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'Father, Son' Has A Mind Of Its Own

October 02, 1987|KEVIN THOMAS | Times Staff Writer

"Like Father, Like Son" (citywide) gets off to a great start because its makers shrewdly decided to treat its preposterous premise, which has parent and child accidentally exchanging brains, as a joke--and one that's too funny to be revealed here. Instead of wasting time and energy trying to make the accident credible, director Rod Daniel and writers Lorne Cameron and Steven L. Bloom concentrate on making its effects believable. The result is a warm, imaginative comedy of wide appeal.

In peak form, Dudley Moore plays Dr. Jack Hammond, a widowed, brilliant workaholic heart surgeon on the verge of being named chief of staff at a major private Southern California hospital. Kirk Cameron, of TV's "Growing Pains," is Jack's likable son Chris, who's heading for a C in high school biology, much to his exceedingly demanding father's chagrin. Chris isn't stupid; he's just not a genius like his father and has no aptitude for science.

The film makers have thought of just about every conceivable consequence of the brain exchange. Chris gets his father's Jag and gold credit card, which means a grand spree for him and his pal Trigger (Sean Astin) on the Sunset Strip. However, now that he has his father's intellect and arrogant personality, Chris doesn't stop at merely passing that bio exam with flying colors; he can't resist showing off his newly developed brilliance to a point of obnoxiousness.

Meanwhile, Jack has his own challenges at work: How do you carry on heart surgery with your good-natured son's teen-age mind? The answer is you consult your interns, who are blown away, unused to Jack asking them their opinions of anything. (Some of the interns have already been unnerved by Jack's offer to help them fix their car.)

For all the laughs the father-and-son's predicament stirs up, it's clear that they are about to destroy each other's lives if they don't get their own brains back--and soon. Again, the film makers work their way out of this mess as deftly as they got into it in the first place--but not without Jack and Chris coming to realize each other's value. Chris' sunny generosity of spirit rubs off on Jack, while Chris comes to respect his father's implacable dedication.

"Like Father, Like Son's" humor may not be as sophisticated as "10" or "Arthur," but it offers wonderful opportunities for Moore, who has some terrific solo comedy turns as a middle-aged man with a teen-ager's mind. (When faced with the opportunity of a hot romance with his boss's wife, the suddenly nervous and inexperienced Jack turns on hard rock for mood music.)

In his first starring screen role, Cameron has equal time with Moore and easily holds his own. He and Astin are both talented and appealing young actors.

There are fine supporting players as well. Among them are Catherine Hicks as an activist physician astounded and pleased by the changes in Jack, and Patrick O'Neal as the hospital's current chief of staff--suave, forceful and very conservative. Margaret Colin is O'Neal's amusingly seductive wife. "Like Father, Like Son" (rated PG-13 for some sexual innuendo and four-letter words) is a winner.

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