Pretty sure I just watched the longest commercial not starring Adam Sandler, but it did make me laugh.
The original Space Jam is a complicated movie. On the one hand, it was part of my childhood and I have a lot of nostalgia for it, it has one of my favorite Bill Murray cameos, and it perfectly encapsulates the year 1996 by being part of a giant commercial featuring Michael Jordan. On the other hand, it is a giant commercial featuring Michael Jordan (who cannot act), it has a lot of jokes that really don’t hold up when you aren’t a kid, and it is so dated that it probably seems absolutely bonkers to a modern audience. They have been speculating about making a sequel to this movie for *checks calendar* over twenty years and now have decided to use the nostalgia cash in at the very end of a pandemic, I guess. But at least this time it’s featuring LeBron James, so that’s different, right?
The story this time is that LeBron James and his son Dom (Cedric Joe) are at a meeting at Warner Brothers Studios. LeBron is a bit overbearing as a dad and wants his son to attend basketball camp rather than game design camp. After the Warner Bros. algorithm, an AI named Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle), pitches an idea that LeBron rejects, Al-G abducts LeBron and Dom into cyberspace (thus the space in the title) and forces LeBron to play basketball against a group of CGI players called the Goon Squad (Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, Nneka Ogwumike, Diana Taurasi). LeBron’s only hope is, unfortunately, Bugs Bunny (Jeff Bergman) and the rest of the Looney Tunes (due mostly to Bugs Bunny being a sociopath).
This movie mostly failed on a lot of levels. On the most basic level, it hurts that this film is little more than a giant add for Warner Brothers properties. They reference Harry Potter, The Matrix, and Game of Thrones (proving this movie was written before the last season of that aired) constantly. The actual basketball game features a variety of cameos by WB animated and live-action characters that boggle the mind, particularly since a number of them are NOT kid friendly (the Droogs from A Clockwork Orange, the Nun from The Devils, Pennywise from IT, etc.). Hell, Rick and Morty have a speaking cameo which, admittedly, was funny. The film constantly has a tone of “look at what we own!” Then there are some of the style choices, most notably having CGI Looney Tunes for the actual game that really never stop looking unsettling. Also, LeBron James, who is a decent performer, is made into kind of a jerk towards his son for reasons that seem completely unnecessary. You can just have his son get abducted, guys, that’s a motive to play the game. Instead, they try to have Dom turn against his dad, which seemed like overkill.
On the other hand, this movie does actually have quite a few legitimate laughs. More than the original, for sure, even if I’m not sure it’s a more enjoyable film on the whole. A lot of them are at LeBron’s expense, something that Michael Jordan probably wouldn’t have tolerated. Michael also probably wouldn’t have tolerated being animated for so much of the film, which LeBron clearly endorsed. There is a Michael Jordan cameo and it is the absolute best joke for me in the film. Then there’s Don Cheadle. Don Cheadle puts way more effort into this than you would expect from someone of his caliber. He has to sell all of the over-the-top and borderline insane stuff that Al-G Rhythm comes up with and he pulls it off beautifully. Also, the Goon Squad is vastly superior to the Monstars in terms of creativity of both appearances and powers.
Overall, it’s not a great movie, but it wasn’t too bad.
Josh Ruben has now made two amazing horror comedies in a row.
If you were to ask me the absolute best part of doing this blog, this is it: Finding an amazing movie that I would not have otherwise heard about. This film was only on my radar because I watched another hidden gem of a film, Scare Me, and saw that the writer/director, Collegehumor veteran Josh Ruben, was working on an adaptation of the video game Werewolves Within. For those not familiar, the game is just an adaptation of “Werewolf,” which is also called “Mafia,” and is about a group of people who are trying to find the killer hidden in their midst. This movie perfectly captures that element.
