Title: The Six Wives of Henry Lefay
Year of Release: 2009
Date Viewed: November 14th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13
The aforementioned six wives of the title character serve to be more like data rather than co-stars. Much like the legend of Bill Brasky made famous on Saturday Night Live, several people that have encountered Henry Lefay during the course of life have come together to share their favorite and least favorite stories about him.
Tim Allen plays Henry Lefay and gets to depart the picture rather early thanks to his character kicking the bucket in the first scene due to a fatal parasailing accident in Mexico. News of his death reach his daughter Barbara (Elisha Cuthbert). Barbara had been fed up with bailing out her father through countless occasions of carelessness and misfortune. She initially blows off the news as just another one of his desperate grabs for attention, but becomes distraught when she realizes that the tragedy is legit. The last conversation between Barbara and Henry ended with the former insisting to the latter that she never wanted to see him again. The movie enters flashback mode after the opening scene where the dissension is examined more closely before returning to present time.
Feeling remorse over their troubled relationship, Barbara takes upon herself the task of arranging her father's funeral. That also means meeting all of Henry's ex-wives face to face. Despite having the perfect ladies man charm, Henry was constantly convinced that he had found the perfect soul mate only to change his mind later. The ex-wives all come from different backgrounds and can't seem to find enough common ground to get through the funeral without something getting damaged. Most of the hostility comes from the last will and testament situation. Henry relayed a different message to each wife over how he wanted his death to be handled. No one can agree on how to best honor his memory.
Frustrated over being forced to clean up yet another mess, Barbara has to keep everyone's sanity under control long enough to bring closure to her father's wife-jumping legacy.
Tim Allen is a good choice for the role of Henry since he is written very closely to Allen's "Men are Pigs" signature character that made him a star all those years ago. Beyond that though, Henry isn't colorful enough for me to understand why he is such a charmer. The movie always shows him with someone but never shows how they met. We are just expected to believe he is a magician. As a result, Allen didn't have much to work with and had no choice but to play the role on auto-pilot.
Elisha Cuthbert has already proved herself to be a versatile enough actress for the Hollywood big leagues. However, she is terribly miscast here. Her role demanded someone that had the credible aura of an authority figure. Trapped with inmates running the asylum, Barbara has to act as the voice of reason in these situations. Cuthbert does not have the voice nor the presence to act intimidating enough for things to progress past the bickering stage. Too many of her scenes fail to look convincing because of this glaring shortcoming that was far too important to get wrong.
It's difficult for me to describe why so many gags do not work outside of saying that they just weren't funny. A lot of it may have to do with how "forced" the delivery was. The few moments of cleverness are easier to spot because the actresses don't have to try so hard to sell it. Comedy works in a strange way. Even if the situation is completely absurd, it still has to be remotely believable to be effective. The talent among the cast was there. It was the passion that was missing.
In the end, The Six Wives of Henry Lefay turns out to be a project that had promise but finished as an amateur imitation of a Neil Simon play. Due to the quiet release and being devoid of any real embarrassing material, it's unlikely any careers will suffer positive or negative consequences.