Review: Gerard Butler is a big miss in overbearing and treacly drama ‘A Family Man’

Gerard Butler, with Ethan MacIver-Wright, left and Julia Butters in the film "A Family Man."
(Kerry Hayes / Vertical Entertainment)

In the wrong-headed drama “A Family Man,” Gerard Butler plays Dane Jensen, a slimy, hard-charging team leader at a Chicago corporate placement firm who’s competing with his female counterpart (Alison Brie) to replace their semiretiring boss (Willem Dafoe, in a rare bad performance). But Dane must reconsider the selfish, workaholic ways that infuriate his long-suffering wife, Elise (Gretchen Mol), when their 10-year-old son, Ryan (Maxwell Jenkins), is diagnosed with leukemia.

As drawn, Dane, a guy so amped he mixes Red Bull with his morning coffee, has no real capacity for change, despite a newfound “commitment” to family. Dane may ditch work to tour landmark buildings with budding architect Ryan, but later, in a truly tone-deaf scene, he’s loudly wheeling and dealing on his cellphone from his near-death son’s hospital room.

Dane’s stabs at redemption, which include a climactic grand gesture on behalf of a hard-to-place client (Alfred Molina), feel as fake and forced as Ryan’s illness, Dane and Elise’s marital woes, Dane and Ryan’s bonding bits and the recruitment agency’s “Boiler Room”-type machinations.

Alternately crass and treacly, overbearing and under-finessed, the film, penned by headhunter-turned-screenwriter Bill Dubuque and directed by Mark Williams, is on life support from the get-go.



‘A Family Man’

Rating: R, for language and some sexual content

Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Playing: AMC Town Center 8, Burbank; also on VOD.

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