Dad Grades: Ben Stone From Knocked Up

Ben Stone Dad Grade
(Universal Pictures)

Fatherhood hits you like a ton of bricks. One minute you’re chilling with the boys, smoking Js and duking it out Gladiator-style by the pool. Next thing you know, it’s 3 am and you’re elbow deep in a dirty diaper.

Knocked Up tells the story of that magic transitional period when every dad must come to grips with the incalculable amount of responsibility that comes with raising a child. Let’s see how Seth Rogen’s character, Ben Stone, handled that nine months of subdued panic.

WEAKNESSES

It feels unfair to highlight Ben’s weaknesses, as his rampant immaturity serves as the stasis for our story. Ben spends his days getting high and riding roller coasters with his buddies who all have the same first names as the actors who portray them.

(Universal Pictures)

Beyond aspirations of a website that graciously indexes nudity in popular cinema, Ben has no goals. No prospects. No foreseeable plans to grow up. He smokes a lot of weed, much to the chagrin of Alison, the career-minded gal tasked with carrying his unborn child.

(Universal Pictures)

He’s laid-back to a fault, which is necessary for the sake of his character arc. It’s just not as fun to watch a guy with his shit together shop for onesies and attend Lamaze class. Ultimately, despite his arsenal of man-child tendencies, Ben is quite lovable. Which brings us to…

STRENGTHS

Ben tries. If there’s one thing for sure, it’s that Ben’s giving this pregnancy everything he’s got. He goes with Alison to the doctor. He proposes, albeit with an empty ring box. It takes a harsh reality check near the end of act two, but he even eventually gets around to reading What To Expect When You’re Expecting. For a pothead, Ben really does put forth quite the effort.

(Universal Pictures)

Ben is also incredibly funny, which is ideal for any expecting father. With hormones firing on all cylinders, it’s of the utmost importance to keep things light and playful when possible. Dads are also notoriously bad dancers, so Ben’s got that on lock with his patented Dice Throw.

Some of the movie’s most tender, heartfelt moments are when Ben grabs lunch with his dad, portrayed lovingly by Harold Ramis. Ben’s dad is exuberant about the idea of getting a grandkid and passes down all the fatherly wisdom you’d like to imagine Harold Ramis himself possesses. Ben obviously loves his dad, and clearly aims to be as good a one as he’s been.

(Universal Pictures)

Another cool thing about Ben is that, if he’s your dad, you have Jonah Hill, Jason Segal, Paul Rudd, and several other hilarious dudes in the role of uncle. Who wouldn’t want this at their first birthday party?

VERDICT

Ben Stone is every dad. Your world stops spinning the moment you first hear “I’m pregnant,” whether you’re an investment banker or a stoner with dreams of cataloging movie nudity. Knocked Up perfectly illustrates that nine months of mounting responsibilities, uncertainties, fears, and excitement. And we think Ben Stone did one hell of a job sticking it out to the joyous end.

FINAL DAD GRADE: A-

Check out our previous edition where we graded Walter White from Breaking Bad..

Dad Grades: Walter White From Breaking Bad

(Sony Pictures)

It’s been 7 years now since Breaking Bad drew to a close, and we heard Heisenberg utter those unforgettable final words: “Goodbye, Lydia.” No really, that was the last thing anyone on the show said, if you don’t count Jesse’s getaway scream. Seriously. Go check. We don’t talk about this enough. Insane.

Nevertheless, Breaking Bad was a pretty incredible show. Prestige TV at its prestigest. For 5-but-actually-6 seasons, we witnessed the trajectory of Walter White, a terminally ill chemistry professor turned maniacal drug kingpin. Through first-rate performances, masterful storytelling, and cinematography like this

(Sony Pictures Television)

fans were enthralled by Walt’s slow transformation into Heisenberg. But was he a good dad? No. What. Are you insane? Of course not. But we’re gonna give him a Dad Grades anyway.

Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD

STRENGTHS

The premise of this show is rooted in Walt’s responsibilities as a husband and father. After being diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, Walt decides he needs to make a shitload of money, and fast, to provide financial security for his family. This sounds noble, and something a good dad might even do! More later on how he chooses to acquire this money.