The film starts with maybe the funniest joke to ever open a film, which I will not spoil here. The movie’s protagonist is introduced as Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson), a forest ranger who has recently been assigned to the small town of Beaverfield. The town is currently divided over whether or not to allow an oil pipeline to be built by businessman Sam Parker (Wayne Duvall). Finn quickly hits it off with local mail carrier Cecily Moore (Milana Vayntrub) and is introduced to the locals, almost all of whom are crazy in their own way: Jeanine Sherman (Catherine Curtin) runs the local lodgings, environmentalist Jane Ellis (Rebecca Henderson) is staying with her to help stop the pipeline, Trisha and Pete Anderson (Michaela Watkins and Michael Chernus) are the ultra-conservatives who want the pipeline’s money, Marcus and Gwen (George Basil and Sarah Burns) are the local drug-altered trash, tech millionaires who are against the pipeline Devon and Joaquim Wolfson (Cheyenne Jackson and Harvey Guillén), and hermit Emerson Flint (Glenn Fleshler). That night, all of the generators in town are destroyed and a dog is killed (offscreen). When Dr. Ellis can’t figure out the species of the attacker, people start to believe that one of them may be a werewolf.
The point of the game Werewolves Within, like Mafia or Among Us, is to try and find the impostor in the group, but you can also end up attacking innocent people if manipulated by the werewolf or paranoia. This movie perfectly captures that. The entire town, when we’re introduced to it, is already heavily divided. Trisha and Pete are angry at Jeanine and the Wolfsons for trying to block the pipeline that they think will make them rich, Sam Parker hates the work of Dr. Ellis for similar reasons, and Emerson hates and is hated by everyone because he’s a crazy violent survivalist who lives in a log cabin. When the generators are destroyed, it forces everyone into the same building, which leads to all of the grievances being aired and the tempers flaring. The wonderful mix of humor and over-the-top characters into all of these scenes keeps it from getting too boring or uncomfortably intense. It plays out like a fun game night, but with more graphic visuals.
Sam Richardson and Milana Vayntrub are amazing as the leads, with her cynicism and snark balancing his impossible positivity. Honestly, though, all of the performances are great, as you’d expect from most of these actors. Harvey Guillén gets extra credit because, even though I recognized immediately that he was Guillermo from What We Do In the Shadows, he never seemed to do anything like that character. The film’s pacing and cinematography are great, really driving home the isolation of the location without making it unrelenting like in The Thing.
Overall, this is just a masterpiece of a film. Spend the money. Rent the movie.
Netflix gives us a series about a young Indian woman who is dealing with loss, love, and just being a dumb teen.
Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) is a nerdy 15 year old Indian American in California. Her father, Mohan (Sendhil Ramamurthy), passed away last year of a heart attack, leading Devi to have a subsequent psychosomatic episode that paralyzed her from the legs down during her Freshman year. She recovers, thanks in part to her therapist Dr. Ryan (Niecy Nash), and plans to improve her life during sophomore year along with her two best friends: Science genius Fabiola Torres (Lee Rodriguez) and aspiring actor Eleanor Wong (Ramona Young). She decides that she’s going to try to hook up with the hottest guy in the class, Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darret Barnet), and avoid her “nemesis” Ben Gross (Jaren Lewison). At the same time, Devi’s overbearing mother Dr. Nalini Vishwakumar (Poorna…
Sometimes solid performances and a few good added twists can elevate an old set-up back into interesting territory. This movie could have fallen on its face, because a lot of the elements are old tropes reheated, but giving Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro the lead and having a cast full of excellent supporting characters really manage to keep this film thoroughly enjoyable. It helps that Soderbergh’s pacing is pretty tight, moving from one source of tension to another without making it unbearable on the viewer.
