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Dad Takes Romance Out of ‘Hero’

<i> Lynn Smith is a staff writer for The Times' View section. </i>

In “My Father, the Hero,” a 14-year-old city girl goes on vacation with her divorced dad (Gerard Depardieu), and they both become entangled in deceit when she tries to impress a rich hunk by telling him her father is her sugar daddy and he plays along. (Rated PG)

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Can you say . . . “Oedipal”? How about . . . “incestuous”?

Well, then, try “gross.”

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For some pubescent girls, parts of this film might be a fun fantasy, I suppose. What girl today gets her dad all to herself for 10 minutes, much less 10 days, not to mention on a white sand beach in the balmy Bahamas? And then finds the boy of her dreams, a guy who’s handsome and rich and protective? And they fight over her? And she looks like a model and wears great clothes?

But still. When you base a sex comedy around a 14-year-old girl and her father lying about their relationship, there’s bound to be a lot of psychological weirdness. And several kids questioned, as I did, the PG rating. They could just as easily have titled the film, “My Daughter, the Nymphet.”

The girl, Nicole, has grown up on talk shows, she reads Cosmo, wears thong bathing suits and calls her mother “a bitch.” Like most 14-year-olds, she considers her father only a notch above her mother, impossibly antiquated, and is embarrassed to share the planet with him. But at the same time, she yearns for his attention.

So she makes up this story, which causes the other guests to treat him like a child molester and provokes winks and nudges from the 17-year-old beach guys who figure she’s easy. At 14.

The dad, from France, is the sort of guy who confides his own confused love life to people he doesn’t know very well--even if the person is 14 and his own daughter. At the same time, he is horrified at the prospect of his little baby growing up and dating.

When he finally accepts the inevitable, rather than keeping his distance, he joins her deception.

All the 12- to 14-year-old girls I talked to liked the movie, especially the romance with the boy, and thought the premise was funny. But they didn’t seem to think he was much of a hero.

Said Jaylee Levine, 14, “It was a good movie, like the girl and the guy romance part. But not the child molest part. I didn’t like that (the dad) went along with it. It was just, like, gross.”

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The movie’s message could easily have been Shakespeare’s: “Oh what a tangled web we weave/When first we practice to deceive.” And maybe some got the point.

But the girls said they were too distracted by Depardieu (his Frenchness, his large, dimpled nose) and Dalton James who played cute guy Ben (his general hunkiness.)

Depardieu was the only good actor in the film, they thought. They called James an amateur, despite his good looks, and they unanimously thumbed down Nicole (Katherine Heigh) calling the character “a spoiled brat” and a “con artist.”

Not many said they would want Dad’s help in their own love lives.

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“No. No. No,” said Ashley Carlton, 14. “I would want him to stay out of my business.”

“I wouldn’t mind if my dad did that,” Jennifer said. But she added: “A dad would never do that. . . . It’s like one of those stories that would never happen in real life.”

I’m glad. I got the disconcerting feeling that the filmmakers thought it was OK to portray a 14-year-old girl as a lust object. And that they thought the father really was a kind of hero.

They seemed to be going for the “Awww” ending when he says he wants to have more babies and hopes they’re girls. But I’m sure there are others who would want to institute parenting licenses and then yank his.

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