Owen Wilson and Ed Helms star in the new movie Father Figures as two brothers who one day get a rude surprise: Their mother Helen (Glenn Close) doesn’t actually know who their real father is and has been lying about it for years. That sets the two off on a trip to track down some of their mother’s former paramours to figure out who their true biological father is.
That journey, of course, goes off-track pretty quickly. Not only do they learn more about their mother and her history than they ever really needed to, but they get involved in various other hijinks that complicate matters. Some of the potential fathers are great, some are less so. Blah blah blah, lessons are learned and so on.
The same red background was used on an updated version of the teaser after the movie got a name change. The “Are you our daddy?” copy is replaced here by something that offers a bit more explanation of the story along with a crude joke when it says “This holiday season one family tree is about to find its nuts.” (ed note: 10 points from Gryffindor for passive voice.)
The theatrical poster smashes all the major characters into a single frame with badly manipulated and positioned photos squeezing into a picture. This is hands-down one of the worst posters I’ve seen in quite a while.
The first trailer opens with Kyle and Peter already on their road trip and encountering a hitchhiker. Then we flashback to their mother’s recent wedding, an occasion she uses to reveal to them that she doesn’t know who their father really was, which causes an immediate identity crisis in the boys. They decide to go try and track down who their father is, which is what gets the road trip going. What follows is about a minute of them going to various guys and getting a lot more information about their mother’s sex life than they bargained for.
It’s funny enough and there’s certainly chemistry between Helms and Wilson. Is it enough to hold down an entire movie? That remains to be seen but this trailer should bring in a few people who have been fans of the previous work of both actors.
After the movie was renamed it got a new red-band trailer that laid out the story a bit more quickly but laid out the same basic premise, just with a bit different shading around the edges. It’s still being sold as a goofy road-trip type of story with lots of explicit sexual conversations. A standard version was also released.
Online and Social
First off, it’s worth noting that Warner Bros. apparently let the URL originally used for the movie under its first title lapse, so it now takes you to a cheaply monetized placeholder site someone’s squatting on. Apparently redirects are too complicated.
The new official website for the movie opens with full-screen video that has, on the front page, a button to add the release date to your calendar of choice as well as one to buy tickets.
Moving to the menu at the top, “Videos” has both of the post-renaming trailers. The “Synopsis” has a write up that’s heavy on the behind-the-scenes talent as well as the standard cast and crew list. There are a handful of production stills as well as a wide selection of posters in the “Gallery.”
Oddly, the Facebook and Twitter profiles for the movie don’t seem to be linked to on the site at all.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The red-band trailer that came out after the movie’s name was changed was used quite a bit as a paid ad on Twitter. There were also a lot of pre-roll ads using 30-second commercials run on YouTube that played up the outrageous hijinks the brothers get into while going light on the story.
Media and Publicity
Unsurprisingly, several months after the first trailer hit and well before release, the name was changed from the original “Bastards” to its current, more generic moniker.
The cast talked about working together and the story of the movie at the premiere, which also served as a fundraiser for those impacted by the wildfires ravaging Southern California.
There were a few other minor publicity beats as well. Helms and Wilson each did a few interviews, but Wilson was coming off the tour for Wonder so there wasn’t a lot that was unique there.
I’ll be honest, I considered ditching this one and leaving it off the list of movies I was covering because it looks like kind of a disaster. The comedy seems forced and largely unfunny and the story thin.
More than anything, I can’t believe this seemed like a good idea to anyone. Aren’t we in an era of sex-positivity, where consenting adults aren’t supposed to be shamed for their actions? Basing an entire story around the idea that a woman 40 years ago was such a slut she doesn’t know who fathered her children seems like the premise to a late-1980s sitcom, not a late-2010s feature film. Not to get too deep here, but that seems like it’s stuck in a patriarchal mindset about how women are supposed to be pure before marriage and chaste outside of reproduction, which isn’t where we’re at right now.
However long the release of the movie was for various reasons, it wasn’t long enough.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.
2 thoughts on “Father Figures – Marketing Recap”
I honestly loved your comments on the “tone” and message of this film. The concept is so outdated and not a message I would want to send to kids, teens or other grown adults, to watch.
I feel like the entire story wasn’t structured correctly, with any actual “plot”, it’s more like an idea of plots mixed with seasoning of bad slap stick jokes that insult the audience, more than that make the audience laugh