Curt Goynes (Don Cheadle) is an ex-convict who is desperate for cash. He is contacted by mob recruiter Doug Jones (Brendan Fraser) and agrees to help babysit a family as part of a blackmail scheme. He’s joined by fellow crooks Ronald and Charley (Benicio del Toro and Kieran Culkin) and they break into the house of accountant Matt Wertz (David Harbour). They hold Matt’s wife, Mary (Amy Seimetz), and his children hostage while forcing him to get a copy of a document for the mob boss Frank Capelli (Ray Liotta). When Matt returns, without the real document due to it being removed, Charley decides to execute the family and Matt, but Curt shoots him in the head to prevent a massacre. Now Ronald and Curt are both wanted by the mob and the police, but they both decide to try and steal the real document and use it to buy their freedom.
This movie has just the right number of moving parts introduced at just the right times, because as the plot builds, it ends up having a large number of characters and subplots colliding but you never really feel lost. It helps that, by having so many talented supporting cast members, the characters are more memorable. Aside from those listed above, other supporting characters are played by Jon Hamm, Bill Duke, Matt Damon, and Julia Fox, all of whom keep you focused on their actions better than expected. The film also keeps the focus on the fact that Curt and Ronald are at the mercy of any number of people, because anyone can want to turn them in for a reward. In a way it changes the heist film formula from being two parts getting in to one part getting out and instead makes most of the plot about getting away with the goods. Thankfully, Soderbergh is very used to these types of films and can handle this shift in the structure.
In honor of the anniversary of the nation in which I was born and to which I swear my allegiance, I post the following quotes.
By Mark Twain:
In a republic, who is the country?
Is it the government which is for the moment in the saddle? Why, the government is merely a temporary servant: it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong, and decide who is a patriot and who isn’t. Its function is to obey orders, not originate them.
Who, then is the country? Is it the newspaper? Is it the pulpit? Why, these are mere parts of the country, not the whole of it, they have not command, they have only their little share in the command.
In a monarchy, the king and his family are the country: In a republic it is the common voice of the people each of…
We finally get another animated Godzilla series, but no Godzooky.
So, this isn’t the first Godzilla television show, but it is, surprisingly, the first non-educational Godzilla anime series. Yeah, until the 90s, the Hanna-Barbera adaptation was the only animated version of Godzilla. I find that crazy for a popular character that’s been around since 1954. Much like the three anime Godzilla films that Netflix debuted over the last few years, this show decided to go ahead and reinvent the Godzilla mythos, this time tying Godzilla and his fellow kaiju to extra-dimensionality and time travel. Honestly, after so many crazy twists and gimmicks over the decades, this seems almost par for the course.
The show is set in the near future in Japan. Two engineers working for the “do-it-all” Otaki Factory (aptly named as they appear to literally do anything they feel like), Yun Arikawa and Haberu Kato (Johnny Yong Bosch and Stephen Fu), are dispatched to an old building which has been having strange occurrences. At the same time, cryptozoology student Mei Kamino (Erika Harlacher), is investigating signals coming from an abandoned building. Both parties hear the same strange song, which leads to the awakening of creatures that start to attack Japan, including the pterosaur swarm called Rodan, the armored Anguirus, sea serpent Manda, and, of course, the mack daddy king of the monsters, Godzilla. The only thing that they have to fight back is an experimental robot built by the crazy head of the Otaki Factory called Jet Jaguar. It’s awesome.
The designs of the monsters in this series are all adapted from their traditional images, but they still are clearly recognizable. For example, Rodan, who is traditionally a nearly Godzilla-sized pterosaur, is reimagined as a flock of car-sized flying dinosaurs. Anguirus, at least in the dub, is acknowledged to be named after an ankylosaurus, with a line thrown in about the name coming from a kid who couldn’t pronounce the dinosaur. I think that was a shot at the 1990s Godzilla film, where the name “Godzilla” is a mispronunciation of Gojira. Godzilla is a bit more aquatic in this adaptation and his signature atomic breath is redesigned to be a sign of his drawing power from outside of this world.
