A Lobster Tale
Review by Sean McQuaid
Who’s Yer Father?
Film review by Sean McQuaid
Cineplex, November 11, 2023
“When I start out to make a fool of myself, there’s very little can stop me,” says Michael O’Hara, the chump protagonist of Orson Welles’ noir mystery classic The Lady from Shanghai (1947). That goes double for bumbling hick detective Larry Constable, the hero of writer/director/producer Jeremy Larter’s new indie mystery comedy film Who’s Yer Father?, recently popular in PEI theatres.
Noir mysteries like The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Out of the Past (1947) came to mind via Who’s Yer Father? since the newer movie invokes plenty of old-time noir mystery tropes – the down-on-his luck detective, untrustworthy clients, femme fatale beauties, painful personal history and double-crosses aplenty – and Larter is a fan of classic detective yarns.
Larter’s movie, unfortunately, never fully gels into something consistent, coherent or convincing. To be fair, it’s billed and structured more as a comedy than a mystery, so a degree of goofiness seems acceptable, even desirable, but the components here feel out of balance.
PEI’s only private detective Larry Constable (played by Toronto comedian Chris Locke) is so relentlessly stupid that it’s hard to take him seriously, but Larter’s script and Locke’s oft-understated performance make Larry such a banal sad sack most of the time that he’s seldom enjoyable as a cartoonish comedy character either, more pathetic or annoying than funny.
Larry’s life of picayune sleuthing pratfalls takes a turn for the glamorous when obnoxious seafood mogul Luke Thorne (played by Matt Wells) hires him to find out which black-market dealer is buying up lobster from one of Thorne’s suppliers, sleazy fisherman Glenn Misener (former PEI QMJHL hockey player turned actor Steve Lund).
Investigating, Larry encounters shady characters such as Misener, flaky con artist Junior (played by Jess Salgueiro of Frasier), louche lobster supper kingpin Gavin MacDonald (PEI theatre staple Graham Putnam), Luke’s lusty wife Nicole (Kaniehtiio Horn of Letterkenny) and feisty convenience store owner Rhonda Perry (an earthily charming Susan Kent from This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Pretty Hard Cases).
One of the movie’s funniest, most believable and most likeable characters, Kent’s Rhonda seduces a smitten Larry into blackmail, theft and more. Kent and Locke have good chemistry, and Larry is never more likeable than when we’re seeing him through Rhonda’s surprisingly affectionate eyes.
Other standouts include Horn’s sultry Nicole, whose compelling, dark intensity would work just as well in a straight noir as it does in this comedy equivalent; and the ever-entertaining Putnam, whose too-brief turn as creepy lobster-monger Gavin is equal parts bizarre and ridiculous in a good way.
Despite all its noir tropes, Who’s Yer Father? largely fizzles as a mystery, especially its ending; logical consequences for various actions never materialize, loose ends never get tied up and the film’s bad guys either inexplicably relent or just wander off never to be seen again.
The movie also only clicks intermittently as a comedy, too often relying on a mix of tired toilet humour, sex jokes and profanity; the film’s humour works best when it’s rooted in the personalities of its characters or quirks of PEI culture.
The film also musters moments of touching romance, and packs in plenty of gorgeous PEI scenery and notable Island landmarks (Gillis’ Drive-In has never looked better nor quite so vaguely sinister, like something out of an Archie comic written by David Lynch).
Who’s Yer Father? is a weak mystery, a middling comedy and an uneven mix of the two genres – for better blends of these elements see Donald’s Crime (1945), Duck Pimples (1945), The Great Piggy Bank Robbery (1946), The Late Show (1977), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Fargo (1996) or Adventure Time episode “Root Beer Guy” (2013), to name just a few – but an appealing cast, a few good laughs, a goofily fun climactic fight scene, robust local box office and the feat of financing and creating a feature film shot entirely in PEI make this movie an impressive achievement regardless.