See It Instead: Father’s Day Edition.
We picked three comedies for Mom this year, so Dad’s going to have to suffer the same treatment!
Fair’s fair, so we decided to subject dear old dad to the same treatment we gave mommie dearest. Here are three interesting comedies about Dads that you can gift the old man instead of the usual lousy cologne and box set of M*A*S*H.
Just like we did for Mother’s Day, we broke the selections down into three categories: the legitimately wonderful, the so bad it was good, and the unintentionally hilarious. How else do you get Spencer Tracey, Eddie Murphy, and Nicolas Cage all on the same list? If that doesn’t make Pops smile, try a lousy pun. I hear they like that kind of stuff.
See It Instead: Father’s Day Edition.
Father’s Day Pick #1: Father of the Bride. (1950, 1991)
Stanley Banks goes through an existential crisis when his cherished daughter Kay comes home engaged to a man he’s never met. As the preparations for the wedding swing from one absurd calamity to another, Banks begins to realize that the best wedding present he can give his little girl is not a lavish ceremony but his blessing.
A rarity in Hollywood, Father of the Bride is a remake where both versions are excellent. The 1950 version starring Spencer Tracey as Stanley and Elizabeth Taylor as his daughter, Kay, is a bitter-sweet rhapsody on learning to let go of your children. Filmed with style and intricate shot selection by Vincente Minnelli (Brigadoon, Gigi) and foregrounded by an affecting voice-over by Tracey throughout, the first Father of the Bride is lightly comedic but deeply poignant.
The 1991 remake stars Steve Martin as Banks and Diane Keaton as his long suffering wife. The focus of the film is much more squarely on the adults. And on the comedy. Whereas Spencer Tracey was an omnipresent onlooker to the central events of the wedding, Martin is much more the central character. By this time, Martin was in his wry, dry comedy stage, having moved on from goofball stuff like The Jerk and Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, to family-centered comedies like Parenthood and Cheaper by the Dozen. Pairing Martin with comedians like Martin Short certainly helped to up the comedic ante. While it doesn’t play the heartstrings as deftly as Minnelli’s version, it is one fantastic wedding comedy.
Father’s Day Pick #2: Daddy Day Care. (2003)
Charlie Hinton (Eddie Murphy) works as a high-priced marketing agent before getting fired after one of his proposed products is roundly detested by children. Unable to find work, he struggles as a stay-at-home dad who is utterly lost when it comes to childcare. He teams up with several other out-of-work dads to platoon the day-care duties, and winds up becoming an unlikely success. When Charlie incorporates “Daddy Day Care” and starts drawings students from a prestigious pre-school, the prim and proper snobs try to get his start-up shut down.
Much like Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy jump-started a second career renaissance by making more family focused comedies. Remakes of The Nutty Professor and Doctor Doolittle helped to soften the edges of his take-no-prisoners comedy style. While few would consider Daddy Day Care as iconic as those, it does a good job of being better than expected. Murphy wisely lets comedians Jeff Garlin and Steve Zahn handle most of the prat falling and gross-out humor, opting instead to be the audience surrogate. His fantastic command of dead-pan expressions and quick wit allow him to observe and highlight the insanity while keeping his dignity intact! I found Murphy to be the heart of the film, playing one of his more empathetic characters despite the goofiness of the events around him. It’s not a classic, but it is funny… kind of like the gag ties you get Dad every year.
Father’s Day Pick #3: Mom and Dad. (2017)
Pretty much all frustrated parents say they’d like to kill their kids at one time or another. Thanks to a mysterious global hysteria, now they’re all acting on that sentiment! As parents turn into psychotic murderers one by one, a teenage girl must try to keep herself and her little brother alive as Mom (Selma Blair) and Dad (Nicolas Cage) try to ground them for good.
You may have missed this, since Cage is putting out a movie a week for the rest of eternity. That’s a shame, since this is one of the best films he’s made since becoming everyone’s living breathing internet meme. The film casts him perfectly for the premise: besides maybe Tom Cruise or a young Jack Nicolson, I can’t think of anyone so adept at going from bland to face-meltingly intense with no warning. It’s usually a liability for his movies (except when hack directors exploit it as a tired meta-joke) but here it works precisely as intended by the plot. Selma Blair is also really intense in this film, making the odd pairing surprisingly workable.
The film works on two levels. The early set up really has you feeling the tugs and strains upon our titular Mom and Dad. You see them almost lose it BEFORE the hysteria causing event is even mentioned. From this angle, the resulting chaos is darkly comedic catharsis for anyone who ever wanted to throttle a troublesome tot. The other level is of a survival horror film. The ways the kids stay alive feels like Home Alone inventiveness as imagined by the guys behind SAW. Despite a rather telegraphed ending, the film is enjoyable. As a bonus, it’s not in the exploitative way of watching the televised unraveling of Nic Cage as an actor.