This show’s hook is that all of the kaiju are made up of extra-dimensional material, thus avoiding the question of how such creatures can move given the square-cube law. It also sets up that a lot of this series involves time-travel and an amount of technobabble that would make a Star Trek script blush. One of the devices in the series, the Orthogonal Diagonalizer, is both the stupidest name and also somehow the cleverest, because the idea is that it orthogonally shifts the dimensions of reality the way you would shift a matrix in linear algebra. The show makes a great use of time travel and expresses the nature of its interconnected timelines not only on the show but also through the naming of the episodes. If you were to lay the names of the first 12 episodes along the edges of a cube in 3 dimensions, they would have 8 intersections that share letters. Those letters form the name of the 13th episode, “Together.” The extra effort really is appreciated.
A zombie virus starts tearing apart an elementary school.
Zombies have pretty much always been an ideal monster to work into comedies. On their own, they’re not particularly threatening, as they are usually slow, unintelligent, and, since they come in mobs, can be killed repeatedly on film without really diminishing the overall threat. Even the original modern zombie movie, Night of the Living Dead, had two different much more humorous sequels, Return of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. Because of this, zombie comedies have been mined heavily over the years, but every so often, a new comedy uses the genre well and makes it hilarious again, ranging from Shaun of the Dead’s satire of modern life to Zombieland’s witty banter mixed with over-the-top zombie kills. Unfortunately, I think it’s the run of great Zombie comedy films that hurt this movie when it came out, because, while it is funny, it’s just not quite as good as some of its competitors. However, that doesn’t mean that you should overlook it, because it has a few elements that set it apart.
Taking place in “Fort Chicken,” Illinois, a fourth-grade student eats a contaminated chicken nugget, and because, let’s be honest, that’s up there on the list of most likely causes of an outbreak, she soon starts to turn feral and develop skin lesions. This is our version of zombie for the film, and rather than Romero shamblers, they’re closer to small 28 Days Later running virus zombies, although at times they have better problem-solving skills. The first student scratches her substitute teacher, Clint (Elijah Wood), who will mostly be our protagonist throughout the film. He’s an aspiring horror writer who has had a crush on the same girl, Lucy McCormick (an underappreciated Alison Pill), since high school. Naturally, she’s dating the gym teacher, Wade, played amazingly well as a supermacho dork by Rainn Wilson. Other people at the school are played by Jack McBrayer, Leigh Whannell, Peter Kwong, and Nasim Pedrad as the absolutely hilarious ultra-religious teacher. When all of the children start to become killing machines, it’s assumed that Clint is next… only for it to be revealed that the virus only works on children. The group hides with Calvin (Armani Jackson) and Tamra (Morgan Lily), the only two uninfected kids, and have to find a way to survive the school day.
There are a lot of funny moments in this movie, like how one of the security officers, played by Jorge Garcia, is on shrooms and hallucinates a random giraffe, or how the doctor character seems incapable of remembering to use gloves. The overall premise, having children that are constantly attacking and murdering adults, largely because adults ignore them at first, is pretty great. They do a decent amount of sunshine horror (scenes in bright light) featuring a playground of tiny cannibals, but then also have the traditional low-light scenes in the school. Since most of the kids are around 7-10, they’re all tiny, which makes it kind of inherently hilarious that the adults are terrorized by them. It’s a decent idea.
There are two main problems with this film, though. The first is that they really don’t do much with the set-up during the second and third acts. Aside from the occasional sight-gag, they don’t treat the kid zombies much differently than regular zombies. It also doesn’t really play up a metaphor or anything the way that most zombie movies do, despite the fact that there a lot of prime opportunities. The second problem is that there is a lot of filler humor, where the jokes are there but they’re not blowing your socks off or really adding to the movie. Some of these work, but a lot of them just produce polite chuckles. Sometimes just focusing on the really good gags and playing the rest straight is the way to go. Granted, with so many talented people, even some of the gags that shouldn’t have worked did.
Overall, it’s still a pretty solid comedy, it just has the burden of competing against a really good subclass of film.
