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REVIEW: Like Father

August 8, 2018

Director: Lauren Miller Rogen
Screenplay: Lauren Miller Rogen
Starring: Kristen Bell, Kelsey Grammer, Seth Rogen
Runtime: 98 Minutes

 

★★☆☆☆

 

There’s a short period at the beginning of Like Father where it looks like it’s about to do something interesting. Workaholic young executive Rachel Hamilton (Kristen Bell) is left at the altar by her partner who is sick and tired of her not being able to let go of her high maintenance lift style even on her wedding day. She ends up on her Caribbean honeymoon cruise with the last person she ever expected: her estranged and equally workaholic father Harry (Kelsey Grammer).

 

Almost immediately it takes the workaholic stereotype to a grounded and sadly honest place, as she slips her work phone into a bouquet of flowers only for it to fall out to a deafening silence at the altar.

 

Bell is playing surprisingly against type here from her usual sickly-sweet roles, channelling Rachel with an awkward stiffness and a tightly wound disposition of answering most of her questions in short blunt bursts to avoid conversation with Harry. Grammer is particularly well cast, returning to the well of sitcom influence that made him popular while balancing it with some real pathos, and the two share a solid chemistry.

 

Unfortunately, the freshness of approach doesn’t hold up the moment they get on board the cruise. At which point the entire film devolves into the incredibly tiresome routine of a tourist film for the Caribbean. If it weren’t for the fact that the film looks and sounds like a lowkey indie film with classy cinematography, it would be no better than Blended or Couples Retreat or any number of other destination commercials parading as vacation-based comedies.

 

That’s the other issue in that this doesn’t really feel like a comedy or even all that compelling of a drama considering how safe and meandering it ends up feeling. The first-time direction from Lauren Miller Rogen is unimaginatively staged, but you can see her focus is more on the screenplay and its concepts than the pitch of the genre. How time and age can slowly corrode and memories and emotions.

 

With all this gravity being focused on, it’s even more discordant that the supporting cast is populated with token stereotypes. With the exception of Rogen’s spouse Seth Rogen, who plays knowingly against type as a straight-laced but uninteresting companion who won't risk smoking pot on an island with everyone else and makes a point of mentioning it loudly toward the audience for recognition.

 

As a Netflix Original by association, it still feels willed into existence via algorithm, with occasional glitches and more dissonant moments such as cutting swear words or broader beats that don’t feel natural. It really should be better, but it offers no surprises, has less edge than it begins with and there just isn’t much to it beyond a few standout confrontational scenes.

 

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