(Sony Pictures Television)

On the surface, Walt’s a great dad. A provider, a teacher, a protector. In season one, we see Walt start to break bad when his son, Walt Jr, who had cerebral palsy, is mocked while trying on jeans. Not on Walt’s watch.

With a second child on the way, Walt continually asserts that every decision he makes, he makes for his family. Occasionally, he’ll try to prove it, like in the season 5 episode “Fifty-One”, in which he concludes a driving lesson with Walt Jr. by purchasing him a brand new Dodge Challenger.

Best of all, he never once tries to rope his into the meth business. Nepotism runs rampant in this society, so it’s refreshing to see Jr. merely running a register and wishing folks an “A1 day” at the car wash. It is a money-laundering scheme, but whatever. He’s good at it.

(Sony Pictures Television)

Again, it’s clear that at first Walt operated with the most selfless of intentions, driven to leave his family peace of mind in the face of mounting medical bills. If you don’t think about it too much, Walt’s a good father.

WEAKNESSES

“I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really — I was alive.”

That’s Walt, to Skyler, in the series finale. Regardless of what we thought of Walt in season one, it’s suggested his motives, in the beginning, were ulterior.

Remember The Bucket List, that movie where Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson live their lives to the fullest when confronted with terminal lung cancer? This is sorta like that, except instead of visiting the Taj Mahal and skydiving it’s becoming a treacherous drug lord.

Walt is a truly morally reprehensible guy. He wins us over through sympathy in the first season. We were sorta with when he choked out Krazy-8 and dissolved his body in a barrel of acid. We were sorta with him when he brought down Tuco. But dude…

He watched and did nothing as Jane, the love of Jesse’s life, choked to death in her sleep.

(Sony Pictures Television)

He convinced Jesse to murder the mild-mannered, relatively harmless Gale.

(Sony Pictures Television)

And need we remind you, in a later season, he straight-up poisons a child.

Walt was ostensibly the closest thing Jesse had to a father figure, and he was controlling, selfish, and manipulative the entire time. As Walt descended into unmitigated corruption, he never hesitated to throw Jesse under the bus. Once, while Jesse was literally under a car.

After Uncle Jack executes Hank in the desert, in what’s widely regarded as the series’ best scene, Walt spots Jesse hiding under a car and turns him over to Jack’s Aryan Nation buddies. But not before saying what’s quite possibly the shittiest thing anyone has ever said to another human:


Just a really bad man, man. Redemption was never an option.

Oh, and do we even need to bring up what a dick he was to his wife? People write Skyler White off as a nagging shrew for not being a sufficiently enthusiastic cheerleader while her megalomaniacal meth kingpin husband gives ricin to a six-year-old. Skyler wasn’t the bad guy, you were for thinking that.

Also, we’re gonna have to deduct points here for his poor execution of the classic dad move, Bringing Home A Pizza For Dinner.

VERDICT

Walter White is a despicable person. He lies habitually. He routinely puts his family in harm’s way. He’s the sole reason little Holly will never know her Uncle Hank. Also, did we mention the Jane dying thing? That. Walter White is Heisenberg, and Heisenberg is a monster, and no birthday bacon is gonna change that.

FINAL GRADE: F

Check out our previous edition where we graded John McClane from Die Hard.

Dad Grades: John McClane From Die Hard

(20th Century Fox)

You knew it was coming. The big one. John McClane, baby. Die Hard. Christmas movie. But hey, The Dad, can we really classify it as a— Shhhhh shh shhh sh sh. Do you wanna rehash the most tedious debate ever, or do you wanna see shit explode?

Whoa! Hell yeah!

STRENGTHS

John McClane is an NYPD detective with a Bruce Willis gruff in Los Angeles for the holidays to win back the affection of his estranged wife Holly, and give his daughter Lucy a big stuffed teddy bear.

