For Father’s Day, we’re going to single out some of the best movies on Netflix right now that deal with the often challenging relationships between dads and their children. Even as adults it can sometimes be difficult for people to communicate with their fathers, yet it’s always possible for a breakthrough, as we’ll see in all the films featured this week.
Adam Sandler’s Big Daddy is up first. Chances are you’ve seen it before, but as a go-to flick for Father’s Day it’s the perfect pick, especially if you’re cool enough with your pops to enjoy lowbrow humor together.
Far more serious is the indie drama Hellion, which features Aaron Paul as a grieving father who loses custody of his youngest child down in Texas. For something less stressful but still dramatic, we got Trouble with the Curve starring Clint Eastwood as a seasoned baseball scout who is going blind and refuses any help offered by his lawyer daughter (played by the talented Amy Adams).
The documentary For the Love of Spock gives us a firsthand account of growing up with a famous father, in this case the iconic actor Leonard Nimoy, who is adored by Star Trek fans for portraying the half-human-half-Vulcan.
And last but not least is Spy Time, a fun riff on James Bond movies, in which a man discovers that his dad has been living a double life as a secret agent for decades.
Oh, and just one last word of advice. If you’ve never seen it, don’t get fooled by the title of Robin Williams’ World's Greatest Dad. Although a great satire, it’s not exactly an uplifting choice for Father’s Day. Trust us.
Warning: May Contain Spoilers
Big Daddy (1999)
Starring: Adam Sandler, Joey Lauren Adams, Jon Stewart
Director: Dennis Dugan
While not exactly a classic, Big Daddy is still one of Adam Sandler’s most tried and true efforts. For all the critical backlash the actor-comedian has received in his career, he knows what his fans like and goes out of his way to deliver. So even with a movie like this, which relies on the proven formula of adding a cute kid in order to appeal to a wider audience, Sandler doesn’t stop from milking never-ending Hooters jokes and running gags about peeing in public. And you know what? God bless him. Sometimes infantile humor is exactly what people want, and if Sandler makes movies for anyone it’s for the people, dammit.
Really, there’s no point in picking apart the flimsy story. One day, a child appears out of nowhere and Sandler’s immature Sonny Koufax character quickly adopts him. Comedic mischief ensues. Sandler yells at people, Rob Schneider does his weird ethnic stereotyping thing, and Steve Buscemi plays a hilarious homeless guy.
In addition to the laughs, there’s plenty of male bonding and a reconciliation between Sonny and his disapproving father. And, in an unexpected turn, the film also features two non-stereotypical gay characters, a somewhat progressive move considering what type of movie this is.
Starring: Aaron Paul, Josh Wiggins, Juliette Lewis
Director: Kat Candler
Lord knows all families go through their share of turmoil, some more than others. The troubled father Aaron Paul portrays in Hellion is a man still grieving the death of his wife. He’s been drinking heavily and ignoring his parental responsibilities, leaving his two young kids to run wild around town. Eventually, Child Protective Services orders the man’s youngest child to go live with his sister-in-law (Juliette Lewis), causing a bigger divide in an already broken family.
Hellion is not plot driven. It’s about a dad and two sons caught up in a cycle. Like most of us, these are people not sure how to handle their problems, but they hold on to some kind of hope. The father is fixated on finishing the dream house his wife always wanted while the oldest kid (Josh Wiggins) dreams of winning a big dirt bike race. The film’s naturalistic touch draws you closer to these flawed characters. There is a late turn of events that admittedly feels a bit forced. Other than that, this is a non-judgmental slice of American life worth seeing, particularly for its subtler, softer moments.
Trouble with the Curve (2012)
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman
Director: Robert Lorenz
Genre: Drama, Sports
Trouble with the Curve is a movie that revolves around baseball, but it’s not about bottom-of-the-9th-inning heroics. It’s a simple, slow-moving tale of a veteran scout played by Clint Eastwood who is getting up there in years. He’s a man who insists on doing things the old fashioned way, and refuses to use computers to do his job. But then he finds out he’s slowly losing his eyesight. That’s where his estranged daughter (Amy Adams), a successful lawyer, comes into the picture. She accompanies him to North Carolina to check out a hot prospect, putting her possible partnership with the law firm on the line.
Truth be told, the film telegraphs every single thing it throws at you. Yet, the movie works despite the predictably. It’s so carefully crafted that even the nice and tidy ending feels right. As long as you don’t mind that baseball is used more as backdrop to a story about a rocky father-daughter relationship, Trouble with the Curve is a solid pick to watch with your family.
For the Love of Spock (2016)
Starring: Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, J.J. Abrams, Zachary Quinto
Director: Adam Nimoy
Genre: Documentary, Biography
To the world, he was one of the most beloved science fiction characters of all time. But to his kids, Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Spock on the cult 1960s TV show Star Trek, was a hard-working father whose stardom meant he wasn’t always at home, and when he was, his mind wasn’t far from his all-consuming job.
For those who think it must be great to grow up with a dad who is a pop culture icon, this documentary directed by Nimoy’s son argues that life with a famous parent isn’t always fun and games. Through various interviews with family, friends and colleagues, we learn that Nimoy was a caring father who was so concerned about life after Star Trek that he never turned down a paying gig — no matter how cheesy — in order to provide for his wife and kids. But on the flip side, his children often felt like they were in competition with fans for his attention.
Nimoy, who passed away in 2015, left behind an on-screen legacy that represented the importance of people understanding each other. It’s cool to know that off screen he also tried his best to understand his own children and do right by them.
Spy Time (2015)
Starring: Imanol Arias, Quim Gutiérrez, Alexandra Jiménez, Carlos Areces
Director: Javier Ruiz Caldera
Genre: Action, Comedy, International
There’s quite a lot to like about this energetic, Spanish spoof of espionage thrillers. It may contain quite a bit of vulgar language and amusing make-believe situations, but just below the surface is a sincere story of an unusual father-and-son combo.
Adolfo (Quim Gutiérrez) is a part-time security guard/ full-time slacker who is thrown for a loop when his doctor girlfriend (Alexandra Jiménez) breaks up with him over his lack of ambition. Shortly afterwards, things get even more disorienting for Adolfo when he makes the amazing discovery that his aging dad (Imanol Arias) is actually a debonair secret agent. Now caught in the middle of a revenge plot orchestrated by his father’s arch nemesis (Carlos Areces), Adolfo’s life will never be the same.
For anybody that has ever felt like they could never measure up to their old man, Spy Time is for you. It’s also for people who found out years later that their father’s tough love actually did have some beneficial results.