Here's to you, dad: Five great father/son movies
As much as I normally like to feign objectivity in my reviews, there's simply no way I can pretend that I'm intrigued by "That's My Boy." Adam Sandler and I have never seen eye-to-eye when it comes to comedy, save for a few rare, planet-aligning instances.
If "That's My Boy" is to be congratulated for one thing, however, it's that the film's paternal plot caused me to take a look back at five great movies with father-son relationships.
"Field of Dreams"
To call "Field of Dreams" an emotional movie is like calling Joyce's "Ulysses" a complicated book. Phil Alden Robinson's Best Picture nominee is the ultimate guy weepie film, capable of pulling even the manliest of bodybuilders' heartstrings. The tale of Kevin Costner's Ray Kinsella and his seemingly absurd quest to build a baseball diamond in his Iowa cornfield based on voices his head could easily be the plot to a psychological thriller (in fact, last year's phenomenal "Take Shelter" is remarkably similar, except with a tornado shelter instead of a baseball diamond ... and terrifying). In the hands of Robinson and Costner's pre-"Waterworld" everyman charisma, "Field of Dreams" is a beautifully sentimental, yet never cloying, slice of warm Americana. And when Costner asks his father to "have a catch," I hope your eyes are prepared for a lengthy rain delay.
I know I said that I wouldn't put "Frequency" on this list since I used it on my Best Time Travel Movies piece, but it wouldn't be honest to leave it off. The second half of this 2000 family drama/thriller gets surprisingly dark, so it might not be the best film to top off a Father's Day celebration with the family. The first half, however, is a touching tribute to the connection between father and son. The concept, a son connects with his dead father in the past via a ham radio and a convenient space-time wormhole, could've pushed audiences' suspension of disbelief too far, but nuanced performances by Dennis Quaid and especially "The Passion of the Christ"'s Jim Caviezel make it surprisingly plausible and moving. As a fun bonus, "Frequency" also features a pre-fame Michael Cera. Now I promise I won't bring this movie up anymore.
"Road to Perdition"
Director Sam Mendes' "Road to Perdition," his 2002 mafia-themed follow-up to "American Beauty," may have been forgotten by time, but anyone who's seen the film surely hasn't done the same. On a merely technical level, the movie's recreation of 1930s Chicago is gorgeous, meriting several Oscar nominations and one (sadly posthumous) win for legendary cinematographer Conrad L. Hall. Even richer than the visuals are the fatherly connections between the film's three leads. As a mafia hitman forced to bring his son into the life he swore to protect him from, Tom Hanks proves why he's one of our generation's finest actors. He hurts, not only in what he's forced upon his son, but also on his surrogate father, played by a powerful Paul Newman in his final on-screen performance.
"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"
The father/son relationship in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" may not be as dramatic and weighty as the one in "Road to Perdition," but it is certainly entertaining and dynamic. Bringing Indiana Jones' father in the quest for the Holy Grail could've been tedious, watching our favorite adventurer constrained by forcing to lug his father along. Instead, the two share fun, witty banter, Connery not a passenger for the ride but a helpful addition. Plus, there's something oddly touching about the scene when Indy and his dad solve the Grail's deadly traps at the same time, though far apart. I guess the family that defeats Nazis together, stays together.
"How to Train Your Dragon"
"Finding Nemo" really wanted this last spot, but as I brainstormed for this piece, my mind went immediately to DreamWorks' "How to Train Your Dragon." DreamWorks is infamously Pixar's little brother – usually the goofier, lighter alternative to Pixar's more mature fare. "How to Train Your Dragon," however, hit surprising emotional notes, mainly with the relationship between the gawky Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his demanding father. It could've been played for typical family drama, but the screenplay finds tragically honest moments in the characters, especially a dinner between the two in which they attempt to find a connection. It's impressive that in a film filled with eye-popping 3-D flight sequences, it's their hard-earned bond that truly jumps off the screen.
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