(20th Century Fox)

Then there’s a scene later on where Lucy is home with babysitter Paulina. She wonders aloud where daddy is, unaware he’s busy besting terrorists in a fiery game of cat-and-mouse down at Nakatomi Plaza.

Their relationship isn’t really explored until the fourth Die Hard. And that one doesn’t take place on Christmas Eve. Soooo…

Fuck yeah! Bomb on the roof? Firehose around the waist? Shoot through the glass? Pump this shit directly into my veins, please.

What’s that? Did you say bad guy down the elevator with the taunting threats of a former foe scrawled on his sweatshirt? Two questions: where do I sign, and give me the pen.

Oh man. That is so badass. Die Hard is a Christmas movie in that every consecutive scene is like opening a gift. Holy shit. Did you know they told Alan Rickman they’d drop him on “1, 2, 3, drop” but dropped him on 2? That look of fear and surprise on his face is genuine.

Oh and Alan Rickman. Alan fucking Rickman, ladies and gentlemen. Does it get much better than Alan Rickman? I submit to you that it does not.

Um, yeah, let me get another piping hot bowl of THAT. Who won Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards that year? Not even gonna look it up. If I look and it’s not him I’ll just get angry. Alright, I looked it up and it was Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda. Not even nominated. Unbelievable. Can your precious Kevin Kline do THIS?

OH. And the scene where McClane is like WELCOME TO THE PARTY, PAL at the dad from Family Matters. Just describing this movie is fun.

Holy shit. So impossibly badass. Seeing here it wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture. Did this so-called “academy” even watch this fucking movie? Too busy fawning over their beloved Kevin Kline.

(Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Who names a fish Wanda. Anyways. What were we talking about. Oh right, Dad Grades. John McClane’s probably a good dad, sure, fine, who cares. Here’s the “yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker” scene.

DIE HARD: A+

Check out our previous edition of Dad Grades where we rated Clark Griswold from Christmas Vacation.

Dad Grades: Clark Griswold From Christmas Vacation

(Warner Bros)

A couple of years ago, we criticized Clark Griswold for his erratic behavior and restrained infidelity in National Lampoon’s Vacation. With the holiday season upon us, we thought it’d be fun to revisit Chevy Chase’s iconic character, this time in the context of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

STRENGTHS

There is no doubt in our mind that Clark Griswold loves his family. He proved it once by holding a Wally World security guard hostage, and then once again by, uh, whatever it was he did in European Vacation. We’re guessing the last time you saw that one was a Saturday afternoon on Comedy Central fifteen years ago.

Clark’s strength as a father lies in his unwavering commitment to making his family happy, be it by way of amusement parks, trips abroad, or yuletide cheer. It should come as no surprise then that he sees Christmas, a holiday rooted in family tradition, as his time to really shine.

And oh boy, shine he does. He brings them along to pick out the Griswold family Christmas tree. Er, sorry, yank. They yank out the Griswold family Christmas tree.

Designating his family as the most festive in Chicago, he goes all out on the exterior decorations. His ambition this particular holiday is to wrap the Griswold homestead in so many Christmas lights that it can be seen from space. He even lets his son Rusty help untangle them.

(Warner Bros)

What follows is, in our opinion, one of the best Dad Moments in all of cinema. Every dad reading this can attest to frustration, fickleness, and freezing that comes with hanging Christmas lights. Easily one of the worst parts of the holiday.

This is why we all share in Clark’s delight when his vision finally comes to fruition in one of the best movie scenes ever.

Just look at this face.

Tell us that’s not the face of a man who’d do anything for his family, including single-handedly sparking a citywide power outage for the sake of their merriment.

In addition to the gift of a $1,200 electric bill, he also intended to surprise the Griswold clan by using his Christmas bonus for a swimming pool. And family gifts don’t get much better than a swimming pool.

Well, assuming he wanted it for the right reasons.

WEAKNESSES

We already raked Clark over the coals for his rampant infidelity daydreams last time we analyzed him, so we won’t get too far into that. But still, knock it off, dude. You are married.

