Before I in any way discuss the new Netflix film “Like Father,” I must state that I do not like the Royal Caribbean cruise line. Without getting into specifics, I had a series of unsatisfactory interactions with them in the past. I do greatly enjoy cruising on the whole, just not on Royal Caribbean.
This is important because “Like Father,” which stars Kristen Bell and Kelsey Grammer, functions as little more than a feature length advertisement for cruising in general and Royal Caribbean in particular. I do not believe that my distaste for Royal Caribbean colors my view of the movie as a whole, but it is still something that you, the reader, deserve to know before proceeding further.
Written and directed by Lauren Miller Rogen, “Like Father” is the story of Rachel (Bell) and Harry (Grammer) and their reconnecting. Harry left Rachel when she was a young girl and has remained out of her life up until her wedding day, when he shows up announced. As if that wasn’t hard enough for Rachel, she is abandoned at the altar due to her workaholic nature. The two wind up on what was to be Rachel’s honeymoon cruise and try to be better people… or something.
The truth is this – much of the movie is focused on all the wonderful things that can be done during a cruise. There are amenities galore on the boat. There are shows and singing and dancing and alcohol and pools and goodness knows what. Not only that, but the excursions off the boat take passengers to beautiful places. The people one is forced to have every meal with are absolutely lovely and will become your lifelong friends.
Over and over again, it is hammered into the viewer that cruising is just about the greatest thing you can do. “Like Father” has everything but the pompoms when it comes to cruising and is far less satisfactory in developing the characters of Rachel and Harry.
The point of the whole affair is that, as the title suggests, Rachel is growing up to be just like her absentee father, except that because he’s now older and wiser, Harry recognizes the error of his ways and wants to help Rachel before she goes down the wrong path.
Harry is, potentially, right. That is, there is a basic assumption here that Rachel wants a husband (and maybe even a family down the line), as she was engaged. If we accept this assumption, Harry’s arguments may be good ones, but they are still coming from a person with whom Rachel has no relationship and no reason to trust. In fact, she has reason to distrust him. His motives may be good, but it is improbable that they would be successful in the real world?
Will I spoil the ending of the movie for you by telling you whether or not they work here? No, absolutely not. That would be cruel, plus you may decide to skip the movie and therefore not learn about cruising.
Even so, it must be said that this is a movie about deep emotions that chooses to do less exploring of them than of the ship. Instead of doing the work to get people invested in the characters and their dilemmas, it offers up stereotypes and easy answers.
It would, potentially, destroy the overall aesthetic to get deep inside these damaged individuals. “Like Father” is, on the whole, a lighthearted film, but one which has at its core some serious issues and a middle ground is absent.
The issues are never explored, but we do, however, regularly get sidetracked. Rachel starts a relationship, sort of, with another cruiser, Jeff (Seth Rogen), but that is more an awkward diversion for the film than anything else. There is a secret involving Harry’s history, but the mystery surrounding it lasts far longer than the actual story.
“Like Father” is kind of like a cruise ship. It bobs along the water, feeding you enough to keep you going, showing you a bunch of pretty baubles, and is maybe somewhat better if you’re sitting there with a glass of wine. The cast is a capable one, but don’t shine as they might.
It is probably better to just grab a different boat.
photo credit: Netflix