Some of the best dads on film appear on television, which allows us to see families in a variety of circumstances over many years. Some of them even start to feel like members of our own families. These dads are not perfect but they always seem to know the right thing to say, whether comforting, guiding, or providing support. And they inspire even more through their own examples of trustworthiness and wisdom. My favorites include:
1. Tom Bosley on “Happy Days”
2. John Goodman on “Roseanne.”
3. Andy Griffith on “The Andy Griffith Show”
4. Danny Thomas on “Make Room for Daddy”
5. Bil Cosby on “The Cosby Show”
6. Bill Bixby on “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father”
7. John Amos on “Good Times”
8. Michael Landon on “Little House on the Prairie”
9. Robert Young on “Father Knows Best”
10. Peter Gallagher in “The OC”
Can it really be only 15 years since Pixar first introduced us to Woody and Buzz Lightyear and the world of computer animation? The 1995 release of Toy Story didn’t seem revolutionary at the time. But its impact on not just animation but the movie industry as a whole continues to resonate. Pixar was a start-up and some people thought it was more of a stunt than a studio. But it became the most successful movie studio in history, with the average international gross over half a million dollars and 24 Oscars.
Pixar ultimately merged with Disney and now the Pixar folks are in charge of the premier animation facility. This week, they return to the characters that got them started with a third chapter, this time in 3D. One thing I’ll be watching for is the difference in what has become possible in computer animation. The reason the first movie was about toys was that they were simple, shiny, and plastic, without much movement. Since then, Pixar has developed an astonishingly vivid technology for presenting some of the biggest challenges for computer graphics like water, fur, and facial expressions. They now have 229 different facial movements they can tinker with to create what must be seen as animated performances. But they never lose sight of what matters most — the story and the characters. Wired has a great story this month about how “Toy Story 3” came together.
The other movie opening up this week is a fantasy western, Jonah Hex, starring Josh Brolin and Megan Fox, based on the graphic novel.
An exceptionally strong cast makes this fantasy romantic comedy trifle pleasantly watchable despite its chick-lit conventions. Kristen Bell is Beth, the (of course) supremely competent museum “curator,” who is so devoted to her work that she has never figured out the love thing. She is (of course) not just humiliatingly re-dumped by her ex (the always-engaging Lee Pace) in the middle of a big art gala but — just to make this a major chick-flick tragedy — she also breaks the heel of her boot at the same time. And she has a mean boss (Anjelica Houston). This officially makes her the Cinderella of the movie.
Enter Prince Charming, late and with a loud and inappropriate ringtone. That’s Josh Duhamel as Nick, who is some sort of sportswriter. And they meet at a ball, or close enough, the grand wedding of Beth’s sister to a gorgeous Italian she just met. No evil stepsisters here.) Maid of honor, meet best man. But Beth, all too ready to assume the worst about love, runs away from Nick as fast as her Louboutins can go, stopping to grab four coins from the Fountain of Love to show her defiance of all things romantic.
Enter the complication: it seems that if you remove a coin thrown by a man into the Fountain of Love, you become the object of his desire. So, back in New York and with the Big Gala coming up at the museum, Beth finds herself being something between stalked and chased by: Danny DeVito as the sausage king who sends her a basket of “encased meats,” Will Arnett as an artist who paints an enormous nude portrait of Beth on the side of a building, Jon (“Napoleon Dynamite”) Heder as a street magician who can make the audience’s patience and good will disappear, and Dax Shepherd as a guy who is unabashedly way too into himself.
There’s a lot wrong with this movie. Just for the record, I do not know what the people who made this film think curators do, but in this world party-planning for cultivation of donors seems to be Beth’s primary obligation. Anyone who works in any capacity at an art museum will have more edge and style to her clothes than Beth does, with a particularly unfortunate dress in the big denouement that looks like collision of two of the biggest fashion catastrophes of all time: the 1970’s and bridesmaid’s gowns. The movie promises much more humor from a tiny little car, some pratfalls, a confused priest, a museum exhibit about pain(!), a restaurant in the dark, the characteristics of the four suitors, and the entire premise than it delivers. But the deftness of Bell and especially Duhamel manages to make clumsiness seem a little romantic and rather sweet.
In this episode from the classic golden-age television series “Father Knows Best,” the three Anderson children try to explain — in 25 words — why their father deserves to win the local newspaper’s “Father of the Year” prize.