(Warner Bros)

Also returning from the original Vacation film is Clark’s temper. Sure, who wouldn’t be mad if they were expecting a big bonus and instead got a year’s subscription to the Jelly Of The Month Club? We agree that this particular tantrum is both hilarious and justified.

But after punching an anthropomorphic moose and holding John Candy hostage at gunpoint, we’ve come to believe that Clark Griswold is a prime candidate for anger management counseling. On the other hand, it doesn’t get much funnier than watching him kick the shit out of plastic reindeer lawn ornaments.

VERDICT

Christmas Vacation is Clark at his best. He’s hell-bent on bringing joy to his family. Other than the occasional outburst and flirtatious fantasy, there’s not much to dislike about the guy. Hopefully he doesn’t develop a gambling addiction in the next one or anything.

Ah shit.

FINAL GRADE: B+

Dad Grades: Horror Movie Edition

(Warner Bros)

There are, at the very least, two universal truths about horror movies. One: if a dog is identified by name within the first 10 minutes, say goodbye to that dog. And two: good dads are criminally underrepresented in the genre.

To prove it, we’ve rounded up a slew of memorable horror movie dads for a very special Halloween edition of Dad Grades.

Jack Torrance from The Shining

(Warner Bros)

Jack Torrance routinely rounds out lists of the worst dads in horror, and with good reason. We’re all familiar with the axe-wielding, the repressed alcoholism, the psychosexual furry fantasies.

But we tend to forget that this is, first and foremost, a movie about a dad just trying to get some work done. Any dad that clocks in at a home office knows full well just how detrimental to productivity a bored child can be.

(Warner Bros)

Good luck meeting a deadline while your kid is on some major “my finger is haunted” bullshit. For this reason, we have no choice but to empathize.

Side note: the movie does a great job depicting just how frustrated a dad can get when he’s forced to yell through the bathroom door.

For a more thorough analysis, check out the first Dad Grade we ever did.

FINAL GRADE: C

George Lutz from The Amityville Horror

(MGM)

The Amityville Horror is a movie about what Ryan Reynolds looks like with his shirt off. It’s ushered in by some Shining-like narrative where ghosts convince him to kill his family. But it’s mostly about the shirt thing.

(MGM)

Seriously, Google “ryan reynolds amityville” and the first seven image results are sans shirt. And frankly, we think it sets unrealistic expectations for sleepy wives who want a strange noise investigated.

In the event your wife suggests this flick for the Halloween season, we recommend steering her instead towards a spoooky little picture from the same year called Just Friends.

(New Line Cinema)

FINAL GRADE: F

William from The Witch

(A24)

The Witch, widely acknowledged as one of the best horror films this side of the millennium, follows a family of English settlers who’ve just been banished from their colony in 1630s England.

Given the circumstances, the head of the household, William, isn’t afforded most of the luxuries of the modern dad. There’s no iPad that can provide him a momentary reprieve from an aggravating child. What tools does William have at his disposal? A friggin’ goat.

(A24)

And holy shit are the kids in this movie aggravating. This is a toy aisle meltdown if we’ve ever seen one:

FINAL GRADE: B 

Steve Freeling from Poltergeist

(MGM)

Poltergeist is, at its core, a cautionary tale about leaving your kid with YouTube unsupervised. At least we think that’s what the conceit of the film was.

That spooky specter hand protruding from the TV? That’s a seemingly harmless YouTube thumbnail saying here, click me, child. Cut to ten minutes later when your kid has rabbit-holed themself onto a video of Spider-Man and Elsa shooting each other with machine guns.

What the fuck.

Since this is an old movie, we’ll cut Steve Freeling some slack. If you’re gonna let the TV babysit your kid, parental control settings are free of charge. But given the technological limitations of 1982, we’ll let him slide.

