End-Of-Summer -- Blowups -- `Father Hood,' `Wilder Napalm' Ho-Hum Just Like Dog Days Of Summer

Movie review

X 1/2 "Father Hood," with Patrick Swayze, Halle Berry, Brian Bonsall and Sabrina Lloyd. Directed by Darrell James Roodt, from a screenplay by Scott Spencer. Aurora, Alderwood, Broadway Market, Everett 9, Renton Village 8, Totem Lake, Seatac Mall, Valley drive-in."PG-13" - Parental guidance strongly suggested because of profanity. -------------------------------------------------------------------

Because "Father Hood" bears a superficial resemblance to the current hit "The Fugitive," this ill-conceived attempt to combine heartwarming family values with an outlaw action-on-the-road movie provides an interesting opportunity to see how similar plots can be diametrically opposed on the scale of intelligence.

There is not one significant credibility gap to be found in "The Fugitive," while this would-be comedy offers a virtual stampede of idiocies, convenient plot shortcuts and enough ridiculous behavior to qualify every character for psychiatric evaluation. That the film manages to maintain a degree of sincerity is quite an achievement, and one that can only be accounted to dumb luck.

Giving a peripatetic performance that makes him look like he's struggling with a bursting bladder, Patrick Swayze plays Jack, a small-time Los Angeles hood who's really a stand-up guy because he only steals from drug dealers. But that's not good enough to gain him custody of his teenage daughter Kelly (Sabrina Lloyd) and 7-year-old son Eddie (Brian Bonsall). He's been a lousy dad, and they've wound up in abusive foster homes.

That is, until Kelly escapes from the prisonlike Bigelow Hall and tracks Jack down just as he's leaving for Las Vegas to pull one last big rip-off. After Kelly insists that Eddie be sprung from the same facility, Jack finds himself the unwilling custodian of his two estranged kids, and begins a lawless cross-country chase involving an L.A. reporter (Halle Berry) who needs Jack's help to expose corruption in the foster-care system, and a multistate army of buffoonish cops who couldn't find a Ping-Pong ball on a square foot of black velvet.

This is the kind of movie in which one character spends two scenes inexplicably playing with a flashlight for the simple reason that a later scene will require the flashlight in a darkened cave. Likewise, you can count on a dimwit boat owner to launch his gorgeous cruiser with the keys in the ignition, because that allows Swayze to dash off with the boat while the surprised owner keeps a firm grip on the mooring line and is yanked off the dock for a bit of ancient slapstick.

It's all quite flat and uninspired, in keeping with the policy of Disney's Hollwood Pictures division, which mandates the avoidance of authenticity and freshness at all costs. A list of Hollywood Pictures from the past few years represents a numbing roll call of mediocrity, of which "Father Hood" is the latest installment.

The film does bounce along nicely to a rockabilly soundtrack, and young Sabrina Lloyd has a maturity and presence which suggest a better film that might have sprung from Scott Spencer's script. But it's too little, too late, and despite its best intentions, "Father Hood" is destined to become leftovers in the video store.