Describing a movie as “perfectly fine” is not the most exciting way to start a review. By Netflix standards, a “perfectly fine” original film is noteworthy, recommendable only because the cost of gas and tickets are nonfactors. Like Father, Netflix’s newest passable release, is an easy watch for an easy weekend afternoon.
The film opens at a glamorous wedding ceremony. Kristen Bell’s Rachel, the bride and a textbook workaholic, is organizing a pitch meeting on the phone until someone interrupts her to remind her to… walk down the aisle and actually get married. Her father disappeared from her life decades ago, but he has found a way to hide in the audience, making an effort to reunite with her on the best day of her life. The husband catches Rachel’s phone and leaves the ceremony, recognizing where Rachel’s work priorities lie.
Harry, played by an earnest Kelsey Grammer, takes his daughter out for a few drinks as a peace offering. After several drinks, they both wake up the next morning on the prepaid honeymoon cruise she was supposed to attend with her husband.
Confined to one ship and one suite, Rachel and Harry are forced to air grievances, bury hatchets, etc. in a predictable, pleasant melodrama. Lauren Miller Rogen’s comedic writing has a dose of refreshing realism, Like Father is not a wacky vacation comedy out of the Adam Sandler catalogue. No one jumps off the boat, no one gets seasick. Harry and Rachel befriend three lovely couples that have no awkward quirks, other than one man who sounds eerily similar to Christopher Walken.
Paul W. Downs plays an endearing, inquisitive therapist constantly examining the familial relationship. An underutilized Seth Rogen plays Rachel’s clingy rebound, whose only joke is his character declining Jamaican marijuana. Of course, the joke only works if the audience knows that Rogen would never, ever, ever make that decision himself.
The downside of the realism is that the movie takes no big comedic swings. The jokes are efficient but not explosive. The emotional beats can be described in the same way. Every scene that Grammer and Bell have together becomes some sort of argument or screaming match, predictably advancing their relationship enough for the finale, a karaoke competition.
Their chemistry as combative family members can only get so far when the writing is this formulaic. The tropes of the workaholic daughter and the absentee father are not new.
The Royal Carribean Cruise is shot beautifully, watching several musical montages of these newfound friends partaking in cruise activities is fun and harmless. Rachel and her phone detach from each other like someone slowly tearing away velcro. It is easier to focus on family during a vacation. Miller Rogen does a smart job of extending slightly beyond the cruise, testing how new relationships hold up when faced with real life.
Like Father is a heartfelt, kind Netflix original feature. No new ground is broken, no memorable comedic bits are revealed, but not every movie has to swing for the fences. Like Father is a solid base hit. Like Father is… perfectly fine.