Saturday, 12 February 2011

Like Father Like Son (1987)

The 'Magnificent Ambersons' of the Eighties bodyswap cycle...
Like Father Like Son (1987, Rod Daniel)

Starring: Dudley Moore, Kirk Cameron, Sean Astin, Debbie Zipp, Kedric Wolfe, Kitty Swink, Corki Grazer.

Tagline: Chris and his dad have accidentally changed bodies - but no big deal. Chris gets the Jag and the Gold Card. Dad gets the fake ID and the bio final’

Trailers: Pippi Longstocking, Short Circuit 2, Things Change

Cherrypick: The name's Trigger; as in the horse; as in ‘hung like a…’”

If you’re reading this then chances are you’re an aging juvenile in an egg-stained Pixies/Red Dwarf/Philosophy Football t-shirt who is quite possibly still living with their parents or underachieving/speed-dealing college chums, very probably into heavyweight on-line gaming and definitely without significant other. You routinely refer to that first Star Wars film as A New Hope, think you’re being terribly magnanimous when reminding people that Frankenstein was in fact the doctor and not the monster, and cheerily envisage your future as a permanently baked sabbatical from reality during which you will hopefully add nothing to society and ultimately overdose on crazy eightballs of Fig Newtons and Mr. Pibb in the arms of a syphilitic Scottish hooker.
A Scottish hooker, yesterday
If so, you might be well advised to check out the Freudian intricacies of 1987 Dudley Moore laugh-gamble, Like Father Like Son, which chronicles the travails of a teenager disinherited of that apportioned boon of childhood’s crystal-tipped Arcadia to which we slovenly nerds so ardently cling, and banished - mewling and yet unprepared - into the gale-force pandemonium of adult life.
‘Dagenham’ Dud phones in his usual booze cruise-control performance as whiskeyed-up heart surgeon Dr. Jack Hammond. Cavorting his way through an endless whirl of cocktail parties, limousines, sexual harassment and class action suits, Dud’s life is strictly moving to the rhythm. A mere nip and tuck away from being appointed Chief of Staff by the cabal of freeze-dried war criminals that make up his hospital board, the only thing that could possibly go wrong for the good doctor is for his gong-bonging son (Kirk Cameron) to be off scarfing down some mystical Navajo brain-transference serum in a scene of operatic debauchery straight out of Pasolini’s Salo

Unfortunately, Dudley’s shit out of luck, because this is precisely what’s occurring out in the Mojave desert, where Cameron – egged on with licentious glee by his egregiously precocious little mate, Trigger, played by Sam out of Lord of the Rings – sits bare-ass naked under a Joshua tree while a motley collection of unrepentant hippies, Native American dreamcatchers and opportunistic paedophiles dance themselves into trancelike abandon to some harsh proto-trip hop beats and the mystical infusions of the psychotropic drug vie with a six-pack of Mickey’s Big Mouth for control of his immortal soul.
Cheerio career!
Naturally, the first that Dud knows about any of this is when he wakes up on the couch of a Redondo Beach candy man named Terrible Arnold next morning to find that during the night he has transmigrated into the body of his fifteen year old son. And though this ungodly mess is entirely Cameron’s fault, only the hardest heart could fail but to sympathise with the poor lad when he in turn discovers that he is to see out the balance of his days cocooned in the skin of a vulgar cockney dwarf.

Cameron does at least make immediate use of this new-found maturity, by simply donning a suit and tie, filching the keys to Dud’s golf cart and closing the door behind him on his way out of the plot, thereby abandoning the few remaining viewers to a film now entirely dependent on the ability of a sozzled fifty-year old from the East End of London to persuade us that he’s hep to the recondite teen intrigues and elaborate mating rituals of spoilt Orange County high schoolers… 

The rest of the film is as aberrant and bewildering as an orang-utan wedding.
"And how much is it for the full hour..?"
After youthful flirtations with the all-female switcheroo of Disney’s Freaky Friday, the canine transmogrifications that vivified Chevy Chase’s Oh Heavenly Dog and the gender-bending effrontery of Steve Martin/Lily Tomlin reverse, All Of Me, the age-swap genre finally came home to daddy in 1987 with the boys-only club sired by LFLS. Peddling neither the wilful iconoclasm that marked Judge Reinhold/Fred Savage face-off Vice Versa nor the generational terrorism of George ‘El Geriatrico’ Burns’ 18 Again, nor, indeed, overwhelmed by the hysterical consumerist stampede that so engulfed Tom Hanks in Penny Marshall’s age-inappropriate immorality play Big, Daniels’ film is liberated to explore the pandemic obsession with the executive class of an entire generation of fathers with jettisoning the impedimentia of adulthood in favour of a regression to the coddled, superintended lifestyle of their own pubescent offspring.

It is perhaps indicative of the post-War comfort-zone of the American male where men and boys alike yearned for that Eternal Prom Night on which they borrowed dad’s car, spiked the punch at the Sock Hop Ball and managed to get their hand up Mary Lou’s freckle; when summers lasted a lifetime, Country was still King and terms like ‘Foreign Policy’, ‘Crack Tenement’ and ‘High School Shooting’ were other people’s problems.

Is this what F. Scott Fitzgerald meant when he said “There are no second helpings in American lives”, or was he just pissed up on booze..?

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