The single achievement of “I Hate Kids,” a new comedy directed by John Asher, is that it is simultaneously tepid and offensive.
Tom Everett Scott (once upon a time an engaging screen presence in Tom Hanks’s “That Thing You Do”; here, not so much) plays Nick, a best-selling author whose latest book is titled “I Hate Kids.” It’s also the jovial theme of a dinner party celebrating his engagement to Sydney (Rachel Boston), who’s similarly committed to a childless existence.
Mason (Julian Feder), a 13-year-old with eyeglasses and hair that suggest a middle-school nerd from an episode of “The Brady Bunch,” spoils the event by announcing that he’s Nick’s son. Abetted by an eccentric and possibly fraudulent radio psychic played by Tituss Burgess, Mason wrangles Nick into a mini road-trip around Los Angeles — here a magical place where good nonfiction book sales translate into a studio-exec lifestyle — to find the kid’s birth mother.
There’s a lot of ground to cover. “Let’s say I was acquainted with a lot of different ladies at that time of my life,” the smarmy Nick avers. Even by the standards of his character, Scott’s line-reading here is pretty ripe. What follows are some ostensibly comedic mini-sketches offering mild misogyny and transphobia. The film’s nadir arrives in a scene in which several characters shout-sing a Third Eye Blind song. Or does it? A little later, the movie offers a glib, thoughtless caricature of a working-class single mother of six.
The aggregate effect of “I Hate Kids” — with its flat, bright lighting and the cast’s broad performances — is as if Hallmark were trying to make an “edgy” original movie. Most actual Hallmark productions, bland as they may be, are more agreeable.