? Well?
Okay, so maybe I’m embellishing a tad. But it sure does seem that way sometimes, given the fervor with which many movies attempt to indoctrinate us into becoming parents. Heck, even worldwide box office champion Jurassic Park includes a subplot (not in Michael Crichton’s novel) in which the paleontologist hero played by Sam Neill gradually overcomes his distaste for the bratty tykes entrusted to his care. ”You may think you don’t want kids,” these films suggest, ”but look what happens the moment an adorable moppet stumbles into your life.” Enter moppet, beaming; exeunt prospective moms and dads, two hours later, sniffling.
Or weeping, perhaps. Fathers’ Day, for example, is likely to inspire tears, though they’ll mostly be shed in mournful memory of the 99 minutes lost to this bludgeoning, unfunny mess. In a minor deviation from the standard inadvertent-parent formula, the child in Fathers’ Day is not a newborn baby or a precocious 4-year-old but a delinquent teenager on the run from drug dealers from whom he’s stolen $5,000. (There’s a pointless drug subplot in Three Men and a Baby, too, come to think of it — what’s up with this?) Frantic mom Nastassia Kinski calls two of her old flames, played by Robin Williams and Billy Crystal, and separately informs each of them that he is the boy’s father, begging each to track him down. Initially suspicious of one another when they inevitably meet cute, the two decide to join forces in their search, and before long they’re merrily head-butting everybody who stands in their way into complete submission.
Yes, head-butting, believe it or don’t, is one of Fathers’ Day‘s primary motifs. Crystal, who plays an attorney, is the expert, repeatedly knocking noggins with men more than twice his size, but it isn’t long before Williams, who plays an insecure would-be writer, is taking time out from his celebrity impressions to follow his partner’s lead. Not that head-butting constitutes the film’s only source of hilarity. There’s also mime-shoving, and crotch-scalding, and… okay, more head-butting. All of this subpar slapstick might be endurable if there were a human relationship at the film’s core, but the dueling dads seem more enamored of the concept of fatherhood than of their alleged offspring. All well and good if you’re proselytizing for procreation, or aiming for black comedy, but fatal if you actually want the viewer to give a damn. D