Patrick Glover (Patrick Cargill) is a divorced writer of thriller novels whose teenage daughters, Anna (Natasha Pyne) and Karen (Ann Holloway), live with him in his suburban house. Tonight the girls are holding a party and playing loud music in the process, which is keeping Patrick awake, despite the cotton wool he has stuffed into his ears. When Karen's clumsy boyfriend Richard (Richard O'Sullivan) turns up the volume due to a misunderstanding, it's the last straw for Patrick, who tears his dressing gown in his haste to get downstairs and ask the guests politely to leave. Unfortunately, he ends up locked outside his own front door, and his efforts to get back in result in him spending the night sleeping in his car. Life is just one problem after another for Patrick.
Written by Brian Cooke and Johnnie Mortimer, Father Dear Father was based on the long running sitcom, and one of the many British nineteen-sixties and -seventies sitcoms to reach the big screen, this time resembling an overextended episode instead of any notably cinematic opening out of the admittedly basic premise. The generation gap was the concern of the series, as it is with about half the film, and Patrick's troubles coping with his daughters, who were rather too independently minded for his liking, although they never do anything particularly outrageous here despite Patrick's preoccupation that they might be indulging in pre-marital sex. The other half of the film concentrates on Patrick's cluttered personal life and his decision to remarry, which is easier said than done.
Patrick's publisher Georgie is the woman he has his sights set on, after an in depth chat with the local vicar (Joseph O'Conor), who is hard of hearing - they even do the mistakenly telling the time gag. This is also the opportunity for some wordplay, as when the vicar complains about the state of the cemetery: "Take Mr Pendergast - weed on his grave!" "Did he really?" asks Patrick. The comedy of misunderstandings is to the fore here in just about every scene and every joke, and no more obvious when Georgie's cleaning lady (a guest-starring Beryl Reid) believes that Patrick actually wants to marry her due to a mix-up with a phone call. The outcome of this is a long sequence of comic verbal mishap, and it's enjoyable to see to old pros sparring with each other.
However, the humour is pretty mild overall - there's only so many misinterpretations you can take in an hour and a half, compared to the half hour format of television. The plot is reminiscent of about three sitcom episodes stuck together, as when Anna decides she wants to move out and get her own flat. The only place she can afford is a pokey room on the top floor of a tenement, but of course she can't let her father know she's living in squalor, so when he goes to visit she makes out she is living in the plush ground floor flat belonging to her neighbours. It is from here whence the humour arises when Patrick (catchphrase: "Well, really!") phones up the flat and thinks that the man who answers the phone is her roommate, then goes round to confront him. From here we get the man thinking Patrick is his wife's father, which surprises him as she is black. My aching sides.
The other storyline to go along with the marriage proposal and the new flat is that Patrick's formidable ex-wife Barbara (Ursula Howells) has split from her husband Bill (Jack Watling) and has to move back in with Patrick for the night, which puts him in a very difficult position, especially when Bill shows up unannounced at the house. As with one of the TV instalments, everything is wrapped up by the end, with Karen's planned elopement and Patrick's uncertainty about remarriage satisfactorily resolved. That's the best you can say about Father Dear Father: it's satisfactory, even if the odd gem of inspiration shines through, as it would with this talented cast: Cargill and O'Sullivan's business with the cigarette and lighter for example. However, the original seems cosier somehow, in a way that the slightly mechanical film is not, despite most of the small screen cast returning. Music by Nachum Heiman.