I don't usually capitalize on big holidays to produce my articles, but I realized today that I've been watching quite a few movies about dads lately. So, in celebration of father's everywhere, here are a few of my favorite onscreen movies where a father learns what it means to be a dad. Some are old, some are brand new, but all these guys learn how to love their children and put them ahead of their career.
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
His wife is divorcing him and the only way to be with his kids is to become the ultimate dad by, well, becoming the ultimate nanny. You can't get much better than Robin Williams, who has learned how to be a father figure in a lot of classics, including Hook, Good Will Hunting, and Dead Poet's Society. If you haven't seen Mrs. Doubtfire yet, its dad factor is the least of its great qualities. And hey, the movie has, by far, the best montage ever built around Aerosmith's "Dude Look's Like a Lady" I've ever seen. Now, would you like one lump or two?
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Dustin Hoffman plays Ted Kramer, who has been a workaholic, neglectful dad all his life, but is forced to take care of his eight-year-old son Billy after his wife Joanna (played by Meryl Streep) leaves him. There are few actors better than Hoffman and somehow the kid has believable dialogue and doesn't annoy you every time he speaks, like most movie children do. If you want to see a guy go from zero to dad in an hour and a half, there are few films more touching and charming than this one.
The Switch (2010)
The Switch is a completely overlooked movie from last year. Granted, it suffers from a predictable plot, but any movie starring Jennifer Aniston is guilty of that. Where it shines brightly is in Wally's (Jason Bateman) relationship with little Sebastion, a seven-year-old played by Thomas Robinson, who I hope we'll see again. Wally is a downer kind of guy with a lot of neurosis and when we meet Sebastion, we can instantly tell who is father is. On many levels this film gets corny, but seeing Wally and Sebastion bond is worth the drama the script drums up.
Finding Nemo (2003)
The rest of these movies have been about a father learning to be a great dad by spending time with his children. Finding Nemo is a bit different. Instead, Marlin (Albert Brooks) has to learn to let go of his son Nemo (Alexander Gould) and let him live his life. There are a thousand things to love about Finding Nemo, but after seeing Kramer vs. Kramer, I noticed that Pixar may be a fan of the film as well. There is a very clear homage to it when Nemo goes to touch the "butt" after his dad tells him not to: "You make one more move, mister," yells Marlin as Nemo lifts his fin. "Don't you lay a fin on that boat! Don't you dare touch that boat!" You can guess what a defiant child does next.
John Q (2002)
So there are fathers that learn to be dads, but how far would you go for your children? Like Liam Neeson in Taken, Denzel Washington proves that his son is more important to him than anything, including jail time or his own safety. He may be a down-on-his-luck dad, but when push comes to shove, few onscreen dads have done more for their kids.
So many more...
There are a ton of great movies about being dads that I just didn't get a chance to mention, from Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness, to Greg Kinnear in Little Miss Sunshine to Harrison Ford in Air Force One, Jim Carrey in Liar Liar, and dozens of others. I'd write about them all, but I should really give my own dad a call. Happy Father's Day!