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Saturday, 16 April 2016

Retro Movie Review: Fathers' Day (1997) #RobinWilliams

Fathers' Day
Cast: Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Nastassja Kinski, Charlie Hofheimer, Sugar Ray, Mel Gibson (in a short cameo)
Genre: Comedy
Estimated Worldwide Gross: over $35 million

Trivia: during the filming of the concert scene, Robin Williams took a break & walked into the Bleachers, where he entertained the extras who gathered around him 

Plot: A woman cons two former boyfriends into searching for her runaway son by convincing both of them that they are the boy's father

'Contrary To Critics, Fans & Movie Goers, Fathers' Day Is My Beloved Robin Williams Comedy Movie'

Overshadowed by and overlooked in favour of Mrs Doubtfire, the first time I had seen the trailer for this movie, I thought to myself 'what is this?'. & so off the back of that trailer, I thought it would be dumb and stupid, and that I would loathe it. Add to that a somewhat awful poster that accompanied it, negative reviews from across the board that practically trounced it to death, I didn't have high hopes for this film; so much so I had low expectations and saw it as typical Z-list comedy movie fare. 

But man oh man, was I wrong about this movie. So wrong. Fathers' Day has the same silly, stupid, farcical humour that was in Mrs Doubtfire, and yet all of a sudden when Robin Williams dresses up as a woman, people take notice. But when he plays a character with a tragic backstory and who is much more kind-hearted as Dale, audiences take no notice. It doesn't make much sense. Until they find out his character is suicidal: very much like Robin Williams himself when he was much older. 

I still find the suicide references and the opening scene still uncomfortable and unsettling. I was literately taken aback by that, especially as Robin had died through suicide in real life. So as coincidental as it was, even in the context of a comedy and despite it being part of the main plot, it still brought back horrible memories of his death.

Directed by Ivan Reitman of Ghostbusters and Kindergarten Cop, and with producer - who is oddly enough-, Joel Silver, who is well known for action movies such as Die Hard and Lethal Weapon, Fathers' Day was the fourth in the line of family comedy- based movies from the 1990s starring the team-up of comics & closest friends, Robin Williams & Billy Crystal. And Robin's comedic role pretty much follows the same or otherwise, similar trademark improvisational style as seen in Aladdin as the Genie, Batty Koda in Ferngully and as Daniel Hillard/Mrs Doubtfire in Mrs Doubtfire. His character routine and improv style throughout this film allows him to demonstrate his comedic acting and stand-up talents that made him famous during the standup scene, on Mork & Mindy and later on with Good Morning, Vietnam, Aladdin and Mrs Doubtfire. If you have seen all of Robin's comedy films, bar this one, then you need to take a look at Fathers' Day

Two men are approached on separate occasions by the same woman, an ex-girlfriend from back in the days, who tells each of them that they are the father of a teenage boy named Scott. Scott has run away from home after a falling out with his parents and the mother and ex-girlfriend of Dale & Jack seek their help in getting him back. Some will ask why doesn't she carry out a DNA paternity test to see who the father is, but anyhow. So Dale & Jack have to work together to achieve this task, whilst putting aside their differences. Scott, meanwhile, runs into some drug dealers, as well as gets involved with a girlfriend, who is not all she seems. 

Along the way, some silly, stupid and funny things happen in the movie, and they come courtesy of Robin Williams's Dale. He never ceases to disappoint in a comedy film, up until the 2000s that is. Be it The Survivors, Good Morning, Vietnam, The Birdcage and Mrs Doubtfire, as well as on TV on Mork & Mindy, and with Fathers' Day, Robin didn't let me down, one bit. 

