“Thank Heaven for little girls”
Steve Miner’s film My Father the Hero, a remake of French film Mon père, ce héros that came out just three years earlier, is definitely a film that shows its age. It exudes mid-90s aesthetic from its music, clothing, and overacting, but surprisingly still becomes a gem of a film almost two decades later. The only reason I can say that is because of the wonderful performance from Gérard Depardieu. In a role that asks him to play the fool at every turn, even to partaking in a John Candy/Great Outdoors type water-skiing incident, the Frenchman goes for it completely and as a result benefits the entire production. Caught inside a lie that he is unaware of—a lie that his daughter has been spreading, saying she and he are lovers—his reactions to the disgust of the other vacationers in the Bahamas are priceless. Completely oblivious to what he sees as absurdity on their part, Depardieu steals the show and makes what would otherwise be a throwaway film worth a rental. And thankfully so, because its other draw would be seeing a young Katherine Heigl before her, in my opinion, unwarranted explosion of late, post-“Grey’s Anatomy”. If that were the only reason to see it, I’d have said stay far away.
Okay, maybe that was a bit too harsh. In all actuality, this may be my favorite role by Heigl. She plays the spoiled rotten, bratty fourteen, (and a half), year old to perfection. You will hate her character as what starts as cute precociousness morphs into ambivalence to those around her and your want for this selfish girl to get hers in the end. Heigl’s Nicole makes a complete buffoon out of her father, the one person who actually cares about her, (from what we see at the beginning concerning the relationship with her mother, I don’t think I could say the same for them), and begins to make a mockery of all those around them with lie after lie. I’ll admit to hoping that something tragic would befall her, maybe even the death of Depardieu—after she lies that he is dying of heart failure—to finally get her to understand the consequences of her actions, but alas, this is an innocuous family film, so it will all work out in the end somehow.
What you don’t discover until the conclusion, however, is that the film isn’t about Heigl and her evolution, but instead about Depardieu’s Andre. The title doesn’t refer to how Andre becomes Nicole’s hero; it speaks to the fact that the movie is about him being that hero. The homage to his turn as Cyrano de Bergerac, (Steve Martin’s Roxanne for you people unaware of the French original), is a nice touch, coaching his daughter on the way of love while also reeducating himself, opening his own eyes to what needs to be done in order to win back his girlfriend in Paris, (a character shrouded in secrecy until the end, revealed as a well-known English actress). My Father the Hero is about Andre growing up to become the father he thought he was. In his mind he had been there for his daughter the past five years, but soon discovers that he was far from being by her side, even skipping her thirteenth birthday. An error in judgment for which she found out about while bringing him soup under the impression he was home sick. What we assume was a selfishness learned from her mother is realized to be a stubbornness and guarded armor against the man who let her down when she needed him the most.
Andre is also coached along in the ways of a young girl’s quest for her first love by the fantastic Faith Prince as Diana, a divorcee looking for her rich Italian future husband, but willing to settle for a Frenchman if she can. The cheesiness in her role works splendidly, infusing some nice comic relief playing off Depardieu with aplomb. Her inclusion is a welcome break from the headshaking lies and all-around brattiness Heigl brings, adding a good feminine influence to the film. She opens his eyes to Nicole’s cry for help, how the girl is lying to win over the boy that she thinks she won’t get unless appearing more adult than her barely high school age portrays. Also, Diana’s “advances” and genuine friendship towards Andre allows for the acknowledgement that Isabel, in Paris without him, is the one he can’t live without.
So, in the end, amongst what could be some pretty creepy moments of pedophilia, love is definitely in the air. Laughs are had all around, with confusion adding to the dynamic between pretty much everyone on the island versus Andre, and we get some nice slapstick moments to go along with more verbal subtlety. The music will get you grooving in that nostalgic, am-I-grooving-because-its funny-or-because-I-want-to way, and Depardieu will win you over as he attempts to protect the love of his life and be the father and hero she deserves. Whether, by the end, you decide she does in fact deserve that kind of man in her life—it’s a tough question to answer, I know—you can’t help but smile at the outcome of all the shenanigans that occurred. If you can laugh about a situation where people think a fifty-year-old is dating a fifteen-year-old—because it is honestly utilized for laughs—and just want a nice check-your-brain-at-the-door evening, My Father the Hero can get the job done.
My Father the Hero 5/10 | ★ ★