I’m not saying that we need to stop giving Mark Wahlberg work, I’m just saying that at least Nicolas Cage would have made this movie interesting. It might still have been awful, but at least he would have gone all out about being a man with a ton of skills and abilities that he can’t explain and a history of mental illness. Instead, Wahlberg’s performance is extremely muted, coming off as almost bored when dealing with the fantastic reality he’s slowly becoming aware of. While I’m not a big Mark Wahlberg fan (admittedly, opinion possibly tainted by all of his hate crimes), he has put in some solid performances in dramatic, comedy, and even action films. Here, it seems extremely obvious that he just wanted to pick up a paycheck, unless the director, Antoine Fuqua, was constantly giving him the note “less.” While I wouldn’t expect that from the director of Training Day, I WOULD expect it from the director of King Arthur, so it’s not impossible that the director bears responsibility here.
The premise of the movie is at least interesting, even if I’m pretty confident multiple other series and films have done something similar. Evan McCauley (Wahlberg) is a schizophrenic with a traumatic brain injury (and metal plate) who seemingly knows almost any trivia and is capable of doing things like gourmet cooking and crafting katanas without any training. Eventually, he finds out that, surprise, he’s one of the Infinites. It turns out the world is populated by roughly 500 individuals who are capable of remembering all of their past lives. They maintain a near-perfect recall of any skills or information they previously acquired. Naturally, they have had a schism that has divided the Infinites. One group, the Believers (yes, really), are led by Nora (Sophie Cookson), one half of a pair of lovers waiting to be reincarnated together, and Garrick (Liz Carr), who is gifted with actual personality. The other group, the Nihilists (yes, really), are led by Bathurst (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and they are determined to destroy all life on Earth so that there can be no more reincarnation. Get it? Nihilists? They want to make everything into nothing? SO CLEVER.
The problem is that the film often devolves into long, emotionless expository monologues. Sophie Cookson’s character of Nora is so boring and so bland that any and all action sequences are rendered uninteresting by association. Not that the action sequences in the movie are anything to write home about. Despite having a number of hyper-skilled warriors armed with a combination of modern and ancient weaponry, you know, the thing that made The Old Guard (also starring Chiwetel Ejiofor) one of the best action movies of the last two years, this movie feels like it’s constantly stealing from other, better films. And it uses CG way more than it needed to, when you consider that it clearly had a massive budget (that they’ve suspiciously refused to disclose). Even more, rather than an actual fight, the whole film ends up being a MacGuffin hunt, which becomes increasingly stupid the more you think about how it plays out.
Overall, this movie sucked. It’s not even fun bad, like the Happening, it’s just bad, like Transformers: The Last Knight.
Adam from the Bible punches Zeus so hard it snaps his neck. That’s just one scene.
If someone came up to you and said “what if we made a fighting game where one side contains a selection of members of various pantheons and the other is famous figures from history,” you’d probably agree that it could at least be fun. Well, rather than make that game, someone went ahead and made a television show out of it and it is damned fun to watch. Record of Ragnarok does not mess around in the slightest, with the setup for the series established within the first 10 minutes. Basically, the gods of every religion (except Christianity so far) take a vote on whether or not humanity is worth saving. They conclude that, no, it is not (although there is a bit of a split). However, before they destroy humanity, the valkyrie Brunhilde (Miyuki Sawashiro/Laura Post) and her sister Göll (Tomoyo Kurosawa/Anairis Quinones) invoke the right of Ragnarok, which in this case is the right for humanity to challenge divinity to a fight. Thirteen humans will challenge thirteen deities to mortal combat and the first side to get seven wins is the victor. If humans win, then they get to stay for another millennium.
