Netflix has always been a great source for binge-watching television programs you need to catch up on or seeing a movie you missed in theaters.
Their dive into original programming started with successful miniseries like “House of Cards” and “Orange Is The New Black,” shows that helped popularize the mantra, “Netflix and chill.”
An initial foray into becoming a full-fledged movie studio resulted in the purchase of critically acclaimed films like “Beasts of No Nation” and last year’s Oscar-nominated “Mudbound.”
Ever expanding their empire in hopes of competing with the movie-going experience, Netflix has sought in recent months to corner the market on romantic comedies with films like “The Kissing Booth” and “Set It Up” hitting the streaming service.
The latest big feature on Netflix, writer/director Lauren Miller’s “Like Father,” is the definition of this new breed of filmmaking, a modernized version of 90s rom-comes popularized by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
In this not romantic rom-com, Kristen Bell plays Rachel, a work-a-holic New Yorker ditched on her wedding day for being too committed to work.
Amid the ensuing drunken stupor, Rachel invites her estranged father Harry (Kelsey Grammer) to join her on the week-long cruise intended to be her honeymoon.
Bell and Grammer have solid on-screen chemistry and their scenes occasionally pack zip, but much of the time the actors themselves show as much disinterest in the film themselves as their characters are expected to have about their awkward vacation in the first place.
In fact, the only performer who looks genuinely excited to be in the movie is Seth Rogen, box office success and perpetually stoned funnyman who simultaneously feels too good and not good enough for “Like Father.”
Cast because of (or in spite of) his marriage to the film’s writer/director, Rogen pops on screen as a recent divorcee and potential love interest for Rachel.
But because Miller either doesn’t know what lane she wants her film to go down or she wants to include everything she’s thinking and feeling, her film wanders aimlessly for much of the 95-minute running time.
Occasionally, “Like Father” will work its way through a cookie-cutter list of familiar relationship comedy tropes that work as boxes to check off rather than crafted plot points.
At times, “Like Father” feels less like a feature film and more like one gigantic advertisement for the Royal Caribbean cruise line. Extended montages both on and off the ship have a distinct “come sail away” vibe with that signature buttery shine you’d come to expect from discount travel agencies.
Even the three couples Rachel and Harry dine with — an adorable older couple on their 50th anniversary, a middle-age African American couple each on their second marriage and a hip, attractive gay couple — reek of focus group casting.
Everything hits a little too on-the-nose from visual cues to character development to overall storytelling. Rachel and Harry watch Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn in “Overboard” because of course they do.
Viewer expectations will be met at a very tolerable, mediocre level and for a film with an unknown budget and hidden audience numbers, “Like Father” serves its purposes well.
Like many of the recent stream of Netflix “original” films, “Like Father” is pleasantly unremarkable cinematically, which plays well for the majority of Americans who will wind up watching it on their cell phones.
Its almost painstaking mediocrity makes it an ideal movie for the streaming service’s casual audience looking for something low-key to watch with some microwave popcorn on a Tuesday night on the couch.
Inoffensive, passable movies like “Like Father” have a real place in cinema and moving them off the big screen and onto streaming services is a great way to revitalize the relationship comedy genre that’s largely missing from theaters.
While the streaming service’s recent hit”Set It Up” is better as a whole, there’s enough good in “Like Father” to add to your Netflix queue and give a chance to on a rainy day.