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My Father, The Hero (1994)

DIRECTOR: Steve Miner

CAST: Gerard Depardieu, Katherine Heigl, Dalton James, Faith Prince, Lauren Hutton, Stephen Tobolowsky, Emma Thompson

REVIEW:

My Father, the Hero is an English-language remake of a 1991 French comedy Mon père, ce héros (“My Father, The Hero”), even recasting Gerard Depardieu in the titular role, though surrounded with an American cast.  I can’t comment on the original, but My Father, The Hero is a forgettable piece of fluff with a few mildly amusing moments but never rising above the level of the television sitcom it often feels like.

Divorced Frenchman André (Gerard Depardieu) comes to New York to whisk his estranged American-raised teenage daughter Nicky (Katherine Heigl) off to the Bahamas for a vacation and a little time to reconnect, something the surly Nikki is not enthusiastic about.  Once there, the only thing Nicky is interested in is impressing a handsome local boy, Ben (Dalton James), so to avoid the embarrassment of admitting she’s on a vacation with her father, she instead claims André is her sugar daddy.  Soon Nicky is spinning increasingly twisted stories of her “lover” saving her from a life of drugs on the street, and the oblivious André is viewed by the entire local population with thinly-veiled revulsion (except the flirty Diana, played by Faith Prince, who somehow manages to remain as oblivious as he is).  Complications arise—as they must always do in these kinds of silly rom coms—when Ben feels compelled to “save” Nicky, and André gets drawn into weaving tall tales about himself.

The premise might have had some potential, but despite the inherent ickiness of a girl passing her father off as her lover, My Father, The Hero wants to be safe and family-friendly and PG, which puts it in the awkward position of featuring a twisted premise but being afraid to push any envelopes with it.  The movie stays in safe little sitcom-ish rom com territory with the requisite tropes and complications—people conveniently overhear exactly what the plot needs them to and not a word more, the better to make sure they leap to strange assumptions and stick with them, André (and even the social butterfly Diana) somehow remains blithely oblivious for days and days to what seemingly everyone else on the island believes about him, the two “lovers” must have some sort of manufactured confrontation, and there must be an even more manufactured “emergency”, consisting in this case of Nicky perching none-too-precariously on a large rock, to be a catalyst for secrets to unravel.  Of course, WASP-ish all-American pretty boy Ben is conveniently onhand for romance purposes, while the native Bahamians are unfortunately basically unanimously portrayed as busboys, steel-drummers, doormen, and stereotypical “island music” musicians.  There are a few amusing moments, most notably when poor oblivious André makes the unfortunate choice to sing “Thank Heaven For Little Girls” at amateur night, to the audience’s horror, but overall My Father, The Hero is never more than mildly amusing as a comedy, and the Nicky/Ben romance is limp, partly because Katherine Heigl’s acting abilities are limited—as evidenced when she tries to pass off dry-eyed squints as crying—and the blandly photogenic, soap opera-esque Dalton James comes off as more of a model than an actor.  Unsurprisingly, the best thing about My Father, The Hero is Gerard Depardieu, a popular star in his native France, who is affable and amusing as the hapless André, but this is a less-than-challenging role for him, especially considering he’s basically just regurgitating the role he already played in Mon père, ce héros (there’s also a bit with André, in hiding, feeding poetic lines of love to his daughter to feed to her love interest, that pays homage to his Oscar-nominated portrayal of Cyrano De Bergerac).  In other supporting roles, Faith Prince is the flirty Diana, Lauren Hutton has an opening bit part, and the ever-delightful Emma Thompson has a throwaway cameo as André’s mostly-unseen lover with whom he communicates over the phone; alas she doesn’t show her face until the end of the movie.

Ultimately, despite some potential in the premise, My Father, The Hero is afraid to play things any less safe than a standard episode of a mediocre television sitcom, and that’s where the quality level lies.  Unless you’re an ardent fan of the antics of Gerard Depardieu, or interested in ogling  Katherine Heigl, there’s little reason to seek this one out.

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