The key to this show is exactly how insane some of the matchups are, particularly the ones that have only been teased. I’ll admit that I was pissed off when I watched it because the tweet that got me to try this show was someone saying “If you want to see steampunk Jack the Ripper stalk Hercules through 19th Century London, Record of Ragnarok is your jam.” Unfortunately, that apparently happens NEXT season. But, the fights in this season were still pretty good and visually awesome. They usually spend an episode going into the backstories of each of the contestants, to some degree, while the fight is going on. Each fight takes 3-4 episodes, which is an absolute rapid pace for the same medium that brought us Dragon Ball Z and its 20 episode battle montages.
The show also has a fun sense of humor. It particularly likes to play around with the audience, which is composed half of every deity from every pantheon and half of almost every notable person throughout history. Random artists, warriors, and political figures will have cameos and, occasionally, some fun commentary.
Overall, if you really don’t think having Thor fight a general from the Three Kingdoms period isn’t fun, then you probably won’t like it, but otherwise this will be a heck of a watch.
Well, I made a list of fictional moms, so it only seems fair to do a list of fictional dads. Just like before, I picked a number, in this case 6, then picked 4 at random from a list of fictional fathers. These aren’t the “best” fathers, but they’re the ones I remember.
THE “CHANGE-OF-LIFE DAD” AWARD
George Banks (Steve Martin in Father of the Bride and Father of the Bride Part II)
We only see George Banks at two points in his life. First, when he finds out that his 22-year-old daughter is going to marry a man she only has known for six months. Despite the fact that George doesn’t particularly like his new potential son-in-law, it becomes obvious that he just always loved her being “daddy’s girl” and doesn’t want that to change. Still, by the end of the first movie, he’s accepted that it’s part of life that your kids will leave, but that they’ll still love him. The second time we see George, it’s as he becomes a grandfather and, at the same time, a father again. Managing to panic simultaneously about being too young to be a grandfather and too old to be a father, George really embodies two natural fears of most men at the same time.
Steve Martin’s performance in these films always managed to be hilarious while not being disingenuous. The things that George is feeling are the things that many people in his position would feel. Despite that, he is a loving, caring father and a decent husband, though his wife, Nina (Diane Keaton), is pretty much better than him at dealing with anything. George isn’t perfect, but he’s pretty real. Also, every scene of him bonding with his kids over basketball is gold.
THE “DAD YOU LEAST WANT TO MESS WITH” AWARD
William Munny (Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven)
Unforgiven is one of the best Westerns ever made, because it’s the anti-Western. Everything that always seemed noble and idealistic about the Western Genre is run through a blender and mixed in with heavy doses of reality. The central bounty in the movie, for example, is offered by a group of prostitutes after a man disfigures one of them for laughing at the size of his genitals. Not something I remember from Roy Rogers.
The main character of the film, William Munny, is a retired gunman who is convinced to take up the bounty because otherwise he’ll lose the farm and his children’s future. In order to spare his kids from ever having to do what he’s done, Munny tracks down the cowboys. However, at the end of the film, he has to face down an entirely different posse to ensure his family’s safety and to avenge a fallen comrade. The movie, which up until this point has gone out of the way to say that there is no “cowboy who rides into town and faces down a posse without dying” then proceeds to show Munny doing EXACTLY THAT. He kills a dozen men brutally all by himself, then returns home to his family, where he, again, swears off killing.
THE “BEST DAD, WORST HUSBAND” AWARD
Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire)
Daniel Hillard isn’t the best husband. He basically dumps every responsibility in the marriage on his wife and it really isn’t that surprising when she can’t take it anymore. Due to his instability, he’s only allowed limited time with his children, something that doesn’t sit well with him, but that anyone in social work would probably agree with. But, rather than, you know, working on getting a better job or making a better home environment for his kids, he decides to A) gaslight the hell out of his now-ex-wife and B) dress up as a 60-year-old English woman and be the children’s nanny. These are not the responses of a person who you want watching over kids, something the movie flat-out tells you when a judge restricts his custody further after he’s exposed.
