Flea almost cries. Twice. There’s your four-word summation of The Other F Word, a half-poignant, half-absurd documentary on punk-rocker dads, self-described as “a coming of middle-age story” that thrills to the sight of, say, Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen, who looks like a tattoo parlor and a Claire’s fell on him simultaneously, sauntering over to a playground with his young son and smiling as every other parent and kid in a two-mile radius flees in terror. F-words from Black Flag, Rise Against, Blink-182, Total Chaos, the Adolescents, and so forth strike similar poses. Electrifying conclusion: “Being there for your kids is the punkest thing of all.”
This is not an inherently ridiculous premise. Punks apparently have uniformly awful childhoods (“My dad hated me” is a popular sentiment), and the plight of Everclear’s Art Alexakis, who has written legitimately moving songs (seriously) about trying to give his own kids the peace and stability denied to him, has genuine weight. (He wishes he’d been his own dad.)
Alas, way too much of F Word’s interminable 100-minute run time is devoted to holding affable Pennywise frontman Jim Lindberg’s hand as he (very slowly) realizes that perhaps he should stop doing that thing he doesn’t seem to enjoy doing at all anymore (namely, dying his goatee black so as to more credibly jump onstage and lob wearied f-bombs at impressively devoted Pennywise fans on soul-crushing, months-long tours) and instead stay at home to watch American Idol with his three daughters. Long stretches of Andrea Blaugrund Nevins’s flick (co-executive produced by Morgan Spurlock!) are devoted to praising punk rock, decrying the music industry’s downfall, and complaining about how hard it is to be on tour, the latter self-pitying dirge brutally undercut by a quick shot of one of Lindberg’s daughters saying of her father: “I don’t know where he is sometimes. I don’t know where he is right now.”
Everyone’s kids get plenty of screen time but not enough say. (Wives and/or mothers get almost none of either.) True, most of these dudes seem like reasonable, warmhearted people exuding the same air of bewildered semi-competence as all parents, really, but that’s boring. So you start rooting for the outliers: flatulent, zebra-robed, half-deranged NOFX frontman Fat Mike, for example, or the BMX pro who deposits his baby in a crib with all the delicacy of a gorilla throwing a frozen turkey down an elevator shaft, and later brags that he restrains himself from slapping his daughter by merely pinching her instead. It’s a mercifully rare but still occasionally bruising feeling when the children here seem like little more than accessories, overgrown nose rings who’ve achieved sentience, frequently soil themselves, and eventually yearn to be taken to the father-daughter dance. What a huge relief when Lindberg cuts a tour short to oblige one of his own daughters on that last point, the reunited pair walking off together in the most sensible possible direction, which is away from the camera.