A train wreck from start to finish, this title in search of a movie will have a hard time scaring up any business -- even with Patrick Swayze's marquee value -- particularly once word of mouth starts to spread.

A train wreck from start to finish, this title in search of a movie will have a hard time scaring up any business — even with Patrick Swayze’s marquee value — particularly once word of mouth starts to spread.

Hollywood Pictures actually refers to this as “an action/adventure” in the press notes, indicating that no one in the publicity department knew what to make of it any more than production execs did. Actually, “Father Hood” is a basic road movie — small-time criminal takes his two kids across country and bonds with them — handled so ham-fistedly one can hardly waitfor the journey to end.

Swayze plays Jack, a hustler whose kids are being held in an evil foster-care home.

On his way to New Orleans to rob a drug dealer, Jack, who’s taken no interest in the children despite their mother’s death, in a fit of pique snatches them from the home director (Bob Gunton) and reluctantly drags them along on his cross-country trek.

In transit, the teenage daughter (Sabrina Lloyd) and young son (Brian Bonsall) fret about their dad abandoning them while Jack carries on a phone correspondence with a reporter (Halle Berry) who’s intent on busting the foster-care operation.

“Father Hood” may be most notable for the unusual assemblage of talent brought together — director Darrell James Roodt (“Sarafina!”), writer Scott Spencer (the novel “Endless Love”) and producer Nicholas Pileggi (“GoodFellas”) — and how horribly that mix misfires.

The pic seems ill-conceived from the get-go.

Swayze appears too young to be the self-obsessed, leather-clad father, Lloyd is equally miscast as the teenage daughter and Bonsall (the baby brother on “Family Ties,” having outgrown his “cute” phase) proves a thoroughly obnoxious child.

It’s difficult to imagine three more unpleasant characters, let alone being trapped in a car with them.

From a strict morality standpoint it also bears noting how casual the kids are about dad’s vocation and antics, which include waving guns around, stealing three cars and a boat, and leading them on multiple car chases, to which the nippers react with cries of “faster, dad, faster.”

If Jack is supposed to be a lovable scoundrel, Swayze captures the swagger and none of the requisite likability, and the kids prove at best grating.

Part of that, admittedly, may have to do with Spencer’s mundane dialogue and Roodt’s unsteady direction.

Even little touches — like a newspaper headline that screams, “What Demon Possessed This Madman?”– prove witlessly over the top.

As for supporting players, someone apparently tried to fix the movie by making it as short as possible, whittling scenes with Diane Ladd and Adrienne Barbeau down to blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em length. The idea was sound, but they were off by about 94 minutes.

Tech credits include choppy editing, blase chases, peculiar wardrobe and an inappropriate score heavy with Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye tunes. Gaye’s most applicable title, “What’s Goin’ On?,” didn’t make the list.

Father Hood

Production

A Buena Vista release of a Hollywood Pictures presentation. Produced by Nicholas Pileggi, Anant Singh, Gillian Gorfil. Executive producers, Jeffrey Chernov, Richard H. Prince. Directed by Darrell James Roodt. Screenplay, Scott Spencer.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor), Mark Vicente; editor, David Heitner; music, Patrick O'Hearn; production design, David Barkham; art direction, Dins Danielsen; set decoration, Suzette Sheets; costume design, Donfeld; sound (Dolby), J. Bayard Carey; assistant director, George Parra; second-unit director/stunt coordinator, Charles Picerni; casting, Michael Fenton, Allison Cowitt. Reviewed at the GCC Beverly Connection, L.A., Aug. 25, 1993. MPAA rating: PG-13. Running time: 94 min.

With

Jack Charles - Patrick Swayze
Kathleen Mercer - Halle Berry
Kelly Charles - Sabrina Lloyd
Eddie Charles - Brian Bonsall
Jerry - Michael Ironside
Rita - Diane Ladd
Lazzaro - Bob Gunton

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