There's a certain level of bad parenting society is willing to laugh at when it comes to fathers. Provided the dad shows up and has his heart in the right place, we'll promise not to tell his wife if we see his kid eating a cigarette, and we'll even give him a thumbs up if he remembers to pack his first grader's lunch, no matter how many packages of pudding are inside. I'm sure that annoys the hell out of the average mother who competently multitasks fifteen different things each morning without a single screw-up, but then again, it's sort of insulting to men that we expect even the smarter, more dedicated ones to be a little better than woeful when it comes to the day-to-day trials of parenthood.
Regardless of who it's insulting to, it's great for the film industry. The history of movies is filled with hundreds of father-son relationships that are loveably stupid and borderline reckless, and audiences have never had a problem laughing their asses off over the goofiness. Even as people have gotten bizarrely obsessed with preventing any harm from befalling their own children, we've never lost our willingness to giggle at dads giving the kids pizza for breakfast and letting their toddlers ride around the house on the family dog.
Earlier this year, the Adam Sandler/ Andy Samberg comedy That's My Boy took the idea of the hapless father to the extreme. With the film debuting on Blu-ray and DVD,the release got a few of us around here arguing about our favorite father/ son relationships in comedies. What follows are seven we're particularly fond of.
Big Chris And Little Chris From Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels
There's nothing in the world Big Chris cares about more than his son Little Chris. Unfortunately, the thing he cares about second most is collecting debts via brutal and aggressive force. This one-two punch makes him a bit of a strange parent. On the one hand, he's definitely raising his kid to be a sociopath. He enlists Little Chris in his schemes and uses him as a lookout and accessory, which probably isn't the way Cliff Huxtable would have done it. On the other hand, he does work to spend time with Little Chris, is a fierce advocate of take your son to work days and disciplines the little guy when he swears. Plus, by the end of the film, he's set aside enough money to raise his boy whether he continues working or not. I'm not sure whether the balance falls more toward good dad or bad dad, but either way, Big Chris and Little Chris' relationship is hilariously original and bizarrely touching.
Ralphie Parker And The Old Man From A Christmas Story
Whether battling furnaces, the Bumpuses or his own wife over the most inappropriately sexual lamp within a one hundred mile radius of Chicago, the Old Man isn't always the most invested in his son's life, but his rampant grumpiness and willingess to do whatever the hell he wants actually helps his boy on numerous occasions. After Ralphie battles it out with the town bully, the Old Man doesn't punish him because he'd rather talk about the Bears. When his poor son is forced to wear the pink nightmare Christmas costume Aunt Clara made, the Old Man quickly puts a halt to the proceedings. Most importantly, after everyone else refuses to get Ralphie a Red Ryder BB Gun, he steps up and gives our hero a weapon because children and weapons are always a good combination. The Old Man isn't the type of father who'll dish out unwarranted hugs or offer praise for coming in second, but he is the type to always show up for his kid, even if it's to mutter swear words under his breath from the back row.
Dale Doback, Brennan Huff And Robert Doback From Step Brothers
Sometimes love is always providing a safety net for your kid, and sometimes love is throwing him the hell out of the house for not having a job. For more than two decades, Robert took the former approach with his son Dale, but after his new stepson Brennan gives the forty-year-old a partner to do karate and watch Shark Week with, he decides enough is enough and throws the kids in the deep end. As they fight back, intentionally misbehave and continue to fuck up their lives, Robert turns to the bottle and his marriage implodes. It's a complete give-and-take disaster for everyone involved save Brennan's douchey brother Derek who feeds off the unhappiness of those around him like an emotional vampire.
Marlin And Nemo From Finding Nemo
Most of the fathers on this list are too willing to let their kids get up to shenanigans. Marlin is the exact opposite. He worries over Nemo like a paranoid squirrel with one more nut to last him through winter. It's unhealthy, definitely detrimental to the poor fish's future and extremely funny, especially given the legitimately terrifying sequences Nemo later finds himself in without dad at his side. In some ways, it's bizarre to include these two since they do almost all of their growing apart, but even as they're separated, the personality of and love for the other are what is pushing them to change. Nemo gains a new appreciation for his dad's over-parenting by seeing the horrors of being alone, and Marlin decides to take a half step back after learning how resourceful his son can be without him.
George And Marty McFly From Back To The Future
Has there ever been a creepier, more off-putting movie character than Crispin Glover's young George McFly? He's such a contrast to Michael J. Fox's brash and confident Marty, which is probably why all of the scenes of the two interacting back in 1955 play so well. It completely flips the standard father-son power dynamic on its head, and since the dialogue is clever and the acting performances are wonderful, the throwback scenes are more than just one note jokes. There are numerous reasons why Back To The Future is one of the most beloved movies of all-time, but apart from Doc Brown's loveable weirdness, I'm not sure a single one is more important than the scenes between these two. They're the heart of the film and still laugh out loud funny more than twenty-five years later.
The Tramp And The Kid From The Kid
Charlie Chaplin worked with many of the best actors and actresses during his time in the spotlight, but in almost every case, he proved to be the entertainer theatergoers couldn't take their eyes off. He continually outclassed those around him, but in The Kid, child star Jackie Coogan proves every bit as loveable as Charlie's little tramp. The two get into all sorts of mischief together as they break windows in order to get the handyman business off the ground and do whatever is needed to survive. Half of playing a great father/ son combo is to be believable as products of the same gene pool. In The Kid, Coogan and Chaplin aren't related by blood, but anyone who watched them banter together would instantly think they were both part of the most talented family in the world.
Clark And Rusty Griswold From National Lampoon's Vacation
You remember that moment when you suddenly realized your parents don't have all the answers? Rusty seems to have that moment in reference to his bumbling father at least half a dozen times as the title Vacation is going on. In fact, Clark Griswold doesn't have any answers. He just has a reckless optimism and a will to force fun on his family if it's the last thing he does. He lets Rusty have a beer, forgets Audrey's name, drops about fifty f-bombs in a row, gets swindled and almost ruins his marriage in less than a week. Yet, by the end, even though Rusty no longer thinks his dad is God's gift to the Earth, he does seem to still enjoy his company. That's more than most fathers and sons can say, and it's a fitting close for such a hilarious and heartwarming film.
Now that you've seen our choices, hit up the comment section below to add to our list.
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Mack Rawden is the Editor-In-Chief of CinemaBlend. He first started working at the publication as a writer back in 2007 and has held various jobs at the site in the time since including Managing Editor, Pop Culture Editor and Staff Writer. He now splits his time between working on CinemaBlend’s user experience, helping to plan the site’s editorial direction and writing passionate articles about niche entertainment topics he’s into. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree in English (go Hoosiers!) and has been interviewed and quoted in a variety of publications including Digiday. Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, a great wrestling promo and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.