Thursday, May 15, 2014

top five dads in bad movies

Father's Day is exactly one month away. This is probably one of the more subjective lists I've done recently, though all lists are based customarily on opinion. These movie dads neither have to be good nor bad (like my recent movie mom lists here and here) nor from the '80s, they only have to be a dad in a bad movie to qualify. Again, I'd like to apologize in advance if one of these flicks happens to be a favorite of your own (though I wouldn't want to hang out with you if that were the case...only kidding) as I personally get a kick out of watching a flick that doesn't quite know how awful it really is.

no. 5
John Ritter as Ben Healy in Problem Child (1990) and Problem Child 2 (1991)

John Ritter was truly an underrated actor. His unexpectedly genuine performance in Sling Blade (1996) was about as perfect as it gets. I came of age watching his Jack Tripper on TVs Three's Company. You can imagine my surprise (and chagrin) when the Problem Child fiascoes finally rolled around. I'm not sure what to say about these movies. Of course they aren't high art, but they sort of make the Martin Short comedy Clifford (1994) when Short played an actual 10-year-old boy seem like something out of Jean Renoir's oeuvre. I will say this, they are perfectly bad, and Ritter does play a dad in both of them. Two requirements for this list. Ritter played a dad in another '90s comedy, Stay Tuned (1992), but unlike this terrible twosome, that film is actually watchable for me, even with the Salt-n-Pepa musical vignette. What can I say? I have my standards.

no. 4
Ted Danson as Raymond "Ray" Gleason in Getting Even with Dad (1994)

By 1994, Macauley Culkin's cuteness factor had already worn off like a chunk of corroded feces. Let's face it, it was probably over and done by the end credits of Uncle Buck (1989). I'm not going to hate on Culkin. I think he's taken his place as this generations Shirley Temple in stride, and thankfully kept himself out of the pop culture spotlight since his post-teen years (in addition to surviving sleepovers at Neverland Ranch). Ted Danson on the other hand just won't go away. In fact, aside from playing a very funny version of himself as a recurring character on the very funny Curb Your Enthusiasm series (and a great run on HBO's Bored to Death) he just isn't capable of being taken seriously. Here he tried to play a New Yawk-accented wiseguy ex-con with a faux ponytail. Yeah. That's about as believable as Michael J. Fox playing a Serbian gangster. Okay, now that would be something worth sitting through.

no. 3 (tie)
Charles Grodin as George Newton in Beethoven (1992) and Beethoven's 2nd (1993)
Judge Reinhold as Richard Newton in Beethoven's 3rd (2000) and Beethoven's 4th (2001)

With currently more entries than the Rocky franchise, the Beethoven films (with their cutesy insistence on emulating classical music compositions: 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, ad nauseam) are to family dog movies what Michael Bay is to the science fiction genre; in a word...pants. Grodin held on for two exasperating paychecks and was replaced by Judge Reinhold (they play brothers), who really hasn't done anything of actual value since Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). It's as if we weren't supposed to notice that they switched dads midstream. I'm not sure who is worse and in which chapter. To be perfectly honest, I don't think I've ever managed to sit through an entire one from start to finish. Not because I don't like kids movies (Diary of a Wimpy Kid 3: Dog Days is really enjoyable, and Steve Zahn plays a great movie dad in that series) but because once they get going I'd much rather watch a Benji movie instead.

no. 2
Tim Allen as Luther Krank in Christmas with the Kranks (2004)

A total pile of crap. It's like the characters don't even live in the same dimension as the rest of us. Jamie Lee Curtis goes mondo bizarro when she finds out her daughter is coming home from college along with some ultra-tanned boy toy she plans to marry. Tim Allen basically plays the same role he plays in every other bad movie he's ever starred in except he's probably the most sympathetic character here; mainly because he's sick and tired of the gregarious effort his psychotic neighbors put into the holidays. There's even a kindly old neighbor suffering from Cancer. To put it another way, this film is about as entertaining as watching a sick, elderly woman die. The movie isn't just bad, it's egregious. I've sat through A LOT of bad Christmas movies in recent years (Surviving Christmas; Deck the Halls) but this one takes the fruit cake.

no. 1
Chevy Chase as Norman Robberson in Cops & Robbersons (1994), as Jack Sturgess in Man of the House (1995) and as Clark Griswold in Vegas Vacation (1997)

A triple threat. Let me just begin by saying that I can always watch Cops & Robbersons. It's a guilty pleasure for me. For starters, it has Jack Palance in a late starring role, so it can't be all bad. I actually hadn't given up on Chase yet either, even though by the mid '90s it was all steadily going downhill. The National Lampoon's Vacation films are an institution, but Vegas was way beneath their collective talents. That brings me to Man of the House. Essentially a vehicle for the up and coming child star of the TV show Home Improvement, Johnathan Taylor Thomas (or JTT to some), the film is an endurance trial to say the least. Chase actually looks like he's in physical pain throughout most of it. The budding teen idol has about all the charm and requisite acting skills of a baked potato, and Chase is morbidly unfunny as a result. This film was purely a marketing ploy aimed at preteen JTT fans. Okay, so The Partridge Family was too in its own day (taking advantage of David Cassidy mania), but at least Reuben Kincaid was actually funny.

honorable mentions:

the fathers of The Twilight Saga

Twilight had lotsa dads. Twilight is lotsa bad.

Steve Martin in ANY remake of a beloved family comedy

Steve Martin always excels at playing the lovable weirdo (Roxanne) or wacky guy (The Jerk) but sucks at playing the schmaltzy father. I know Father of the Bride (1991) has its fans, but Martin is no Spencer Tracy. And Cheaper by the Dozen (2003) and Cheaper by the Dozen 2 (2005) are also gratuitous remakes. I prefer my Martin with a banjo, or slightly nefarious, like in Little Shop of Horrors (1986) and The Spanish Prisoner (1997).


  1. How about Ed Begley Jr. in Meet the Applegates?

  2. good one! I'll see your "Meet the Applegates" and raise you a "She-Devil" (1989). Yes, the filmography of Ed Begley, Jr. is a precarious place indeed.