There’s no doubt that Daniel loves his kids. At one point he compares them to air, because he can’t live without them. And that’s really the biggest redeeming thing in the movie. As Daniel says, he can only admit that his actions were crazy because he could not live in a world where he didn’t see his kids more and, being a creative person rather than a logical one, this was the best solution he could come up with. With almost any other actor, I think this movie would fail, but Robin Williams never wavers on this being a man doing what he thinks is right. So, yeah, he went overboard, but he’s still a pretty good father, especially by the end of the movie, where he’s finally taking more responsibility for his parenting.
THE “DAD WHO DEFINED OVERBOARD” AWARD
Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase in the Vacation Films)
Clark W. Griswold dreams big. Everything he does has to be big and bright and extreme, but it’s all because that’s how he thinks family’s bond. Credit to him, by the end of every film, the family does seem to be pretty tightly-knit, although his kids are usually recast by the next movie. From amusement parks to Europe to Vegas, Clark takes his family on wild adventures that often result in some form of legal trouble and marital strife, and it’s almost always directly his fault. And when they stay home for Christmas, well, as his wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) notes “we’re all in hell.”
However, the best thing about Clark, for me, will always be his rants. Usually, at some point in the movie, something will go wrong that isn’t Clark’s fault, and Clark will snap. These are typically so hilarious that even the cast has trouble pretending to be scared by Clark’s conduct, rather than laughing their asses off. I end this entry with a quote from the best one: “Hallelujah! Holy Shit! Where’s the Tylenol?”
THE “CUTEST PAIR OF POPS” AWARD
Cameron Tucker and Mitchell Pritchett (Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson on Modern Family)
Cam and Mitchell are adorable. Mitch is an uptight, introverted, worrywart who is overly focused on work and his father’s approval while Cam is the free-spirit who loves to go out and make friends. Hell, any photo of the two of them kind of makes it obvious. Mitch usually wears something conservative while Cam’s outfit’s a little more flamboyant. I love the hell out of Cam’s shirts, too. Despite this, Mitchell is often the more sensitive when dealing with confrontation while Cam, who is a former football player for University of Illinois, is more blunt and willing to use his intimidating size. However, as cute as they are in their “opposites attract” marriage, they’re better as parents.
Cam and Mitch adopt their Vietnamese daughter, Lily, at the beginning of the series, and from then on are two loving fathers, constantly doting on their little bundle of joy. While Lily didn’t speak for the first two seasons, after she starts verbalizing, she quickly starts to pick up the funniest parts of both of her fathers: Cam’s over-the-top drama queen emoting and Mitch’s sarcasm and wit. The two often run into conflicts over how they want to raise their daughter, with Cam being more experimental and Mitch being more traditional, but they ultimately manage to give their daughter the best of both worlds.
THE “DAD EVERYONE SHOULD TRY TO BE” AWARD
Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith in The Andy Griffith Show)
Mayberry isn’t real, and neither is someone as almost unfailingly good as Sheriff Andy Taylor, but they weren’t supposed to be. Andy Taylor was a single father whose wife died shortly after childbirth and set out to raise his son, Opie (Ron Howard), with the help of the woman who raised him, Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier). Throughout the series, Andy always tends to be seen as folksy and naïve, but with a deep font of wisdom and virtue beneath, and those are the values he tries to pass on to his son. There’s already an entry on this site about one of the best examples of Andy’s parenting, but any given episode is likely to show an example.
It’s pretty telling that one of the most famous images of father-son bonding is the opening to the show, of Andy and Opie heading out to go fishing, Opie running ahead and playing with the rocks while Andy watches over him with a steady stride.
