Based on the Philip K Dick story of the same name, without the hyphen, ‘The Father Thing’ is directed and written by Michael Dinner is the modern American version of the story which, unfortunately, includes the almost untranslatable obsession with baseball.
Most of the first ten minutes or so is incomprehensible to the UK audience because of the baseball talk between father (Greg Kinnear) and son Charlie (Jack Gore). This is to show how little the pair communicate as the father has taken him camping to tell the son the parents are splitting up. As it happens, Charlie already knows and is quite stoic about the idea given it’s almost the norm in modern society.
When the meteorites fall and people start being replaced, at first, nobody notices. Charlie witnesses the alien attack his father and immediately knows he has been replaced. The Internet makes it obvious this is not a local problem and he recruits his friends to support him. As the world becomes a more dangerous place, Charlie has only his friend, Dylan Peretti (Jack Lewis) and his friend’s annoying brother, Henry (actor Zakk Paradise) to make a stand.
The main problem with this story is it has been told do many times now it’s not a novelty or particularly interesting. The baseball element just doesn’t work and there is a lack of suspense. The mother (Mireille Enos) has little to do as usual this is a boy’s own adventure referencing ‘The Goonies’ and ‘Stranger Things’.
The original story follows along these lines but at the point it was written, in 1954, was fresh and inspirational. It might escape many viewers notice that Dick’s story predated ‘ Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers’ by Jack Finney in 1955. Because the Finney story has been filmed twice it has possibly now erased the originality of the idea. This tries to capture the intense family relationship between father and son but as it has already broken down the doppelgänger’s attempts to bond are transparent. In other stories, the aliens are benign and we don’t resent them bring an improved version of the previous human. Here they are clearly intending to fully take over the Earth, with fake offers of an improved version to the boy. The minor triumph at the end leaves us with no confidence for the future.
I would have appreciated a female version with a mother/daughter relationship where the child has no knowledge of the substitution but instinctively knows the difference. Here, the sad fact is that the father fails twice to be a good father and the result is death.