Over the past few years, Mill Creek Entertainment has been releasing many of the ’80s and ’90s catalog titles they have the Blu-ray publishing rights to with a special type of packaging that spotlights the era they came out during (a slipcover to simulate the look of a “VHS” release). Other than those slipcovers (which are admittedly pretty cool), there’s nothing particularly special about these releases but they must help increase sales as Mill Creek continues to put them out. This month, Mill Creek has released another wave of four titles in this series, featuring Like Father Like Son, Blind Fury, The Freshman, and Crossroads. None of these movies had previously been released individually on Blu-ray before now to the best of my knowledge (Blind Fury was released in a multi-movie set which I reviewed back in 2018). As usual, these are barebones releases outside of their slipcovers and the video quality improvements that come with being Blu-ray releases (which are very slight upgrades for all the titles I received).
Like Father Like Son
I received three titles in this wave of releases for review. The first one was Like Father Like Son which I knew going in was likely to be a pretty typical body swap comedy. I pretty much got exactly what I expected. Like Father Like Son features comedy veteran Dudley Moore and hot-at-the-time Kirk Cameron as Jack and Chris Hammond respectively. Jack is an extremely successful surgeon who wants his son to get into the medical business like him. Chris is a high school senior who would much rather watch MTV than study (and can’t even dissect a frog without getting queasy). One day Chris’s friend Trigger (Sean Astin) brings over a supposed body-switching potion his uncle Earl has been working on (after a tribe of Native Americans fixed Earl’s leg by using it). They test it out on the family dog and cat and to their surprise, the cat starts barking and the dog begins to purr, confirming that the potion works. Unfortunately, this potion is in an innocuous bottle of Tabasco sauce and after it is mistakenly placed in a cupboard, Jack puts it into his Bloody Mary causing him and his son to switch bodies. As Trigger tries to get into contact with his uncle Earl for a way to switch their bodies back, they must live each others lives in the meantime (just like basically every other body swapping comedy that’s ever been made). Comedy ensues as Jack tries to improve Chris’s status in school while Chris tries and fails to stay away from the hospital in an effort not to ruin Jack’s career.
I wrote in the previous paragraph that I knew going in that I very likely going to get a solid but unspectacular comedy out of Like Father Like Son when I requested a copy for review. Body swap comedies tend to be very middle-of-the-road as they rarely do anything original and the comedy is usually more of the family-friendly variety (though this one is a bit more adult than usual, even featuring an F-bomb). I have no problem with mediocre to slightly above average comedies, and that’s pretty much what Like Father Like Son is. Though there are definitely some stretches without a lot of comedy, it provides enough laughs to overcome the well-trodden path it takes in terms of the plot. All the familiar beats common in body swap films are played here, like Chris and Jack messing up each others’ lives, learning that it’s harder than they think to be an adult/teenager, having an awkward romantic encounter or two (which thankfully don’t get that creepy in this one), and the two eventually becoming closer to one another once they lived a few days in the other’s shoes.
Body swap comedies are a dime a dozen and due to that, it all comes down to the execution. Like Father Like Son is decent enough in this area, thanks largely due to Dudley Moore. There isn’t a lot of humor early on in the proceedings but once the body swap occurs, naturally it starts getting much funnier. There’s still some slow stretches and Cameron is merely adequate comedically in his role. On the other hand, there’s also some genuinely funny moments as well like Jack as Chris grounding his “father.” Dudley Moore unsurprisingly gets nearly all the best material as it’s usually much more fun and easier to write for an old person playing a “kid” rather than a younger actor playing an older person. However, he still does a good job of translating the material he’s given into comedy on the screen. You can tell he’s having a lot of fun acting like someone 30-40 years younger than himself. He’s the MVP of this otherwise funny enough but still mediocre comedy. 3/5
The second title I was able to review was Crossroads, not the presumably awful Britney Spears film from the early 2000’s but the Ralph Macchio-starrer from 1986. It’s a music film about a teenager named Eugene who is studying to become a classical musician at Julliard but would prefer to become a bluesman. Eugene is obsessed with one specific unrecorded lost blues song (Robert Johnson’s thirtieth song), which he thinks will skyrocket him to success in the blues world if he can find and record it. Luckily for him, he believes he has located a friend of Robert Johnson’s in a local prison ward for the elderly. The man’s name is Willie Brown (played by Joe Seneca) and sure enough, he does know about the song. In exchange for Eugene breaking him out of the minimum security prison, he will teach him it. But a bluesman can’t really play the blues unless they’ve experienced difficult times in their lives so Willie also forces Eugene to get him down to Mississippi as well (by hoboing their way there). The film turns into a combination of a road movie, a music film, and a coming-of-age/The Karate Kid-like movie from there.
From a quality standpoint, Crossroads is without a doubt the “best” film of these three. However, it kind of lacks in the entertainment department. There’s no doubt a film like Crossroads is better than a mediocre body swap comedy like Like Father Like Son but I still enjoyed the latter more anyway. This is mostly due to two things. First of all, I almost always prefer comedic films to ones that are mostly dramatic and outside of Seneca’s occasional quips, there really isn’t a lot of humor here. It’s mostly a straight-up drama. Also, while I absolutely love musicals, music films like this are not usually my cup of tea. Of course I like music, I just would prefer to listen to it while working rather than watch it being played. Finally, I prefer films that are a bit more fast-paced. While I wouldn’t say Crossroads moves incredibly slowly, it is a bit too slow for my taste. I found myself bored from time to time while watching this film.
