Judge Josh Rode is a father, though he's still working on the hero part.
"I've been walking around here with you the past few days. They think I'm child molester!"—Andre
In 1990, French superstar Gérard Depardieu scored an American hit and won a Golden Globe with Green Card, then followed it up with the dramatic big budget flop 1492: Conquest of Paradise. My Father the Hero was the 1994 attempt to regain his American footing by retreating back to comedy. Apparently it worked.
Facts of the Case
Andre (Depardieu) is a divorced workaholic who hasn't seen his daughter in five years. Still picturing her as his little girl, despite the obvious physical changes, he is completely unprepared for the post-puberty version he takes on a Caribbean vacation.
Okay, so I didn't give you the entire premise of the film. If only My Father the Hero had stopped there.
There is a ton of emotional ore in a father trying to come to grips with the fact that his daughter has grown up behind his back. It's just waiting to be mined and refined into bewilderment, angst, despair, and, of course, the inevitable learning about each other leading to a re-connection and happy ending. That would make for a great film…if the acting was good.
Instead, we get daughter Nikki (Knocked Up's Katherine Heigl in her first starring role) telling everyone that her father is actually her lover so they'll think she's older than she really is, then creating an implausible history to back up her story. The theme of the film switches from "estranged dad deals with daughter's teen-ness" to "estranged dad is the butt of everyone's sneers and eventually has to deal with his daughter's web of lies." What's more, this premise leads to the very uncomfortable situation of trying to make the audience view a 14-year-old sexually. I mean, a thong? Really? The irony is that the big joke of the film—everyone on the island thinks Andre is a lecherous pervert—is also what the film thinks of the viewer.
Of course, Andre can't complain too much for his daughter's apparent penchant for stretching the truth. He is a selfish jerk who has spent the last five years ignoring her when he could have been much more involved in her life. The entire time they're on the island, Andre seems far more interested in getting his girlfriend (Who forced you to be part of this, Emma Thompson?) to join them, than he is trying to mend fences with Nikki. And yet he wants Nikki to believe he loves her. "I'd do anything for you, don't you know that?" he asks; a hollow plea, since it follows concrete evidence that it's simply not true. And yet she believes him. I guess we're supposed to believe that she really wants to trust him, since he is after all her father. It's pretty clear the script was written by men who could only guess what a teenage girl would say and do.
None of the secondary characters ring true either. Nikki's mother (Lauren Hutton, American Gigolo) comes across as a bi-polar socialite, first needlessly antagonizing Nikki, then running to her in tears, then picking the same fight again. Perhaps it's to show why Andre left? Maybe it's to show that Nikki is petulant and headstrong? Hard to say. There is also a gaggle of American tourists on the island who act as a sort of dysfunctional Greek Chorus, reacting to and commenting on the rumors surrounding the main characters. They serve no real purpose, except to inject someone's idea of humorous asides and running gags about French people.
The performances, especially any extended scene featuring Nikki and love interest Ben (Dalton James, Beverly Hills 90210), feel like those old after-school specials, only without the positive message. There's probably lots of blame to go around, but given that the director is Steve Miner (Dawson's Creek), I guess it should be no surprise that his feature film work would feel like a TV show.
Depardieu does his best to breathe life into the porous Andre, but he is not charismatic enough to lift the film by himself. Or perhaps it wasn't his fault; maybe he could have done more had he not been hamstrung by the script. The only emotion he's really allowed to convey is befuddlement, but Depardieu is not nearly as good at that as, say, Hugh Grant. Even Rowan Atkinson would have fit the character better; the ridiculous plot twists are exactly the kinds in which Mr. Bean might find himself immersed.
The Blu-ray treatment from Mill Creek is surprising. That is to say, I was surprised at the flecks that marred the picture from time to time. It's not like 1994 was that long ago; there should be plenty of good material to create a fresh transfer, but it looks as though they just went from the DVD stock. The sound is likewise disappointing, the only option being Dolby 2.0 stereo. I know, it's not like My Father the Hero needs 5.1 surround, but when you see a film on Blu-ray, certain expectations come with it.
Another expectation is the presence of a bonus feature or two. You know, behind-the-scenes stuff, making-of, interviews. Not a bit here. Mill Creek clearly spared every expense.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There are some laughs—three of them, to be exact—so it could have been worse.
My Father the Hero has a decent premise and went the wrong way with it. Throw in a pinch of pedophilia and you've got a film to avoid.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
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