The plot, as unoriginal as it is & is based on the French movie, Les Comperes, may not be much to write home about, but it is through Robin's improvisational scenes, silly voices and impressions and gags and the physical and slapstick comedy scenes that for any Robin Williams fan, who like me enjoys his funnier fare, Fathers' Day is a movie that they can't pass up. But in all honesty, it is Robin Williams who steals the show and of whom has the funnier scenes and lines, right from the get-go. Whereas in previous year's effort, The Birdcage as Armand he was essentially playing the straight man role with Nathan Lane operating as the funny wise guy, here, Robin Williams as Dale is back to being the funny, amusing wise guy, alongside Billy Crystal as his straight man; Robin pretty much carries this movie and makes it more amusing, entertaining and watchable. Without him, it is more of a dud, as well as it isn't anywhere as good as it is with him in it. His character undergoes some lows in his life but over time, there is light at the end of the tunnel and as sad as his character is most of the time, he always tries to find humour and remains positive in the darkest of times. Robin Williams as Dale is hilarious and in a sweet way as well. And I respect that a lot - and which is indicative of Robin Williams himself. 

Several times I was laughing my head off whilst I was watching this film, it was just so funny. Stupid most of the time, but it was oh so amusing. I like this film way more than Mrs Doubtfire (although I still enjoy Mrs Doubtfire in small doses). & when I saw Fathers' Day a couple of times, I thought it was and is so hilarious and downright silly, but in a good way. Whether as Dale Robin Williams said something funny or amusing, or when something stupid happened to him, it made me laugh and smile. To me, he came across as very sympathetic, sweet, as well as funny and a much more likeable character than say Daniel from Mrs Doubtfire 

I didn't really care about the other characters, apart from Jack (Billy Crystal) and his wife (Julia-Louis Dreyfus); they were extremely forgettable and served as background fodder, whilst Williams, Crystal and to an extent Dreyfus were doing their own thing. There were a few scenes with Scott's father and mother, both individually and collectively; but I pretty much switched off, as I found them and son, Scott to be rather boring with no personality to speak of. I had practically no sympathy towards Scott's mother and I thought she was an awful person. Same goes for his girlfriend and the drug dealers. But the movie shines, thanks to Robin Williams; take him and his offbeat, zany antics away and you don't have much in the way of a highly amusing comedy to speak of. And it is because of Williams as Dale that he is very much let loose with his improv skills, as well as being insanely funny in the role.  

Despite this film being overlooked by the audience, and for those who ignored it, it is your typical standard Robin Williams comedy farce film. Much less along the lines of Good Morning, Vietnam & The Best of Times, whereas 1983's The Survivors has some of the slapstick & physical comedy that can be also found in this movie. & but more so it is like Mrs Doubtfire; I'd say they bear some similar hallmarks: Robin Williams's characters becoming the butt of jokes, Robin Williams acting goofy and silly, the slapstick, the fact they are both family comedies. And so if you liked Mrs Doubtfire a lot, I would recommend this movie. It is more of a wacky comedy and unlike Mrs Doubtfire relies less so on sentimentality and schmaltz.

Highlights from this movie are the penis coffee scolding scene, Jack and Dale's German banter to the band, Sugar Ray, & Robin Williams's funny impersonations & voices. 

Another aspect I want to highlight that most reviewers and comments seem to ignore in their critique was the choice of music featured in this movie; Fathers Day' has a brilliant selection of tracks ranging from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones 'The Impression That I Get', Paul McCartney's 'Young Boy' to Sly & The Family Stone's 'I Wanna Take You Higher' that I'm actually surprised that there wasn't an official motion picture soundtrack CD released for it. 

And yes so what if the humour is stupid and silly? (Hello, this is based on the French film, which had exactly the same type of humour). This is what one would expect in a typical Robin Williams comedy farce type of film and a lot of the comical scenes and lines did put a smile on my face. But the humour in Fathers' Day is not by any means crude or twisted; rather it is good-natured & more along the lines that we laugh with Dale and Jack, as opposed to laughing at them, and so it is suitable for people of all ages, but for some of the mild language that is not suitable for very young children. Fathers' Day may lack the depth of Mrs Doubtfire, but that is just a minor issue as I base my favourite Robin Williams's film choices on the characters he plays. That and that this movie is just as funny & I prefer Dale over Daniel.    

Though I still wished some of the scenes that featured in the original trailer that appeared for promotional use had been in the official movie, because as awful as the trailer was, there were some moments that looked interesting and would have made the film even more enjoyable than it is, just by including them. 

