Before I became a father, I adored the “Godfather” trilogy. But now all I can see are a bunch of sons who make a mess of things because they didn’t listen to their dad. I mean seriously, didn’t Vito say something about a man needing to spend time with his family to be a real man? And you interpret that as “I should kill my brother on a fishing boat cause he hurt my feelings”? I still love the movie and consider it a classic, but the father in me wants to send all of those jerks to time out. As such, here are the plot summaries of 11 beloved movies, seen through my dad-lens.
1. “Say Anything” (1989)
A father gets annoyed because a teenage boy in a trenchcoat wants to bang his daughter in the backseat of a car. The dad isn’t perfect, admittedly. He’s got some tax evasion problems. But you know what he does when his life goes to shit? He sits fully-clothed in a bathtub and has an emotional breakdown in private, and then he goes to prison and serves his time like a man. You know what a man doesn’t do? He doesn’t trespass on somebody’s property with a boombox because he’s sad he can’t bang the homeowner’s daughter in the backseat of a car.
2. “Finding Nemo” (2003)
A movie that would have been entirely unnecessary if Nemo had just listened to his father. Is that so hard? No, I’m seriously asking. I know Nemo’s dad eventually found him and both of them had memorable adventures and made some new friends along the way and it all turned out okay. But you know how many clownfish who don’t listen to their dads and get lost have unhappy endings? Most of them. They’re in the mall, and their dad says “Just stay where I can see you, okay?,” and he turns his back for one freaking second and the clownfish kid is gone, and that’s it, it’s over, Daddy never finds him, because the kid wandered off with some sharks who aren’t as nice as vegetarian movie sharks, and they’ve got a van with all the windows blacked out, and now Nemo’s buried in a forest preserve somewhere and Nemo’s dad has to live with that for the rest of his life.
3. “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” (1971)
A boy named Charlie gets a golden ticket to take a tour of a local chocolate factory and doesn’t even consider taking his mother, a single working woman who slaves tirelessly to keep a roof over her family’s head. No, he picks his bedridden grandpa instead, because why reward the woman who literally gave birth to him and is the only one bringing in an income? But it’s not like Grandpa really won: He and Charlie are joined on the tour by a gaggle of children, all of whom are horrible, nasty beasts.
The kids’ horrid personalities are 100 percent because of their parents — the parents who don’t at all suffer. It’s the kids who almost drown in chocolate rivers and have their bodies horribly deformed; the parents just get upset and threaten lawsuits but otherwise experience no discomfort. Nothing changes, because the childless and sadistic Willy Wonka is clueless about parent-child dynamics.
He’s treating the symptom, not the disease, because he’s an idiot who makes chocolate bars in a factory run by Oompa Loompa slaves. He gives his factory to Charlie, the suck-up who didn’t misbehave in clear sight — which, if you’ve ever hosted a playdate, you know is always the most obvious guilty party.
4. “Dirty Dancing” (1987)
A resort dance instructor tries to scold a father by telling him, “Nobody puts baby in the corner!” Well, maybe the corner is the only place where minimum wage-earning assholes in tight pants won’t keep trying to fuck his daughter.
5. “Moana” (2016)
A Polynesian chief asks his underage daughter not to go beyond the reef because it’s dangerous and she could die, so of course she does it anyway, and she even steals one of the ships he specifically put in the secret garage cause he just knew she would try something like this. So fine, what’s done is done. But then the rest of the movie happens, and she doesn’t even try to contact her dad just to let him know she’s okay. He probably doesn’t want to hear the part about giving a ride to some shirtless dude with too many tats, but at least a text with an “I’m okay” or even a thumbs-up emoji so his insides aren’t a complete wreck might be nice. She does finally come home, and she’s not hurt and she may have saved the island’s ecosystem, but that’s not the point!
6. “Knocked Up” (2007)
A guy gets somebody pregnant and now he wants dad’s advice. I see how it is. Let me guess, they’re going to talk for two minutes in a diner, the dad gets a few words of wisdom in while nobody eats their sandwiches, and then we never hear from him again, at least until the new parents need a loan. I wonder if Seth Rogen’s character spends more time thoughtfully considering the advice from the guys he gets stoned with. Spoiler alert: He totally does!
7. “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)
A dad wants his son to visit, because maybe he’ll be interested in what his old man does for a living. No, no, fine, he gets it, Luke has his own ideas of what he’s going to do with his life. Nobody said he had to join the family business, but Darth was hoping they could at least talk about it, maybe give his side of the story. The last time they saw each other, Luke showed up at his dad’s office with some old hippie dude — that’s your business, but following a strange bearded man into a vehicle because he’s promised to teach you about the “Force” is every dad’s nightmare — and then took his sister out of time-out, which completely negated Darth’s authority as a parent. Now he gets a second chance to make things right, and Luke has a complete meltdown, like a hangry kid in the middle of Target. Did Darth want to cut off his hand? Of course not. No parent does. But good Lord, stop with the whining, kid.
8. “Risky Business” (1983)
Two parents somehow manage to raise a son who grows up to become a sexually mature adult who believes that the single most outrageous form of personal rebellion and bad-boy behavior is dancing to a Bob Seger song while wearing a pink button-down shirt and tighty-whities.
9. “The Shining” (1980)
A struggling author gets frustrated by his crappy day job and takes it out on his family. He tries to murder everybody, which is admittedly not the best conflict resolution. But have you ever experienced the grating sound of a Big Wheel tricycle going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth on hotel carpeting for hours on end?
10. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986)
A father works tirelessly his whole life, putting in late hours at the office when he’d probably rather be home, getting passed over for promotions time and time again, but he never stops believing in himself, and after years of sacrifice and hard work, he finally moves up the corporate ladder and starts making a salary where he can move his family out of their tiny two bedroom apartment and into the kind of spacious house he and his wife used to daydream about back when they were still paying off student loans. They’ve got a nest egg now, enough to make sure their son Cameron will never want for anything. The guy decides to reward himself, and splurges on a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder. It’s an absurd and unnecessary extravagance, and he’s afraid to even drive the damn thing, but just knowing it’s sitting there in his garage gives him a pang of self-confidence. He earned that. All those thankless hours at his desk, away from his family, they weren’t in vain. They meant something. But then his son and his little bitch friend Ferris steal his Ferrari and destroy it because they wanted to skip school and go see a baseball game because he thinks life moves too fast.
11. “Footloose” (1984)
A town thinks the local pastor wants to ban dancing, but really that’s his way of banning local guys with stupid haircuts from grinding on his daughter. So I guess that makes him the bad guy!