May 19, 1997 12:00 PM

Robin Williams, Billy Crystal

Robin Williams, giving James Brown some competition for the Hardest Working Man in Show Business title, huffs, puffs and does whatever else he can to breathe some antic life into this premasticated comedy—yet another of this year’s cinematic paeans to men learning the joys of fatherhood.

Fathers’ Day, an American remake of the 1983 French film Les Compères, begins with Nastassja Kinski separately telling ex-beaus Williams and Crystal that each is the father of her runaway 16-year-old son (Charles Hofheimer). Soon Williams, a failed writer, and Crystal, a successful lawyer, cross paths and join forces to track down the missing kid.

As directed by comedy veteran Ivan Reitman (Dave), Fathers’ Day scoots along pleasantly but never rises above its My Two Dads sitcom premise. Williams, clearly improvising, fires off a slew of good riffs (“How Joe Pesci of you,” he says after Crystal head-butts a foe), while the less showy Crystal provides calming support. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is stranded in an empty role as Crystal’s puzzled wife, but do watch for a funky cameo by Mel Gibson (check out the nose ring and other piercings). (PG-13)

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