"Like Father, Like Son" used to be one of my favorites
for the time it lasted on a VHS tape, during eight little months
when I was ten. I'm not even sure it does count as an alibi. But let me contextualize this: it was the early 90's, Kirk Cameron was still in my mind Mike Seaver, the epitome of coolness and every Saturday night comedy was still under the 80's influence starring any of John Candy, Dan Aykryod or Dudley Moore. The premise of Moore and Cameron playing father and son and switching bodies (or minds) was so amusing it almost made me love the film before watching it.
I realize that it takes more than a concept to make a movie, and I realize that the film might totally pass over a new generation who associates the name Kirk Cameron to some illuminated newborn bigot and might alas say "Dudley Who?" if you mention the name of the late actor. Some might even wonder what the hell is mother Camdell doing in this series and be shocked to see that the chubby Sam from the "Lord of the Ring" series used to be a clone of Marty McFly. But who am I kidding? The chances for the new generation to know about "Like Father, Like Son" are as low as Miley Cyrus playing the Easter bunny in the next Kirk Cameron movie. Rod Daniel's 1987 movie belong to the infamous league of forgotten 80's flicks that don't even benefit from a second watching.
Indeed, all the nostalgia in the world can't prevent the film from a severe bashing, but still, how could a film reuniting so many acting talents (the supporting roles are good) and with such an amusing concept could generate such a lame and predictable story. Reading the trivia section on IMDb would almost make you believe the director and the actors approached the roles seriously or with the right comedic instinct, but the outcome doesn't validate a word they say and prove the late Ebert right. For one thing, Ebert said that a film involving a brain-transference serum wouldn't have any plot because such a serum would be its own antidote. That's the essence of the idiot plot and I do feel like an idiot not to have thought about it. But even by assuming that the antidote would be a bit more complex to find (still why would the Uncle bring with him the serum and not the antidote?), the film had more infuriating flaws to deal with.
First, the film started well setting up both Dr. Jack and his son Chris Hammond as popular persons in their respective fields, an eminent surgeon promised to be elected head of staff and the cool kid who dates the prettiest girl and is the anchor leg in the next big relay race. The dialogues are convincing and the acting solid but once the switching occurs, the film all goes downhill. And I mean in an immediate way. Cameron was a normal teenager, not too wacky, not too weird, but from the minute Dudley Moore becomes embodies his son's role, he takes the most outrageous 180° turn and starts bawling like a little child. I could pass over the fact that he acted shocked while he could tell what happened (he had just tired the serum on the cat and the dog) but his crying was totally out of character. I was like "Chris wouldn't bawl like this" and that's only the tip of the iceberg.
None of the actors ever tried to capture the other's mimics, well, Cameron tried, for a while but just when he gets on school, he starts to act like a nerdy little geek with an awkward walk that had nothing to do with Dr. Chris Hammond confident stroll over the hospital walls. In fact, the whole body-switching thing was just the starter of a series of events where we can all powerlessly witness each part ruining the other's legacy. Dudley Moore plays Chris Hammond like a ten-year old boy and if Jack wanted to ruin his boy's reputation, he wouldn't have done better. Surely, even a teenager man in his 50's would understand the value of behavior in popularity. And it all escalates to a childish clowning during a boardroom meeting and a romantic dinner with the sexy Margaret Colin leading to a sofa in fire being thrown in a pool. And Chris leaving the concert because the music is too loud. Wow, over the top for Moore and underplayed for Cameron, how about playing the other side of the coin? There was a nice start when "Chris" in Moore's body realized he had a credit card and could drink, but wasn't he supposed to handle girls a way better, how does he turn so awkward when he meets Colin's character?
The film always goes to the obvious gimmick, the song montage, the car chase, the fainting during the delivery scene, painful-to-watch awkwardness while the premise could cover many good things. The remark of Ebert about the actors' accents not changing can even seem as nit-picky, how about that one? Why would that cat bark if he switches mind with the dog? Why would Chris' nemesis want another fight after the beating he gave him a day prior? Why would they turn the head of the hospital into some 'villain' when it was Jack who asked for it by playing weird?
So many questions but life is too precious to ever try to think of them, I won't cherish the film but the nice memory I had of i
while it lasted, and that ending that felt like a cherry on the cake at that time, but the cake was so under-cooked, the cherry miserably sinks inside it. A pity for such a promising concept, not to provide anything remotely amusing.