Plot: Ben (Joey Bragg) has just graduated and before he starts his job at a high end eco-science operation, he returns home with his best friend Larry (Matt Shively) to have a little fun. He also visits his eccentric father Wayne (David Spade), who loves to drink and well, that’s about all he does these days. Wayne is thrilled to see his son and spend some time with him, but Ben would rather stay with his friend than at Wayne’s rundown old trailer. After a night on the town, Ben and Larry have a drunken conversation about their dads, as Larry’s father Mardy (Nat Faxon) is also an odd duck, a nervous wreck scared of almost anything. The two talk about which dad would win in a fight and when Wayne finds out, he takes it to heart and sees a chance to win his son’s love, so he sets out to fight Mardy and prove himself.
Entertainment Value: This Netflix original has a premise that feels like more of a sitcom episode than a feature film, but Father of the Year is watchable, even if it isn’t all that memorable. This was a Happy Madison production and it shows, as the movie lines up with similar second tier projects from the company, the ones that don’t feature Adam Sandler in a prominent role. So if you’ve seen other Happy Madison pictures that featured Sandler’s friends in the lead, then you know about what to expect here, more or less. The sense of humor is outlandish and over the top, as well as mean spirited at times, as Sandler’s signature style can sometimes be. The humor yields mixed results, some solid laughs at times and some painful misses, but this never lands as hilarious or the kind of comedy you laugh about days later. The pace is brisk and despite the thin premise being stretched beyond its limits, Father of the Year is never that slow and is at least watchable. But if you don’t appreciate the usual Happy Madison style, then this one won’t likely spark your interest much. I found it to be fine for a one time watch, but I doubt I’ll get an urge to revisit this one.
Although Father of the Year leans on the usual Happy Madison style ensemble approach, David Spade is the closest to a lead role here. Those who have seen his Joe Dirt movies will recognize a lot of elements in Wayne, but this isn’t a carbon copy of that character by any means. This is a less optimistic vision of a similar character, so Spade’s presence is darker here, but still provides solid humor at times. His performance is fine, but the material is thin, so he benefits from the plethora of supporting roles to help carry the movie, to be sure. Nat Faxon dials up his effort to the moon in an over the top, go for broke oddball performance. I can see his outlandish persona deterring some viewers, but I appreciated his enthusiasm, if nothing else. The younger cast members are also solid, with Matt Shively, Joey Bragg, and Bridgit Mendler in prominent roles, while several familiar faces pop up in small parts and cameos. A colorful group that tries to make the most of the script, but this material just isn’t consistently funny enough to let them really let loose.