Sometimes the TV room offers up something so gentle, good-natured, surprise-free and a bit meh that you can’t help but get swept along by it. Nothing unexpected, every comedy extreme of personality dampened with familiarity, all the beats of plot harmless and sweet, that’s this film. The BBC used to have the Light Programme. Netflix, it turns out, has the Unbelievably Light Programme: Like Father…
I guess we were all in the mood. Timid Tina needed a rest from the stresses and strains of her diverticulitis. Mad Maud needed to reconnect with planet Earth. And Old Jack here, still tense from a shoot ’em up, felt like a bit of Kristen Bell and Kelsey Grammer excellence. Skilled professionals with a script some feet below their ability have a choice: ham it up or go with the flow. Bell and Grammer, somewhat sweetly, sail out to sea with Like Father and spin tolerable-pleasant from low-budget-and-ship.
Kristen Bell’s Rachel is dumped at the altar because she walked in late. She’s one of those always-on-the-phone, works-so-hard-people-don’t-matter corporate twats. So, you know, we’re unexpectedly on her now-ex’s side (John Foster gives good affront as plot-necessity, Owen). In the moment of shock, her long-lost Dad falls out of the crowd. There begins the bittersweet journey, for she has to grow into a pleasant human, he has to recover and apologise for being out of her life for most of it. What do they do to get things going? They get deeply, deeply drunk and wake up on the cruise liner for the honeymoon. In the depths of the bottle, she’d insisted.
Now, things get awkward, but they glide slowly towards a lifetime rapprochement (or do they?) from something of a lying-flat-on-their-faces start. To pan out the comedy, they are mistaken as a wedded couple by lots of people ticking their own diversity boxes. They’re all in a group, with a table for meals, and a couple of cheery (yes, gay) organisers to look after them. All very modern and gentle, with none of the slap-you funniness of the comparably raucous Out to Sea (1997).
There’s a whole bunch of stuff around karaoke, Bell and her refusal to let go of her phone, repeated unknown calls being rejected by Grammer on his phone. You can feel the cards being played and the emotional peaks on their way, but it’s all sweet enough to relax a weary soul. High-points include scenes in sparkly jackets, Grammer’s emotional reveal, and a sequence in a gorgeous island paradise. The whole group swims around a waterfall in blue-skied paradise, swapping back-stories and rage until they jump off the waterfall into the metaphor.
You’ve noticed old Jack here isn’t telling you very much. Okay, Like Father has just been released on Netflix so I’m keeping the details thin. The performances are warm-hearted, both Bell and Grammer carrying the warmth of their careers sufficient to make the current character traits irrelevant. You’re just waiting for them to hug (but do they?). Seth Rogen pops in as a quick fling for one of the leads, giving good dazed and hopeful. Everyone else, none of whom old Jack here recognised, serve the plot like a pleasant gravy serves a roast. Quite nicely, thank you.
So, grab a cup of char, some cheesecake, and enjoy a sweet, sweetly funny story of a father and daughter making up for years of regret and silence. With laughs. And singing. On a cruise liner.
Tina and Maud were a sobbing mess at the end…