Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).
If you’ve never all-you-can-eaten your way through a vacation cruise, you may well be enticed after watching Netflix’s new original dramedy Like Father, with Kelsey Grammer and Kristen Bell. The movie plays first and foremost like a two-hour Royal Caribbean ad, and it never shies in the least from highlighting all of the boat’s many, many amenities. In fact it’s clear that writer Lauren Miller Rogen, making her directorial debut here, graduated with honors from the Adam Sandler School of Filmmaking with an advanced degree in Making Movies in Fun Vacation Locales. The movie itself, though, can’t match the location, floundering along the way to its all-too-predictable finish line.
Bell is cranky workaholic Rachel Anderson, prepping for her wedding day while simultaneously juggling pitches at her ad agency. When the big day finally arrives, her fiancé, tired of going up against Rachel’s cell phone in a battle for her attention, calls the whole thing off. Meanwhile Rachel’s estranged father Harry (Grammer) has picked that exact moment to pop back into her life... for the first time in 20 years.
Left at the altar with an unwelcome parent and a paid-for honeymoon, Rachel only needs a night of heavy drinking to wind up on the high seas with Harry—hungover and now even more cranky because of the lousy cell service in the middle of the Atlantic.
The balance of the movie fastidiously follows the old-faithful plot of two unlike souls who get trapped together but eventually warm to each other. In this case, the romantic comedy angle is obviously jettisoned in favor of renewing the dad-daughter bond, and that’s a different-enough twist to provide a nifty premise, but there’s not much else to build on. Since the audience is keenly aware of exactly where this thing is headed, it falls on Rogen to make the journey interesting enough to bridge the gap. She doesn’t.
That’s not to say Like Father doesn’t have its moments; a good handful come courtesy of the supporting cast, including Seth Rogen (Lauren’s husband), who plays Rachel’s potential love interest and gets the biggest laugh of the movie with a particularly meta pot joke. And the motley crew that are Rachel and Harry’s dining buddies have some nice bits, too. For every joke that lands, though, there’s a moment when Harry ignores a mysterious phone call (and we’re supposed to care), or when he sidesteps Rachel’s questions about his company and his business partner.
Bell and Grammer do share an undeniable chemistry, and they play well off each other, particularly during one of the ship’s big-time game show nights. But all the chemistry and talent in the world sometimes isn’t enough to keep a film afloat. Like Father is one of those movies that elicits a casual, “That was cute / fun / decent,” as the final credits roll, right before you move on with your life. No, it doesn’t crash into an iceberg and sink, but it does end up being a fairly forgettable voyage.