Like Father is a fine film if you have an hour and a half to spare and want to watch a sad, unfunny commercial for Royal Caribbean Cruises. Most of us don’t, but you’d be forgiven for trying since it keeps popping up on Netflix’s homepage and features bonafide stars and funny people Kristen Bell, Kelsey Grammer, and Seth Rogen. The script, penned by Lauren Miller Rogen, who also directs and co-produces, has its moments and is touching in unexpected ways but never manages to find the right tone or convince us that its characters are worth caring about
It would be more compelling as a stripped down play, but then you wouldn’t get the flashy sales pitch for Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Sea ship. Ultimately, the floating bar and the surf pool are less interesting than the woeful tale of a work-obsessed daughter and her estranged father. After she is left at the altar, Rachel (Bell) goes on a drunken bender with dad Harry (Grammer), whom she hasn’t seen since she was five, and before the two come to their senses, they’re on a boat. Since the trip is meant to be her honeymoon, Rachel is constantly mistaken for Harry’s wife instead of his daughter. The encounters are never funny, except for one riotous and very inappropriate joke during a newlywed game. Instead, they land with an embarrassing thud like most of the movie’s attempts at humor. Take, for example, Rachel and Harry’s shipmates, which include a chatty young gay couple, an agreeable middle-aged black couple, and a sparky retired pair. The purpose of such an eclectic group seems to be wider breadth for joke-telling, but the characters turn out to be tired, uninspired choices who act exactly the way you’d expect.
Perhaps the movie was aiming for something along the lines of The Big Sick, which balanced serious laughs with plain seriousness. There’s a story to be told about Rachel and Harry, and it turns out Harry’s business partner and a case of early onset Alzheimer’s. (Miller Rogen is an advocate for Alzheimer’s awareness and research.) Even Rogen, who has a small role as Rachel’s ship fling, Jeff, plays against type as a straightlaced teacher from Canada. He’s there less for the weed jokes and more to help Rachel come to terms with some pretty disappointing behavior. However, the film digs into the complicated father-daughter relationship too late in the game, wasting Bell and Grammer’s quietly heartbreaking performances.
When the emotional payoff finally comes, Rachel and Harry have already squandered the little good will they’ve built up. Neither are pleasant characters, but what’s more frustrating is the way Rachel pounces on her father in fits and starts. You can’t predict when she’ll rail at Harry for inserting himself back into her life and when she’ll casually agree to do karaoke with him. Follow through on your threats, girl. Rachel wants to get off the ship, she says she’ll get off the ship, but when she has a chance to get off the damn ship, she decides she might as well stay on after all. The script says she’s had a change of heart, but her face says there’s a movie to get through.
Prod: Anders Bard, Amanda Bowers, Molly Conners, Lauren Miller Rogen
Dir: Lauren Miller Rogen
Writer: Lauren Miller Rogen
Cast: Kristen Bell, Kelsey Grammer, Seth Rogen, Paul W. Downs, Zach Appelman, Leonard Ouzts, Blaire Brooks, Anthony Laciura, Brett Gelman
Time: 98 min
Country: United States