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MOVIE REVIEW : 'My Father' a Sordid Remake of a Sex Comedy

February 04, 1994|PETER RAINER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The arrival of "My Father, the Hero" (citywide) begs the question: Why does Hollywood persist in remaking French sex comedies? Most of the originals--including "The Tall Blonde Man With One Black Shoe" and "Les Fugitifs," remade as "Three Fugitives"--weren't all that sexy or funny to begin with. And with the exception of "Three Men and a Little Lady," none of these remakes, which also include "The Toy," "Blame It on Rio," "Partners" and "Buddy Buddy," has been a smash hit. Or sexy. Or funny.

"My Father, the Hero," remade from a French comedy virtually unseen in this country, at least has Gerard Depardieu in the cast, which gives it a pedigree. Depardieu, who has appeared in every French film for the past 20 years, give or take a few, makes his third appearance in a Hollywood movie. (The first two were "Green Card" and "1492: Conquest of Paradise.") It's enjoyable watching Depardieu wrap his mouth around the English language; he seems to enjoy it as much as we do. Less enjoyable is watching Depardieu (or, in long shot, his stunt double) water skiing and wallowing through treacherous shoals. (A friend said he reminded her of Shamu.)

Depardieu may be fun to watch but he's not enough reason to see the movie. The plot is one of those ooo-la-la jobs that was probably pretty smarmy even in the original (except the French can get away with these things better than we can). It's about what happens when Andre (Depardieu), an errant, divorced dad, takes his 14-year-old daughter, Nicole (Katherine Heigl), to a Bahamas resort for a quality-time vacation.

*

When Nicole falls for a hunky local, Ben (Dalton James), she concocts a jealousy-making scheme to rope him in: She pretends Andre is actually her lover and an international spy. (The father-daughter relationship is supposed to be a ruse to get around the illegalities.) The vacationers all think Andre is a child molester and give him scorching stares; Nicole, meanwhile, with her princessy, sweet-young-thing wiles, enjoys teasing the resort's male staff and playing up her role as kept woman (or child-woman).

Does this sound like the comic premise we've all been waiting for? The screenwriters, Francis Veber and Charlie Peters, have worked on many of the previous France-to-Hollywood adaptations. (Peters contributed to the script for "Blame It on Rio," which also dabbled in incest yuks.) Along with director Steve Miner, they try to muffle the essential sleaziness of the plot while at the same time playing up to it. Nicole is ogled not only by the local guys but by the camera.

There's something sordid about the way the filmmakers offer up this--shall we say questionable--entertainment as a refreshment.

'My Father, the Hero'

Gerard Depardieu: Andre

Katherine Heigl: Nicole

Dalton James: Ben

Lauren Hutton: Megan

A Touchstone Pictures presentation in association with the Edward S. Feldman Co. Director Steve Miner. Producers Jacques Bar and Jean-Louis Livi. Executive producer Edward S. Feldman. Screenplay by Francis Veber and Charlie Peters. Cinematographer Daryn Okada. Editor Marshall Harvey. Costumes Vicki Sanchez. Music David Newman. Production design Christopher Nowak. Art director Patricia Woodbridge. Set decorator Don K. Ivie. Running time: 1 hour, 54 minutes.

MPAA rating: PG, for "language and elements of sensuality." Times guidelines: It includes incest-themed jokes.

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