June is Father's Day. There are many different kinds of fathers in movies. There are strong fathers like Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. There are fathers in a difficult relationship with their kids, like the Dad in The LEGO Movie. And there’s Homer Simpson in The Simpson Movie, who is probably the movie father who most reminds me of my own movie and donut-loving Dad. This month’s movie recommendations are about fathers who go through great lengths and adventures to be better fathers to their kids.
FINDING NEMO: I hope the release of the new movie Finding Dory encourages audiences to rediscover Finding Nemo, where we first met the characters in the new film. Like many Disney/Pixar movies, Finding Nemo begins with a tragic event: the death of Nemo’s Mom and siblings, leaving Nemo the clownfish and his Dad Marlin as the sole survivors of a barracuda attack. Nemo is left with a smaller right fin after the attack. Nemo’s physical difference, along with Marlin’s fear of losing his only child, combine to make Marlin so over protective of Nemo that he embarrasses him. When Nemo is captured by scuba divers, Marlin embarks on a long dangerous journey to rescue his child. Along the way he meets lovable forgetful Dory, a blue tang, along with many other sea creatures. The first thing I love about Finding Nemo is its visual beauty. The filmmakers captures the colorful majesty of the sea while they manage to tell a very small personal story. That is the story of a father and son’s love for each other. Dory is one of the great characters of all time, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres. Actor Albert Brooks captures beautifully the combination of love, guilt, fear and determination that fatherhood can bring. The supporting cast (especially some allegedly vegetarian sharks) is funny and the situations are inventive and exciting. Since I love movies with a happy ending, I don’t mind spoiling the ending: Nemo and Marlin find each other.
MRS. DOUBTFIRE: Many couples get divorced. There are many movies about the effect divorce can have on a family. Movies like The Parent Trap have focused on kids’ attempts to get their divorced parents back together. Mrs. Doubtfire is the story of one divorced father’s journey to responsibility in his quest to be closer to his beloved children. Why is a movie about a father who loves his kids named after a woman? Because Mrs. Doubtfire is the disguise actor (and generally unreliable person) Daniel assumes when he is prevented from sharing custody of his children after divorce because he has no steady job or residence. When his ex-wife advertises for a new housekeeper to help her with the kids, Daniel applies for the job in his disguise as Euphegenia Doubtfire, an older woman from Scotland. As Mrs. Doubtfire, Daniel starts to take responsibility for the smooth running of the house and finds a reason to become more of an adult. When his kids discover his true identity, they keep his secret because they are afraid their Mom will use it as a reason to keep them away from him. Since Mrs. Doubtfire is played by legendary comic actor Robin Williams, both she and Daniel are very funny. This movie moves quickly through funny situations while never losing the basic theme about remaining a family after divorce. Of course, Mrs. Doubtfire has a happy ending, which is one reason I recommend it. But what I like most about this movie is its realistic happy ending. The family stays divorced, but the Dad and kids have a real relationship. There are no villains in this movie. The Mom is trying to do the best she can, even if her decisions don’t make her kids happy. When the Mom starts dating, she dates a good man who cares about her children. When Daniel is in a bad situation, he does the right thing to help someone, even if it means getting caught. Just like in real life, the individuals all make adjustments to the new reality of divorce. But they always remember they are family and they are loved.