The latest Netflix production, Like Father, starring Kristen Bell, Kelsey Grammer, and Seth Rogan is a bit like Rice Krispie treats: fluffy, pleasant enough, got a little crunch to it, and just enough of a good-for-you ingredient to let you believe there’s something of value.
Work-obsessed Rachel (Kristen Bell) is left at the altar, where she is surprised to see her estranged father, Harry (Kelsey Grammer). He buzzes her apartment and she agrees to go to a bar for a drink. They get smashed and wind up waking up in the honeymoon suite of the very cruise she was originally planning to enjoy as a newlywed.
The entire premise could totally be recycled into a romcom (Romantic Comedy), and the fact that they’re father and daughter (and that the title clearly lets you know that this movie is about their relationship) lets the movie wander in a different direction.
There’s some foul language throughout the movie, as well as a conversation or two about sex. Some found it excessive, but frankly, she was left by her father as a child and turns up stuck on a cruise ship with it. Clearly, they have issues that justify having manners that fall short of tea with the Queen. However, if you’re troubled by foul language, you may find it distracting to the point of annoyance. Consider yourself warned.
At breakfast, Rachel and Harry they meet their table-mates, other couples that offer diversity to the cast: there’s a same-sex couple, an elderly couple, and a black couple. They are all, however, interesting characters, though there’s no real subplot going on for any of them. Presumably, though, since everyone’s just on a cruise, there’s no expectation for them to have any stories or conflicts of their own. That, I must say, was a bit of a disappointment, but remember this is, after all, a Rice Krispie treat, not a Baked Alaska.
Sure, there’s foul language, but there is some decent dialog in this movie. Rachel (Bell) gets right to the point, not holding back. When Harry and Rachel meet their other table mates, they spell out the exact nature of their relationship, as opposed to using the details as fodder for confusion. But then again, since the supporting cast was barely involved in the storyline, and had little impact on the main characters, it hardly seemed necessary to add confusion to anyone else.
The main issue I had with the story, however, was that part of Rachel’s transformation (and really, this story is supposed to be hers) involves information that the audience wasn’t privy to. Meaning, predictable as the movie is, there were no hints given early on that could have helped us reach the same realization that she does. Instead, it is fed to us when it becomes necessary to offer more depth and not a moment before.
In other words: Have you ever read Two-Minute Mysteries? They’re these collections of stories by Donald J. Sobol, the author of the Encyclopedia Brown books. The clues for each mystery are laid out in just over a page (maybe a page and a half), and you try to figure out whodunnit. Very rarely do they count on outside knowledge to solve the mysteries, but rather offer conclusions that can be deduced from the facts given.
I’m not offering any spoilers, so I’m going to stick with vagueness, but the revelation that Rachel has on the kayak includes outside information that could have easily been incorporated earlier, namely at the very beginning of the movie as her character is being introduced. It’s like the script decided to convey one and only one aspect of her character (that she’s a workaholic) instead of allowing her to have easily-conveyable layers of complexity that in no way distract from her workaholic ways. Even if it’s in the form of a couple of lines that don’t make sense early on, those explanations could resonate later, in retrospect (or, as is totally possible as it’s a Netflix film, when replaying from the beginning). This, to me, is the biggest flaw in the movie.
In contrast, Kelsey Grammer’s character’s motivation was well written. The question was asked again and again as to why he was there. And each time the question was answered, it was honest yet answered more deeply than the time before. His story had depth. More than Rachel’s was allowed to have. His story got closure, which honestly, Rachel’s didn’t. Not entirely, anyhow.
Sure, Like Father felt like a long ad for the Royal Caribbean cruise line (hence my Rice Krispie Treats references; just trying to demonstrate my own product placement skills, although sadly, they’re not sponsoring this post). Yes, the game show and karaoke competitions were cheesy. Yeah, the side-characters were practically cardboard (though the actors all did a great job making them each unique, despite having little to work with). Of course (with the Mature rating) there was an abundance of foul language that apparently troubled some (not me, personally, but according to Facebook comments, there was a troubling amount of cursing). But this was a designed fluffy treat. There were some nice messages in the movie—about cell-phone addiction, forgiveness, and work-life balance—but again, you don’t eat Rice Krispie Treats for the niacin. It conveyed the message, which was a nice side effect, and toed the line nicely to avoid proselytizing.
That said, if you’re not looking for a gourmet palate pleaser, Like Father can be a tasty treat.