THE “DAD YOU SHOULD PROBABLY NOT BE” AWARD
Hal Wilkerson (Bryan Cranston in Malcolm in the Middle)
Malcolm in the Middle was a show about people who were pretty much failures. The eldest son, Francis (Christopher Masterson), is such a problem that he ended up dropping out of military school to go to Alaska, all in the name of spiting his mother. The next son, Reese (Justin Berfield), is a criminal to the extent that he has a regular cell at the jail and refuses any scholastic endeavors, intentionally failing to graduate once. Malcolm (Frankie Muniz), despite being a supergenius, is constantly in trouble and jeopardizing his future by trying to keep up with his two older brothers. The youngest son, for most of the series, Dewey (Erik Per Sullivan), is also extremely intelligent and talented, but is typically the victim of his big brothers’ antics. The kids are so misbehaved that it pretty much takes the iron will of their mother, Lois (Jane Kaczmerak), to keep them in line. And that’s because Hal doesn’t really step up much.
Hal’s not much of a disciplinarian, he often joins his kids in troublemaking, and he often gets so caught up in fads and obsessions that he ignores his family. Moreover, it’s all because he loves banging his wife. No, really, in one episode, Hal and Lois can’t have sex for 2 weeks and become successful parents and people. But, Hal’s not a “bad” dad. He loves his kids, even though they drive him nuts, and he does try to help them when they’re in trouble. At the end of the series, though, it’s revealed that everything he and Lois do is part of Lois’s master plan to have Malcolm become the best president in US History, which… makes it better, maybe?
THE “BEST ADOPTED DAD” AWARD
“Uncle” Philip Banks (James Avery on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
Philip Banks was a rebel in his youth. He was a civil rights activist in Selma in 1965, he heard Malcolm X speak, and he was the first black child to use a white toilet in North Carolina during segregation. Then, he got a scholarship to Princeton, then went to Harvard Law, and became super wealthy with a mansion in Bel-Air. He has three kids of his own, and then agrees to take in his wife’s nephew, Will (Will Smith), with whom he constantly spars. Will thinks that Phil is a sellout, while Phil says Will doesn’t show him enough respect for all the work he put in helping to advance race relations. This isn’t helped by Phil’s son Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro), who acts like a stereotypical WASP. However, as the series goes on, Will slowly becomes a part of the family.
Then, there is the episode where Will’s dad, Lou (Ben Vereen), comes back. Now, up until this point, they hadn’t really addressed what happened with Will’s dad, but it turns out that he just abandoned his family after Will was born. He comes back, trying to bond with Will, who quickly grows close to him, before trying to leave again. Phil angrily confronts Lou about shirking his responsibilities as a father, which Lou quickly just says he “didn’t want.” Lou then leaves Will again, leading Will to tell him off in one of the most emotional scenes on TV, before finally hugging Phil, with Phil finally being the father Will never had.
THE “BEST DAD IN FILM” AWARD
Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird)
Atticus Finch will consistently top any list of best fictional lawyers, but I also have to put him on here as a great father. Atticus is one of the few people in fiction to really try to teach his children the lesson that it doesn’t matter what people think of you as long as you can look inside and know that you’re doing the right thing and that it’s never worth fighting someone just over name calling. In both the movie and the book, we’re shown how much it hurts his daughter Scout to think of her father as a coward, though she later realizes that’s the last adjective to put on him.
At the end of the film/book, Atticus has proven that he is the best man within the town, but, rather than ending with the trial or the departure of Boo Radley, the book ends with Atticus calmly holding his daughter before carrying her in to bed. That’s the real triumph, that, after the events of the story, Atticus returns to just being a normal father, devoted to his children from the beginning to the end.
I’m not considering the “sequel” book when making this determination, just the film. In Go Set a Watchman, people felt betrayed by Atticus Finch now being an advocate for segregation. What’s interesting is that, apparently, this may be because it was written first and Atticus Finch was based on Harper Lee’s father, who originally favored segregation before later supporting integration by the time Lee re-wrote the book into To Kill a Mockingbird. So, it’s possible that Atticus’s reversed opinions is based on the order of authorship being reversed. Still, at the end of that book, the message is that Scout still loves her father because her father loves her and has always been supportive of her even when they disagreed, so he’s still a pretty great dad.
I dedicate this to my own father, to whom I am a perpetual disappointment, but who I respect above all other men.