Based on the previous paragraph, it may sound like I didn’t enjoy Crossroads. That really isn’t the case though. Crossroads is a good movie, it just isn’t a particularly exciting one. I’m not really into blues music but even I can recognize the music in this film is top-notch, Joe Seneca is great in his foul-mouthed Mr. Miyagi type role, and Macchio is pretty good (though I don’t know if I really buy him as a music prodigy, especially a blues one). This is one of those kinds of films that I think other people will enjoy a lot more than I did (though I still thought it was slightly above average). There’s a lot here to like but it’s also more boring than I was hoping for. 3/5
The last title I received for review was The Freshman, a mafioso comedy clearly inspired by The Godfather (and actually starring “The Godfather” himself, Marlon Brando). It also features Matthew Broderick (a few years after his breakout role of Ferris Bueller) as a freshman New York University film student named Clark Kellogg who upon arriving in the city for the first time is conned out of all of his money and possessions by a “cab driver” (played by Bruno Kirby). Clark eventually finds the thief and is able to get his possessions back. However, the thief claims he lost his money gambling but does have a good job lined up for him that can make him his money back. His uncle Carmine Sabatini (Brando) has a job that will pay a lot of money for running a few “simple” errands. While Clark is smart enough to realize that the offer is suspicious (even suspecting him of being part of the mafia), Carmine won’t take no and Clark hesitantly accepts. Of course, as expected the job isn’t as easy or legal as claimed and Clark finds himself involved in a mob-like operation involving endangered animals, a young woman who demands his hand in marriage before they even go on a date, and government agencies trying to take Carmine down.
Of these three films, I honestly thought I was going to enjoy The Freshman the most. It has the highest Metascore of the three, the second best IMDB rating, and the concept of a Godfather like comedy film (starring the actual Godfather) seemed like a great idea. Alas, I was disappointed by the movie, mostly due to the lack of laughs (outside of Kirby’s character) and what I felt seemed like a phone-it-in performance by Brando. All the ingredients for success were here, a hot actor at the time in Broderick, a usually wonderful veteran actor in Brando, and a fun concept. Unfortunately, the end result is a great actor giving at best a mediocre performance (while basically mumbling all of his lines to the point I would have had no idea what he was saying if I didn’t turn subtitles on) and the same two or three jokes repeated over and over again (he looks like “The Godfather,” Clark is from (insert wrong state), etc.). It’s not like The Freshman is completely laughless (Kirby is good and there are some “zany” comedy moments like the scene in the mall) but this is far more of a comedy-drama than a straight-up comedy. I feel like if Brando would have been giving it his all there would have been a lot more humor to be found here but most of his lines fell flat with me. The Freshman is not a terrible movie (just a below average one) but certainly a very disappointing one. The idea was great, the execution was not. The result is a watchable film, though one that has too many dry patches without any comedy and a plot doesn’t really make up for it. 2.5/5
Video Quality and Conclusion
Outside of Blind Fury (which was released in a multi-movie set), I believe these titles are all being released on Blu-ray for the first time. However, I never really expected these movies to look all that great on Blu-ray as they are lesser-known titles that clearly are never going to get a loving restoration or anything like that. Good thing my expectations were low as none of these films look great on Blu-ray. Crossroads appears to have gotten the most attention in the video quality department, but even it looks merely decent on Blu-ray. The Freshman looks slightly better than Like Father Like Son but both only look like slight upgrades to DVD quality to me. Mill Creek releases are usually budget-oriented but if you already own the DVDs for these, I’m not really sure they are worth the upgrade (outside of maybe Crossroads which does look a tad better than the other two). If you don’t already own them, they are certainly better than the DVDs but not by much. None of the three releases I got for review contain any bonus features and presumably Blind Fury won’t have any either. This line is meant to be a series of budget releases and thus, you aren’t really going to get any frills outside of the pretty cool VHS-themed slipcovers and a very affordable price.
Even though a lot of these titles in this line of Mill Creek releases have iffy video quality, it’s still nice to see some of these older films finally get a release on Blu-ray. All three of these movies are pretty mediocre (with Crossroads being the best movie from a filmmaking standpoint and Like Father Like Son being the funniest and most entertaining). Outside of Crossroads their transfers are below average to bad, but they certainly still look better than their old DVD versions do. Ultimately, I think Crossroads is a good music/road/coming-of-age film though the slow pace keeps it from becoming great. Like Father Like Son is a decent enough body swap comedy to cautiously recommend (unless you already own it on DVD and don’t care about a very slight improvement in video quality). However, I found The Freshman to be a bit overrated in my opinion.
Crossroads, Like Father Like Son, and The Freshman were released on Blu-ray on January 12, 2021.
We would like to thank Mill Creek Entertainment for the review copies of Crossroads, Like Father Like Son, and The Freshman used for this review. Other than receiving the review copies we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copies had no impact on the content of this review or their final scores.