Jim Gaffigan, best known as a stand-up comic who turns his own personal experiences into jokey material for his one-man shows, makes his debut as a dramatic actor in a terrible movie that never rises to the same level of achievement as its star. Being Frank festers uncomfortably from start to finish.
Directed with paralyzing desperation by first-timer Miranda Bailey and confusingly written with only a faint glimmer of comic invention by Glen Lakin, the movie is about a 17-year-old high-school senior named Philip Hansen (Logan Miller) who wants to be a drummer in a rock band, but his strict, implacable father Frank (Gaffigan, struggling for realism) disapproves and even refuses to let the boy go to New York to study music when he’s accepted at NYU.
BEING FRANK ★
Frank runs a ketchup factory. When he leaves for Japan on ketchup business, Philip joins his best friend Lewis for a wild weekend during spring break at a bird-watching festival on a lake in a neighboring state. Ketchup? Bird-watching? The loopy attempts to be funny and avoid clichés come fast. But at the lake, when Philip accidentally spots his father kissing a girl and thinks his dad is cheating on his mom, the real clichés accelerate.
After following Frank home with the girl, he discovers she’s not his father’s girlfriend, but a daughter named Kelly! Frank also has a second family that includes a bench-pressing athletic son and a wife named Bonnie. In fact, the dad who has always treated Philip’s mother Laura with indifference and Philip with intolerance is really a bigamist with two separate lives.
So to torture and blackmail his own father, Philip invades the lives of family number two and actually likes them! From there, the plot turns manipulative and the movie turns into an unconvincing outline for a rejected TV rom-com series. While another pilot never gets on the air, another bad movie never gets off the ground.
Things turn hopelessly silly when father and son learn to bond and join forces, devising an elaborate deception to hide the truth from Philip’s mother who shows up unexpectedly for a family picnic at the lake. A wasted cast of misused talents including Samantha Mathis as Bonnie and Anna Gunn as Laura knock themselves out preventing the two wives from meeting.
Frank passes off a drunken pothead as Philip’s real dad. Philip discovers his friend Lewis is gay, and Frank’s daughter falls in love with his son Philip, not knowing he’s her brother…but why go on? Every narrative twist is so contrived that they seem to be making it up as it goes along.
Gaffigan has a big, likable look, like an open-faced sandwich, but the material he’s forced to work with is regrettable. He deserves better material than this bomb, and so does the audience. When he lands in the hospital, surrounded by both families, he confesses, “I know I owe you all an explanation. I don’t know where to start.” Being Frank, thank god, knows where and when to end, if not exactly how.