Chemistry Fizzles Between Williams And Crystal

----------------------------------------------------------------- Movie review

XX "Fathers' Day," with Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Bruce Greenwood, Nastassia Kinski. Directed by Ivan Reitman from a script by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. Auburn Cinema 17, Bella Bottega 7, Crossroads, East Valley 13, Everett Mall 1-3, Factoria, Grand Cinemas, Guild 45th, Issaquah 9, Kent 6, Kirkland Parkplace, Lewis & Clark, Meridian 16, Mountlake 9, Oak Tree, SeaTac Mall, Snohomish, South Hill Mall, Valley drive-in. 102 minutes. "PG-13" - Parental guidance advised for adult language, innuendo. -----------------------------------------------------------------

"Fathers' Day" is the cinematic equivalent of this year's Chicago White Sox. The baseball team that signed the highest-priced free agents has the worst record in the American League. At least they have months to find a winning combination.

No such luck for "Fathers' Day." This flop was created by a team of comic and film all-stars that includes director Ivan Reitman ("Ghostbusters"), producer Joel Silver ("Lethal Weapon"), screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel ("City Slickers"), one of the hottest comic actresses ("Seinfeld's" Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and, if you believe a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, the first and 21st most funny people alive (respectively, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal).

Essentially a remake of the 1983 Francis Veber-Gerard Depardieu film "Les Comperes," "Fathers' Day" opens with a mother (Nastassia Kinski) visiting two old boyfriends. She tells them separately that her son, Scott (Charlie Hofheimer), has run away. The kicker? She also tells each that he is the real father.

Soon the two men - Crystal as a big-shot L.A. attorney, Williams as a '60s hippie with a suicide complex - realize they are looking for the same boy. Since neither has a child, each has a strong desire to find Scott, who is hanging out with music groupies.

The first on-screen pairing of Crystal and Williams certainly is pleasant to watch, but five minutes of either's stand-up act would generate more hard laughs than this 102-minute film manages to.

Reitman and his writers go out of the way to give the comedians plenty of room to ad-lib within the context of the film (something that made "Good Morning Vietnam" Williams' first hit movie), but the two never catch fire.

Kinski and Louis-Dreyfus, who plays Crystal's wife, are given perfunctory "girlfriend" roles. Bruce Greenwood, as Scott's supposed dad, spends most of the movie stuck in a Honey Bucket, a situation that never pays off with laughs.

As in many Americanized French comedies ("Three Men and a Baby," "Jungle 2 Jungle," Veber's own "Three Fugitives"), the dramatics here are silly (a subplot involves Scott and some one-dimensional drug dealers), the sentiment trivial and the double-entendres plentiful. Stephen H. Burum's proficient cinematography and an original song contributed by Paul McCartney are squandered.

Fans of Crystal and Williams certainly will enjoy the pairing, but this is far from their most inspired work.

One wonders if the two had played against type and switched roles, perhaps the movie would have been funnier. The film is so top-heavy, however, that even serious changes probably wouldn't have saved it. The worst crime here is how ordinary "Fathers' Day" is.