'Like Father': Film Review

Like a lot of other films as well.
8/3/2018

Kelsey Grammer and Kristen Bell play an estranged father and daughter trying to reconnect on a cruise ship vacation in this Netflix comedy.

Whether or not you'll enjoy the new Netflix film starring Kristen Bell and Kelsey Grammer is questionable, but there seems little doubt that the two stars had a hell of a time making it. Playing an absent father and workaholic daughter who reconnect after decades apart, the two are seen swimming, sunning, playing miniature golf, eating lavish meals, participating in a game show and singing karaoke aboard a humongous Royal Caribbean cruise ship. It looks like they at least got a vacation out of Like Father; the viewer, not so much.

There's nary a cliche omitted in this overly familiar comedy/drama written and directed by Lauren Miller Rogen. Bell plays Rachel, the sort of driven executive who manages to sabotage her own wedding by compulsively staying on the phone dealing with a potato chip account. Even as her groom announces that he can no longer go through with the nuptials, Rachel spies her father Harry (Kelsey Grammer) embarrassedly leaving the church. It turns out that he abandoned Rachel and her mother 26 years earlier and hasn't been in touch since.

When Harry calls Rachel later that night to apologize, she reluctantly agrees to go out for drinks with him. The two get so inebriated that they wind up together on the ocean cruise vacation that was originally supposed to be Rachel's honeymoon.

Watching father and daughter awkwardly trying to have a good time is hardly the stuff of hilarity. Rachel struggles to overcome her lingering resentment and pays far more attention to her cell phone than anything going on around her, while Harry vainly tries to get back into her good graces. Meanwhile, she finds some distraction with the geeky but endearing Jeff (Seth Rogen, the filmmaker's spouse), with whom she enjoys a brief liaison.

There's not really much of a story, despite a late twist involving Harry's motivations that doesn't carry much dramatic weight. Few of the gags elicit more than mild chuckles, with perhaps the funniest in-joke being Rogen's character enthusiastically declaring that he's never smoked marijuana in his life. The writer/director fills much of the running time with scenes of Rachel and Harry enjoying the myriad recreational opportunities the voyage has to offer, resulting in the film serving as a veritable feature-length commercial for the cruise line, leaving out any possible negative aspects such as the occasional norovirus. It all gets to be about as wearisome as watching a friend's vacation video, albeit one featuring more attractive subjects. By the time the main characters deliver an exuberant full-length karaoke rendition of Styx's "Come Sail Away," a norovirus seems a desirable alternative.

Bell can't help but be appealing, even when her character behaves obnoxiously. Grammer is enough of a comic pro not to strain too hard, delivering a charmingly relaxed performance. And Rogen underplays as well, conveying a sweetness that he doesn't often get to exhibit onscreen.

But despite the professionalism of the acting talent, Like Father feels distressingly retrograde. It's as if Netflix, in their desire to supplant television in every form, has decided that they should deliver their own versions of the mediocre films offered up on basic cable.

Production: Lylas Pictures, Phiphen Pictures, aBard Production
Distributor: Netflix
Cast: Kristen Bell, Kelsey Grammer, Seth Rogen, Paul Downs, Zach Appelman, Leondard Ouzts, Blaire Brooks, Anthony Lacirua, Mary Looram, Brett Gelman
Director/screenwriter: Lauren Miller Rogen
Producers: Molly Conners, Amanda Bowers, Lauren Miller Rogen
Executive producers: Vincent Morano, Erika Hampson
Director of photography: Seamus Tierney
Production designer: Charisse Cardenas
Editor: Mollie Goldstein
Composer: Roger Neill
Costume designer: Brenda Abbandandolo
Casting: Mary Vernieu, Jessica Kelly

98 minutes