Film Reviews

Netflix Review: Like Father Doubles as a Royal Caribbean Ad

Netflix’s new Original Movie Like Father feels a bit like Kristen Bell’s family and Seth Rogen’s family were planning to take a cruise together and then halfway through the planning they decided to just make a movie about a woman accidentally going on a cruise with her dad, played by Kelsey Grammar. That way they all get to work (Seth’s wife Lauren Miller is the director and co-writer), get paid, still end up having gone on a cruise together, and say they met Frasier!

Either way, what they made is a pleasant, cute, if unspectacular exploration of the fraught father-daughter dynamic.

Bell plays a New York advertising workaholic left at the altar after her husband-to-be catches her using her cell phone at the wedding and realizes he’ll always come second to her career. A subsequent bender with her estranged father, who abandoned her when she was 5 and surprisingly showed up at her wedding, results in a hungover Bell waking up on her honeymoon cruise liner with dear deadbeat dad in tow. Hilarity ensues.

Or not.

In truth, this is neither a particularly funny nor overly dramatic movie. Instead, it’s the type of film which teases a potential “and he has cancer!” melodramatic third act about the secretive dad reveal only to call an audible and go with [spoiler] “actually, he just has some money problems.” Much of the initial “everyone keeps thinking they’re newlyweds since they’re in the honeymoon suite” comedy quickly gives way to predictable father-daughter bickering (she’s addicted to her phone, he’s worried about her but has no moral authority over her) before eventual bonding (they end up in a karaoke competition and everything).

Rogen, in charming, Take This Waltz mode, factors into the story later as a newly divorced rebound guy for Bell. He does get the biggest laugh in the entire movie when he claims to have never smoked marijuana or been high in his entire life, a fact his character is quite proud of. That the best joke is a play on Rogen’s well-known stoner persona probably says a lot about Like Father.

Still, by lowly Netflix Original Movie standards, this is actually better than average, and it makes for a perfect alternative to Hollywood’s current summer blockbuster programming. Also, while there is no shortage of movies about guys dealing with their disappointing dads there seems to be far fewer about daughters and fathers (Trouble With the Curve comes to mind). As such, Like Father is a welcome addition to the canon, even if does mostly double as an ad for Royal Caribbean, with the plot playing second fiddle to some quality cruise shenanigans montages.

RANDOM PARTING THOUGHTS

Their Royal Caribbean ship
  1. Points for including an acoustic cover of The English Beat’s “Save It for Later” during a climactic moment.
  2. Extra points for realizing what a crime it would be to have Kristen Bell and Kelsey Grammar in the same movie and not have them sing together.
  3. There is an assigned cruise ship group that Bell and Grammar end up doing everything with, and it becomes a bit amusing how they all seem to bend their lives around them. What are your hopes and dreams, black couple from Wichita, Kansas? Tell us more. Because we learn almost literally nothing about them other than he’s a dentist who loves trivia and she’s…um…around.
  4. First Sam Malone (via Ted Danson on The Good Place). Now Frasier. What other Cheers or NBC Must-See TV vet will Kristen Bell work with next?
  5. To be fair, Kristen Bell’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall could also be said to be something everyone did just for the chance to go on a working vacation, in that case to Hawaii!
  6. Kristen Bell, known Hollywood liberal, and Kelsey Grammar, known Hollywood conservative, managed to work together quite seamlessly. See, world, we all can just get along.

What did you think of Like Father? And is it just super obvious how much I want to go on a cruise now? Let me know in the comments.

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6 comments

  1. Wow, you guys are really pushing out the content these days (feels like it’s at a much greater volume recently) It’s been awesome reading so much from you, sir, in the past week. Amazing work!

    1. Thanks. Part of the secret behind the recent surge, to be honest, is simply that Facebook and Google incentivize steady publication, regardless of quality, versus slow and steady. The more you publish, the more likely you are to end up higher in Google search rankings. But it’s also just that I had a real slowdown last month because I got busy with life stuff away from the site. So, I’m trying a bit to make up for that. For example, Juli and I combined to publish 5 articles two Sundays ago. I don’t know if that’s going to happen again anytime soon, but it was a way to catch up on some of the content we’d missed during our break from the site.

  2. My wife and I watched Like Father last night, mostly because we are anticipating a Carnival Cruise in October and were looking to get in that cruising mood. As a movie there were several humorous moments, and it was refreshing to watch Kelsey Grammer in non-Frasier-hysterics mode doing light comedy. I realized I’ve never really seen Kristen Bell in anything (aside from her voice in Frozen) and enjoyed her slightly non-traditional looks and understated acting style. Seth Rogan is another whose career choices don’t really parallel my movie styles, and both his character never really gelled with Bell or the rest of the movie – he never became a true love interest, and could have been dropped from the movie entirely without losing much. The tablemates rang true (albeit exaggerated) and most cruises we’ve been on, we’ve met similar folks we’d eat our evening meals with. But we rarely all hooked up for the same shore excursions – plot conveniences I guess. Finally, I was surprised at a few things they did on board I was surprised RC allowed to be shown – the cremation urn, especially – as not just unrealistic, but downright illegal to do onboard ship. Why encourage future travelers on your cruise ships to bring recently departed grandma when they can’t? Otherwise, the comedy was light, the will-they-won’t-they turned on its ear as a father/daughter reconciliation was refreshing as a new twist on an old plot device, and the scenery was beautiful. As said, as a pass the time movie, or one to learn a little what it’s like to go on a cruise, it’s fine. Bon voyage!

    1. “as a pass the time movie, or one to learn a little what it’s like to go on a cruise, it’s fine. Bon voyage!”

      Perfect summation. Like a lot of Netflix Originals, it’s…fine. We don’t pay to watch it, at least not directly; we simply give up our time. Far too often, Netflix utterly wastes our time with these movies. Like Father is better than average, then. Like you said, it takes a cliched rom-com premise and repurposes it into a father-daughter reconciliation story, equipped with beautiful scenery and a none-too-subtle running ad for Royal Caribbean.

      I hope you and the wife have a great time on the Carnival Cruise in October, and it’s interesting to hear your perspective on what and what did not ring true about the film’s depiction of cruise living. Having never been on one, I assumed the runner of their assigned tablemates always doing everything with them was indeed a plot convenience, but I did not pick up on some of the other things you pointed out. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  3. I’m a pretty easy guy to please and that movie was just not good. Kristen and Seth are great actors and it seemed like this was probably the least challenging of their careers. Characters were very simple and superficial.

    1. “Kristen and Seth are great actors and it seemed like this was probably the least challenging of their careers”

      That’s why I joked about them probably just doing this for the chance to get paid to go on a Royal Caribbean cruise with their families and also get to say they met Kelsey Grammar.

      As far as the whole thing just not being very good, that describes most genuine Netflix Original Movies. I’ve been watching a lot of them this year, and from what I’ve seen Like Father is moderately better than average. It is utterly mediocre in every way imaginable, but, eh, it is nice to look at with all of the tropical scenery. As a movie you’d pay to go see, heck no; as something put on in the background that simply has to be better than Bright, Mute, Kodachrome, The Titan, Radius, The Cloverfield Paradox, A Futile and Stupid Gesture, Little Evil, or The Kissing Booth, this registers in that mode where it mildly helped pass the time but won’t be remembered weeks down the road. At this point, that’s all I expect from Netflix movies unless it’s something critically acclaimed like Mudbound or some of the awards contenders due later this year like Roma. Exceptions to that rule include Set It Up, To All the Boy’s I’ve Loved Before, Cargo, Veronica, and The Ritual.

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