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In a genre populated by an unusually high percentage of nearly unwatchable movies — the surprise-paternity comedy — John Asher’s I Hate Kids comes as something of a surprise. Not because it’s any good (no, no, no), but because of the number of talented people who, presumably having read the witless script, agreed to appear in it. According to his bio, Asher “has spent literally his entire life in the business”; so maybe he had a lot of favors to call in from people like cameo actors Marisa Tomei and exec-producer John Landis, not to mention small-screen MVPs Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and Rhea Seehorn (Better Call Saul), who accepted leading roles. Here’s hoping all the markers are now in, and this painful dud zips through theaters quickly enough to do no damage to their reputations.
Tom Everett Scott plays Nick, a smug writer with a current best-seller titled I Hate Kids. Having found a mate who’s equally anti-procreation (Rachel Boston’s Sydney), he has decided to settle down and get married. But during the couple’s rehearsal dinner, a Brillo-headed teen walks in: Mason (Julian Feder) declares that he’s Nick’s son. He knows so because he was told by talk-radio psychic Fabular (Burgess, barely tweaking his Titus Andromedon act).
Release date: Jan 18, 2019
After playing it all off as a bad joke to his future in-laws, Nick learns that the kid and the fortune-teller might be right. They did a DNA test on some of his hair to confirm. (According to this month’s laziest screenplay, they bought the sample on eBay.) Now all they need is for Nick to help them find Mason’s mother, who gave him up for adoption at birth. Nick says he’ll give them two days, lies to his fiancee about where he’ll be before their wedding, and hops into Fabular’s convertible for a sad, stupid reenactment of Bill Murray’s quest in Broken Flowers.
As broad as the characterizations have been thus far, they get much worse once we start meeting the many women Nick loved and left circa 14 years ago. One is a psychopath living in a house full of mannequins; one is a grudge-carrying martial arts instructor; one is certain to offend any trans people in the theater.
Along the way, Nick suffers some predictable blows to his ego. The words “can I have your autograph?” will always be aimed at Fabular, not him. (And, bizarrely, a waitress just happens to have Fabular’s headshot ready to be signed.) Some of the women he assumes still pine for him barely remember his name. And he’s a whole lot worse than he seems to think at keeping secrets from Sydney, whose pregnant and petty sister (Seehorn, who deserves so much better than this part) nags her into digging up the truth.
Ignoring the cheapness of the jokes they’ve been hawking, the filmmakers pivot in the third act, expecting us now to take their canned scenes of emotional growth seriously. We’re meant to hope that this shallow cad will see how beautiful parenting can be and refuse to let his newly discovered progeny out of his life. Mason’s prospects are pretty dim, but still, he should hold out for better.
Production companies: Swing Lake Entertainment, Red Rover Film, Route One Entertainment
Distributor: Freestyle Digital Media
Cast: Tom Everett Scott, Tituss Burgess, Julian Feder, Rachel Boston, Rhea Seehorn
Director: John Asher
Screenwriters: Frank Dietz, Todd Traina
Producers: Todd Traina, Rachel McHale
Executive producers: John Landis, John Asher, Russel Levine
Director of photography: Blake Evans
Production designer: Alan E. Muraoka
Costume designer: Inanna Bantu
Editor: John Kovac
Composers: Joseph Bauer, Mike Raznick
Casting director: Mary Jo Slater
PG-13, 89 minutes
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