Like Father, Like Son (1987)

23 Feb

Like Father Like Son3

Smith’s Verdict: *

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Like Father, Like Son” is a comedy so desperate to get any kind of laugh just by one gimmick only. That gimmick is the same one used in “Freaky Friday,” in which parent and child switched places for a day. Well, a gimmick isn’t enough. A smart, funny screenplay was needed to lift it into the air. “Like Father, Like Son” barely makes it off the runway.

It’s a shame too, because it stars Dudley Moore, who has shown in many other comedies to be an effective British comedic actor. It also stars 1980s teen idol Kirk Cameron (best known as the smarmy teenager from the TV sitcom “Growing Pains”), who I believe is capable of a good performance when he’s not incredibly annoying (I’m not much of a “Growing Pains” fan…anymore). But these two don’t have any juicy material to work with. They play a squabbling father and son. (Where’s the mother? Never addressed.) Moore plays a doctor who wants Cameron to follow in his footsteps. (“But I’m 17,” Cameron complains, to which Moore responds, “When I was 17, I was in my second year at Oxford.”) But Cameron’s highest grade in high school biology class is a C, which won’t do well with Dad.

Cameron has a wisecracking friend nicknamed “Trigger” (played by Sean Astin in, believe it or not, a smarmier teen performance than…Kirk Cameron’s “Growing Pains” role), who has a weird uncle who came across a magic potion that can transfer minds.

Moore accidentally drinks the mind transference serum and suddenly, he and Cameron switch bodies. So, Moore is inside Cameron’s body, and vice versa. And so, until Trigger can get in contact with his uncle again and find an antidote, the father and son have to lead each other’s identities. Moore (with Cameron’s mind) goes to work in the hospital and Cameron (with Moore’s mind) goes to high school. Constant misunderstandings occur, and not one of them made me laugh. Cameron acts with a certain authority to his high school teachers; Moore behaves silly without understanding medical procedure. So what?

See if you can follow this. Apparently, if you drink the mind transference serum, you look at somebody and switch bodies with him or her. So, how would you change yourself back to normal?

Exactly! Drink the potion and look at the same person again. There’d be another switch—problem solved. See? You’re already smarter than the writers and the characters they created.

I’m serious—Moore and Cameron’s characters never consider just doing the same thing again, because the movie would be over too quickly. Also, it’s not a mind transference serum; they make it perfectly clear that it’s a “brain” transference serum. In that case, how come the brain isn’t connected to the tongue in this movie? In the first test of this potion, it is. Cameron and his friend test the potion on a cat and a dog, so that the cat has the dog’s mind and vice versa. The cat growls and barks like the dog. So then, when father and son switch places, why doesn’t Kirk Cameron speak with Dudley Moore’s British accent? Moore, with Cameron’s mind, still speaks in that accent, and Cameron, with Moore’s mind, still sounds like a Southern California teenager.

Here’s a surprise—the writing is so inept that the dog/cat joke isn’t taken advantage of. In fact, it’s never mentioned again.

This is one of those movies where all of the characters have to be total idiots to keep the story going. Why is this interesting? Why is this funny? Just because two guys switch bodies, that itself isn’t funny. You need actual jokes, characters, and a well-developed script. I didn’t care about these two clods. You could have two guys trade law files and it’d be more interesting. Dudley Moore is trying his best, as in one plot thread, he’s seduced by his boss’ wife. But Kirk Cameron doesn’t get one good moment. He’s forced to wade through the script just simply misreading things. Yes, he thinks the music at a rock concert is too loud. Where does this lead him on his date? Nowhere. Come on! There could’ve been an interesting discussion with him and the girl he was dating. But no. It’s just glanced over. It’s 1987, writers—you’re not helping with Kirk Cameron’s movie career. He could show talent; give the guy something to do.

“Like Father, Like Son” stinks all the way through. All we’re left asking ourselves after watching it is, “Were they really that cheap to not synch Moore’s voice with Cameron’s?” The premise didn’t work, I never cared, and most criminal of all for a comedy, I never laughed.

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