It is also one of Robin Williams's much lesser known movies - and when I say much, I meant it is so obscure (& as obscure as The Survivors, Club Paradise, The Best of Times) to the point that it is either ignored and/or dismissed by many fans. Apart from Amazon, I've yet to come across one single (positive) review of Fathers' Day online; it's always the usual main 5 in Good Morning, Vietnam, Mrs Doubtfire, Dead Poets Society, Hook, Good Will Hunting. & yet this movie rarely gets mentioned & celebrated when it comes to Robin's list of works by many other fans. Especially comedy films, which is a shame really. 

Out of all the latter and least commercially successful movies he released towards the end of the 1990s, Fathers' Day is by far my favourite of the bunch. 

In some ways also, chronologically speaking Fathers' Day is and was the last ever comedy film of Robin Williams that I have thoroughly enjoyed - as almost all of his other comedy movies that ensued, post - 2000 wise, have been largely disappointing affairs.

It gets half a mark deducted though for the suicide references and scene at the beginning of the movie with Dale (Robin Williams). 

Favourite Robin Williams Character Lines:

- He poured hot coffee all over my penis 

- Jack: Listen, Chip, Dale: Dale 

- When you're young, you do some things you're not that proud of

- Jack: She was just so....., Dale: Stimulating... 

- This is a curl, that's a whirl

- And then she showed me a part that was cut from the original

- Uncle! Uncle! Stop! Stop!

- She cares about you. Do you know how lucky you are to have that?

- If springtime had a face, it would be you

- I didn't know she was your wife, I thought she was a sexy woman

- The boy and I were in the shower

- What did you do, run her t*ts through the visa machine?  


Pros +

- Very funny movie with some side-splitting moments (the coffee pouring on Dale's penis is one of many) & hilarious lines 

- Great comedy movie starring Robin Williams that doesn't involve dressing up in drag, dressing up, nor becoming a voice-over animated character 

- Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Julia-Louis Dreyfus

- Main protagonist Dale - I just love him to bits, he was so amusing and kind-hearted & sweet throughout, thanks in part to Robin 

- The songs in this film are terrific 

- & yes I enjoy Fathers' Day much, much more than Mrs Doubtfire. There I said it.

Cons -

- Plot not much to write home about

- If only some of the scenes in the trailer had made it in the final cut of the film 

- The drug dealers, the teenage boy Scott, his girlfriend and Scott's parents

- The suicide scene during the opening of the movie was in bad taste, as well as the suicide references, given Robin Williams's death - did not find them amusing 

Final Verdict:

An interesting concoction of parentage, responsibility, humour and confusion intertwined with some heartfelt moments, a narrative that gets more interesting as the movie progresses, as well as slapstick and comedic silliness and stupidity, Fathers' Day may not be the best comedy movie, especially coming from Robin Williams and as the plot is rather stale. But for me other than that & the suicide references (that one ought to put aside or ignore completely), it is those above reasons, as well as the likeable protagonist, Dale played by Robin and his fun, light-hearted and hilarious shenanigans, which makes it my favourite & beloved comedy movie he has done. I loved Dale Putley.

After repeated (and sufferable) viewings of Mrs Doubtfire, thankfully Fathers' Day made a refreshing change, whilst providing something different as a comedy movie. Particularly for a Robin Williams comedy movie. I realise a lot of people don't like this movie (I had my worries too after seeing the trailer); fine - however, the amount of vitriol and hate this film gets and that in Fathers' Day being branded one of the worst films, ever, considering that Robin has appeared in far worst movies than this one (& ones I have mentioned in my blog), is staggering. 

Yet thank God I didn't fully buy into all the negativity and bashing it received. 

In one's own view, Fathers' Day served as the last (overly) decent comedy film he has ever done. Billy Crystal, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and, but more so Robin Williams, makes this comedy watchable, fun and entertaining, arguably more so than the rest of the entire cast. 

Fathers' Day is a rip-roaring, howl fest that will make you laugh a lot and crack up with sheer amusement and delight. It did that for me. 

If you enjoyed Mork and Mindy and Mrs Doubtfire and that particular type of slapstick, farcical and improvisational humour, then Fathers' Day will be right up your alley.


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