When it comes to emotional movie genres, perhaps no category carries the same emotional heft as a father-son movie. The connection between a father and son is simultaneously fragile and powerful, leading to moments of touching tenderness followed closely by moments of ferocious and frightening anger. And while there have been countless films that have explored this unique bond, perhaps no movie does a better job of capturing the intricacies of the father-son relationship better than Disney’s A Goofy Movie.
More than 20 years after its debut, 1995’s A Goofy Movie has been largely forgotten, and if you do remember it, it might just be for that bitchin’ soundtracks. (Just try to get the song “Eye to Eye” out of your head.) But the movie itself is actually excellent, and that’s because it’s all about reconciliation and estrangement. But rather than vilify any of the individual Goofs, A Goofy Movie allows the audience to understand and connect with both father and son.
While the movie is named after Goofy, the lead character is arguably Max, who fills the familiar role of a teen just attempting to survive high school – and impress his crush Roxanne – without dying of embarrassment. In ‘After Today’, the movie’s opening song, Max makes it abundantly clear that the primary source of his humiliation stems from his old man, as he dreams of shedding the disparaging labels that have been thrown at him by his classmates, including “Maxie the Geek” or “Goof of the Week.” While Max obviously loves his dad, he wants to distance himself from him in order to fit in and n an attempt to make a name for himself, Max begins to act out.
But while Max only sees his dad as a source of humiliation, we get to see Goofy for who he really is: a dad struggling to connect with his son. After he is warned by Max’s principal that his son’s recent deviant could result in a one-way trip to the electric chair (which, in hindsight, is probably a tad extreme), Goofy decides that a little father-son bonding is in order, so he takes Max on a fishing trip in Idaho. Of course, Max has zero desire to go on this trip but Goofy insists so the two set out on the road.
At first, the entire trip seems to only be driving more distance between the two, with Goofy accidentally causing a scene while trying to take a picture of a couple of opossums, which only strengthens Max’s desire to separate himself from his dad. As a result, Max tries to secretly reroute their entire trip so that they end up at a Powerline concert in California instead. When Goofy finds out, he is angry stops the car at the Grand Canyon and storms off.
Unfortunately, the brakes prove to be faulty, forcing the two to chase their car down the canyon as they are also having the blowout fight that has been bubbling on the surface since the trip began. Goofy calls out Max for thinking he’s stupid and says his bad attitude has ruined their vacation. Max counters that he never wanted to go on the vacation in the first place and insists his dad manages to ruin everything on his own. Max says his dad needs to stop seeing him as a little kid because he has his own life now. And in a gut-wrenching moment of honesty, Goofy acknowledges his son has his own life, he just wants to be a part of it. “No matter how big you get,” Goofy explains to a visibly touched Max. “You’ll always be my son.”
At this point in the story, you can understand where both Max and Goofy are coming from and sympathize with them, even if both have made mistakes along the way. Max just wants to feel like a normal teen and win over his dream girl while Goofy just wants to feel as close to his son as he used to, before the hormones and angst kicked in. But just as Goofy tries to get closer, Max is trying to create a space to become his own person. It’s the same situation that countless parents and teens have found themselves in and just like in real life, the two are only able to reconcile (and save themselves from plummeting off a waterfall to their deaths) when they start being honest with each other.
And once Goofy and Max reaffirm their love for each other, they find that they both are able to get what they want. Max gets to the concert and even gets to dance on stage with Powerline alongside his dad, who once again feels valued by his son. And when Max finally gets to talk to Roxanne, he discovers that she liked him ever since she heard him laugh, something he had been trying to hide because he inherited his dad’s unmistakeable cackle. For so much of the movie, Max wanted nothing to do with being a Goof but by the end, he realizes that he should be proud to be the son of someone so kind, optimistic, and, to state the obvious, goofy.
Is A Goofy Movie the first film to tackle the delicate dynamics of teen sons and their fathers? Not by a long shot but it stands out because of the way the movie handles the relationship with incredible nuance and lets both Goofy and Max evolve as individuals and as a duo over the course of the movie. And no matter what obstacles they face, they can rest easy knowing that they will always be connected by the love they have for each other.
You can rent A Goofy Movie on Amazon right now.