10 min

By Todd McFliker

Children need their fathers.  Growing up without their dads’ positive involvement, love and support can leave a lifetime of scars.  This week, we review Hollywood’s portrayals of men’s courage to raise children.  From baby-stealing couples to cowboys blowing up balloon animals and Robin Williams in drag, movies about being a dad certainly attract laughter.  Here’s a roundup of inspiring fatherhood DVDs for the whole family to enjoy, along with some helpful information on the difference relationship and marriage education can make in the lives of dads and their children.

To start, the 1987 masterpiece, Raising Arizona, is the PG-13 tale of baby-stealing characters from the trailer parks.  The Coen brothers’ film stars Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter in the screwball comedy of errors that combines off-beat satire with wacky dialogue, memorable personalities, and outrageous situations into this modern classic.  When the married couple finds out they can’t reproduce, they hatch a scheme to nab a baby of their own.  They try to become ideal mentors, demonstrating good will, mutual concern and the willingness to change.  Life for the couple could’ve been much easier if only they had PAIRS around to guide them through the parenting process, leading to greater awareness of consequences and improved decision-making.  Pre-Fargo Frances McDormand gives a small, but superb performance as the child-bearing wife of a blue-collar business-owner.  “Mordochai, you take that diaper off of your head and you put it back on your sister,” she demands of her son.  Loaded with irresistible one-liners, and wary life lessons, Raising Arizona stands as the most artistic, funniest paternal picture.

The same year, Dr. Spock met Mr. Spock in director Leonard Nimoy’s PG Three Men and a Baby. A trio of successful playboys in the Big Apple, Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg and Ted Danson become surrogate fathers to Mary, a 6-month-old left on their doorstep.  The bachelors suddenly have to put their lives on hold and become responsible.  But it’s not so easy, as the infant can only cry and wait for the guys to figure out what the problem may be.  The newborn wants what he wants when he wants it.  Selleck is an architect that builds 50-story skyscrapers, but he can’t change a diaper.  In fact, he offers $1,000 to anybody willing to do the dirty deed.  The character could benefit from the practical skills and awareness thousands discover in relationship and marriage education classes. Even without the proper training, Magnum and his studly roommates learn to love the little chick-magnet, confiding their needs in a caring, positive manner.  It’s far from realistic, but Three Men and a Baby is certainly entertaining for the whole family.

In 1989, Ron Howard directed the granddaddy of parenting films.  The PG-13 Parenthood stars Steve Martin as a memorable family man in the realistic portrayal of family life for four generations.  Steve Martin is a supportive little league coach that’s determined to be the best father possible.  Eventually, he realizes that he must step up and have to the courage to meet his boy’s needs.  On top of playing Nintendo, the man’s philosophical granny compares the life of a parent to the ups and downs of an exhilarating rollercoaster.  While grandma is busy inhaling helium, Martin fills a gap as Cowboy Gil at his boy’s 9th birthday party.  “After I blow a hole in somebody and slip around on their guts, I always like to make balloon animals,” the character explains to his crowd.  The funny guy proceeds to replicate one’s lower intestines out of party balloons.  It’s a fabulous scene that only Mr. Martin could pull off.  The birthday boy will surely grow into a loving father, as PAIRS’ courses teach dads skills to help them stay a positive influence in the lives of their children.

In 1991, Steve Martin and Diane Keaton starred in a PG remake of the Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor 1950 classic, Father of the Bride. The new version also stars a fabulous Martin Short as an eccentric German wedding planner.  Offering exaggerated life lessons in plenty of voiceovers and Freudian slips, the befuddled Martin learns to let go of his 22-year-old princess.  Audiences see why an overly concerned dad’s role in a wedding isn’t exactly simple.  Worrying comes with the territory.  Fortunately, PAIRS classes assist parents in nurturing self-esteem, self-confidence, and responsible decision-making that will powerfully contribute to the health, well-being and success of their children’s marriages.  More than a few dads might need someone to talk to after spending $1,200 on a wedding cake.

1993’s Mrs. Doubtfire is a hysterical PG-13 pick.  Robin Williams is a loving, but irresponsible dad.  After a divorce from Sally Field, the court only allows him to see his three kids once a week.  As a result, the desperate father dresses up as a 60-year-old English woman and lands a job as their nanny.  Without question, he could’ve benefited from PAIRS’ classes offered online and in-person at locations nationwide to discover other ways to create a healthy relationship with his children and their mother.  Thousands of dads have learned to better understand emotions in themselves and others, deepen communication, and negotiate win-win solutions to typical family differences in relationship and marriage education classes. Full of memorable one-liners and Dr. Ruth-like advice, Mrs. Doubtfire may be Williams’ best work.  Just don’t try to steal the man’s purse.

GhostbustersIvan Reitman directed Robin Williams and Billy Crystal in 1997’s Father’s Day. The PG-13 selection has an old dog plot, where an ex-girlfriend suddenly enlightens them about a possible son.  While Crystal is now an unrealistic big shot attorney, Williams is a suicidal would-be writer.  The odd couple works together on a wacky pursuit.  The adventures involve Williams going stage-diving and speaking German. Father’s Day does not live up to its star power.  But that’s the point of the film: Even if Hollywood’s dads screw up sometimes, they’re just doing the best they can.  PAIRS classes teach families that parents, as well as their children, siblings and friends, are destined to make mistakes, which are a natural part of learning and growing.  But these moments allow for greater understanding, acceptance, and maturity along with new choices and opportunities.  In these moments, reconciliation becomes possible.

The PG-13 Big Daddy is a childish comedy from 1999.  Adam Sandler is an immature and unemployed slacker who finds a 5-year-old left on his doorstep.  As a result, he assumes a fatherly role to show his girlfriend he can be responsible.  And Sandler is not exactly an ideal role model.  From wetting the bed to peeing on Manhattan skyscrapers, some silly adventures certainly take place.  What the character needs is to enroll in a PAIRS class to learn some of the important building blocks to being a top-notch father.  He needs to lead by example, while discovering a road map to an ongoing love, pleasure, happiness and fulfillment.

In 2009’s R-rated World’s Greatest Dad, Robin Williams returns for the last time as the single parent of a perverted 15-year-old boy who dies in a freak accident.  His character is also an unsuccessful novelist that could surely benefit from PAIRS exercises that help parents cope with grief and trauma.  As a result of his kid’s awkward death, Williams ghostwrites a suicide note to save face.  The letter becomes a hit, and the father writes a moving memoire to pass off as the deceased’s journal.  It may become the biggest selling diary since Anne Frank’s work.  Reaching literary fame, Williams certainly makes an omelet out of broken eggs.  But how long can he keep up the charade?  And watch for a cameo by the writer and director, Police Academy‘s Bobcat Goldthwait.  As seen on DVD players in family living rooms, being a dad is not all roses.

Today, more and more fathers are recognizing the benefits of relationship training, as seen in both Hollywood pictures and educational classes offered by PAIRS and other industry leaders in relationship and marriage education.  The skills learned provide a lifetime of benefits that enhance parents’ lives at home, while making a profound contribution to the health and well-being of their children.  While the DVDs offer first-rate entertainment, PAIRS teaches men life-changing lessons that profoundly impact their roles as fathers and husbands.