It’s Just A Piece Of Cake: Why A Goofy Movie Is The Perfect Father’s Day Film.
People who haven’t been teenagers for a long time like to say that teenagers are fearless. This simply isn’t true. There are at least two things every teenager fears: The opposite (or same) sex, and becoming like their parents. The former is addressed in films all the time, the latter seldom, and even less frequently done well. Somewhere along the line, filmmakers forgot what that weird period of life if like, when everything your parents said or did was wrong simply because they were your parents. In the early 90s, there was a rash of films attempting to deal with the themes of Daddy Issues, most of which were made by or imitating Steven Spielberg. However, of these, the film that managed to convey the strange disjointed relationship between teenage sons and their fathers the best is still the oft-overlooked member of the Disney canon, A Goofy Movie.
A Goofy Movie serves as a continuation of Disney Afternoon series Goof Troop, placing Goofy’s son (of undetermined origin) in high school, trying to impress Roxanne, his first real crush. He does this in the most awesome way possible, by hijacking a school pep rally pretending to be fictional pop star Powerline. Powerline, by the way, is some kind of mixture of Michael Jackson and Prince, making him the best musician ever. Goofy, not understanding the situation that landed his son in the principal’s office, forces Max into a father-son bonding fishing trip, and… You know what? If you’re reading this, odds are pretty good you already know the plot to A Goofy Movie, so let’s jump right to some analysis.
The reason A Goofy Movie works so well as a study of father/son dynamics is that both Goofy and Max are fully developed characters. You can point to both of them and say “Well, they are doing this because of X reason.” What’s more, neither of their motivations or behaviors are necessarily wrong, they just happen to conflict with each other. Goofy wants to keep his son out of trouble, Max wants to live a life independent of the reputation his father has earned him. These are very real concepts in a children’s movie which features Bigfoot dancing to The BeeGees. In fact, that same scene contains the revelation that neither Goofy nor Max has said “I Love You” to each other in some time. As young men, we go through this period where we believe expressing emotion, particularly toward another man, challenges our masculinity somehow. It’s ridiculous, but it happens, and it’s good to see a movie that touches on it.
Goofy is never treated like an idiot in this movie. He’s out-of-touch and stubborn, but he’s not stupid. There’s a great moment when the two finally have a fight, and Goofy pulls over the car and tries to get out of it, but he can’t get the seatbelt undone. This works on two levels, because it plays to the physical comedy which the character was based on, and it’s genuinely something your dad might do when he’s furious. There’s a balance between serious development and outlandish cartoonishness which both advances Goofy as a character and manages to stay true to his roots. It also isn’t afraid to show the flaws in the characters. Goofy doesn’t listen to Max, otherwise he would learn that Max isn’t in any sort of danger at all. However, Max is so terrified of becoming his father that he’s shut Goofy out entirely, leading to the distrust between them, which is why Goofy doesn’t listen to him.
Most likely, you take after your parents in some way, shape or form, be it their positive or negative qualities. However, you’re probably very uniquely different from them as well, in 70-80% of your behaviors. These are the ideas to consider when approaching relationships in movies like this one. As an example, I’m from Oregon, but being raised by a Long Islander, I occasionally slip into a New York accent, because I grew up listening to my father talk. When Max gets overly excited, mostly regarding Roxanne, he lets out one of his father’s signature “A-Hyucks.” He also imitates his dad and starts an impromptu mambo when he’s happy, which is just adorable.
It’s these little details which make A Goofy Movie one of the most honest looks at father-son relationships in film. What’s interesting about the film is that it actually gets better as the audience ages. If you were eight years old when the film was released, it’s actually much more effective now when you watch it as an adult than it was as a child. This is a children’s movie about growing up that actually manages to grow up with the children. I’d suggest showing it to your own kids someday, but if you force it upon them, it almost defeats the point of the movie. Goofy makes the mistake of assuming Max will be interested in all the things he was interested in, and it isn’t until the incredibly symbolic passing of the map into Max’s hands that the two actually begin to have fun. It’s simultaneously a message to parents to let go and a message to teens to hold on. Of course, this is most apparent when the two have their climactic argument:
Goofy: I was only trying to take my boy fishing, okay?
Max: I’m NOT your little boy anymore, Dad, I’m grown up. I’ve got my own life now!
Goofy: I know that! I just wanted to be part of it. You’re my son, Max, no matter how big you get you’ll always be my son.
I’ve said that to my father. Odds are you have too. I hope your dad responded the way Goofy did. I’m glad mine did.
Have a goofy Father’s Day, everyone.