One of the great existential questions of childhood, memorably explored in “Stand By Me,” is “If Mickey is a mouse, and Pluto is a dog, what is Goofy?” Goofy may be in a class (and genus) of his own, as we see in this thoroughly enjoyable film. At the center of the story is Max, struggling through the torturous insecurity and self-consciousness of adolescence. Like all teens, he is humiliated by his father’s goofiness. But the movie’s great joke is that in this case, his father is not just goofy, he is Goofy, the Goof of all Goofs, the Uber-Goof!
When a prank at school gets Max in trouble, Goofy decides that what Max needs is some quality time with his father. So he takes him on a fishing trip, not knowing that Max will have to miss his first date with his adored Roxanne, and that in order to get out of the date, Max has lied to Roxanne, telling her his father is taking him to a rock concert. It takes a while (and a run-in with Bigfoot) for Goofy and Max to start talking to each other instead of at each other. But they ultimately strengthen their connection and find a satisfying resolution. Free of the pressures that sometimes smother the big Disney releases, this movie has a refreshingly casual, even insouciant feel, with some sly humor (look fast for a glimpse of Elvis at a remote lunchcounter), even daring to poke fun at Disney itself. The teen characters are contemporary without the prepackaged feel of other Disney productions (like “The New Mickey Mouse Club”), and there are lively songs performed by by Tevin Campbell.
Although the material in this movie is certainly suitable for all ages, younger kids may be uncomfortable with the strain between Max and Goofy. It’s a shame that the G rating scared off the film’s optimal audience, the 10-14 age group. If you can persuade them to take a look, they will find much to enjoy and identify with, and, if parents and kids watch it together, it can inspire some good discussions about parent-child communication.