Freaky Friday with Mike Seaver.
One of the participants in an onslaught of trading bodies movies in the 1980s (e.g. Vice Versa, Dream a Little Dream), Like Father Like Son brings to the genre a fresh, original take to what we’ve all seen before.
Chris Hammond (Kirk Cameron, Growing Pains) and his father, Dr. Jack Hammond (Dudley Moore, Arthur) have a cold, tenuous relationship. Having grown apart since Mrs. Hammond died, the two lose themselves entirely in their own worlds and divulge nothing to each other. Chris inhabits the working-middle class level in his high school; he’s a decent track runner, struggles with dating, and tows around a wise ass best friend named Trigger (Sean Astin, Rudy).
The elder Hammond is a reputable surgeon in a private hospital that doesn’t treat people without insurance, and is next in line for a humongous promotion. The two live their lives, basically coexisting, with dad usually slinging barbs at his son, telling him to work harder and study more, and with son usually rolling his eyes, sighing audibly, and driving his Jeep.
But things in the Hammond household are about to change, boy!
Trigger’s eccentric globetrotting uncle has discovered a mysterious “Brain Transferring Serum” that swaps the minds of two individuals who stare at each other. Well, needless to say, after a wacky mix-up, Chris and his dad swap glances and brains.
Now Jack is off to school in his son’s body and Chris is off to work in his dad’s. Zaniness ensues, as Chris/Dad proceed to muck up his high school persona and Dad/Chris jeopardizes his promotion at the hospital while screwing around with people’s medication.
Their troubles could be coming to a close, when Samwise Gamgee brings them to his uncle, to possibly reverse the body-swap, and maybe, just maybe learn a little bit about each other in the process.
While Like Father Like Son is funny at points and not as ludicrous as Dream a Little Dream, there’s only so much actor-aping-actor schtick this boy can take.
The filmmakers follow the role-reversal formula perfectly: establish the two characters that will be exchanging personalities for the first third, switch them, and watch each actor do their best to imitate the previous characterization. It’s kind of like a feature-length exercise of that copycat game you used to play with your younger brother to piss him off.
The move isn’t a total waste of time. Some of the gags hit when the two have traded bodies; and they should. This kind of movie either swims or plummets to the bottom of the sea based on these jokes.
I got a kick out of Chris/Dad bluntly ratting out an in-class prankster or Dad/Chris tooling around with some medical students. Sean Astin’s “Trigger,” channeling a long line of smarmy ’80s high school sidekicks proves to be funnier than he is agitating.
Unfortunately, Like Father Like Son whiffs more than it connects. Getting up to the actual switcheroo is laborious, the subplots of Chris facing off with a bully and Dad struggling to Do The Right Thing when it comes to treating patients with no insurance are a waste, and the climax borders on the nonsensical.
I previously noted that “some of the gags hit.” Well, that would then leave “most of the gags missing,” right? Right. Chris/Dad bumbling about on a way-too-long race sequence, Dad/Chris dancing around like a tool at home (though nothing in Kirk Cameron’s portrayal of Chris earlier in the film would lead us to believe he’d act like this), Trigger and Chris/Dad gong for a night out on the town dressed like Miami Vice extras and-TOTALLY AWESOME!-using credit cards.
Add to this the fact that two headlining actors are permanent residents on The Island of Washed-Up Celebrities, and Like Father Like Son doesn’t exactly scream “timeless.”
The widescreen presentation showcases video that looks pretty dated. This hurts especially in the darker sequences, where the action loses significant clarity. The stereo surround is front-loaded and mediocre. There are no extra features.
Sean Astin drops the F-bomb, which is pretty cool I guess. That’s about it.