(MGM)

FINAL GRADE: B-

Satan from Rosemary’s Baby

(Not actual devil from movie.) (NRDC)

This fucking guy. Where do you even begin? Hell? Don’t even get us started on that shithole. Fire AND brimstone? Give me a break. Ladies, don’t you love it when a guy takes you back to his place, and there’s a lake of howling undead souls? Ooh I bet that’s a real deal-sealer. If there are three things a woman likes to see when she goes back to a guy’s place, it’s a bed frame, lots of towels, and a lake of howling undead souls. Pathetic. Inconveniencing some poor woman named Rosemary with your wishes to procreate, then showing up for none of the big stuff. No ultrasounds. Not one Lamaze class. Had gender reveal parties existed at the time, we’re sure you’d have missed that as well. Then you name the kid Adrian? Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, Mephistopheles. You have like a thousand dope names, and you’re gonna saddle this kid with Rocky references for the rest of its life? Not on our watch, chief.

Thanks for Led Zeppelin though.

FINAL GRADE: C

Dad Grades: Harry Wormwood From Matilda

(TriStar Pictures)

We’ve seen a whole variety of bad dads here on Dad Grades. From the axe-weilding Jack Torrance to the criminally inattentive dad from Home Alone, there’s certainly no shortage of substandard fictional matriarchs to rake over the coals. But this one, Harry Wormwood, the crooked, nasty, negligent dad from Matilda, seems to exist in his own category. A dad so cartoonishly antagonistic we’re not fully convinced he qualifies as a dad. Let’s take a look at this slimeball.

(TriStar)

STRENGTHS

Matilda is the story of Matilda, a little girl with a big brain. A responsible set of parents might reign in such intelligence, encouraging them to learn piano and speak foreign languages, Matilda’s parents, Harry and Zinnia, would much rather watch intellectually bankrupt game shows and belittle her.

The film’s premise is grounded in the neglect of its titular character, mostly by her father, Harry Wormwood.

(TriStar)

Harry Wormwood is the personification of sleaze. As such, the movie doesn’t exactly give us a lot to work with in the strength department. You rarely find morsels of good in men who scowl at their newborns from the maternity ward hallway.

(TriStar)

But if we really want to stretch, there is one way Harry Wormwood is accidentally a good dad. Gifted children learn best when they have carte blanche to do so. Studies have shown that, when left to their own devices, smart kids will blossom.

As a young child, Matilda is left home alone all day, despite her pleas to be enrolled in school. She learned to cook her own breakfast.

She taught herself how to read.

Her independence only seemed to accelerate her understanding of the world around her. She was in fact neglected so hard that her intellectual prowess sails right past piano prodigy and landed on telekinesis.

Obviously we’re not suggesting you ignore your child in the hopes that they cultivate mental superpowers. And even if it were possible, the emotional neglect is far more likely to produce a Carrie than a Matilda.

(United Artists)

WEAKNESSES

Harry Wormwood is a rotten man. The narrator (who is, inexplicably, also Danny Devito?) makes this known within the first couple of minutes:

“Harry and Zinnia Wormwood lived in a very nice neighborhood, in a very nice house, but they were not really very nice people.”

Eager to one day hand down the family business to his obnoxious son, Michael, Harry sells used cars, employing such deceitful practices as manually rolling back miles on odometers.

His parenting skills aren’t any less illicit than his salesmanship. He constantly chastises Matilda for being objectively smarter than him, quick to dismiss her a “smart-aleck” in lieu of praise.

(TriStar)

At one point, he catches his daughter reading a book. She tells him she’s enjoying Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Where a good dad might seize this opportunity to lovingly cultivate an interest in the printed word, Harry Wormwood just exclaims

“MOBY WHAT?”

and tears the book to shreds, insisting she instead partake in quality time with her family around the television.

Eventually, Harry relents and agrees to enroll Matilda in school. There are many things a good parent will consider when choosing a school for their kid: location, standards and curriculum, lunch menus. Harry on the other hand? Harry uses his daughter’s education as a bargaining chip, enrolling her only after selling a lemon to the school’s monstrous, tyrannic principal, Agatha Trunchbull, seen here shot-putting a kid by her pigtails.

In spite of routine attempts to murder her students, Harry views Ms. Trunchbull as the ruthless disciplinary figure who will once reign in his unruly bookworm of a kid.

Eventually, Harry gets busted. The FBI finally expose his shady dealings at the used car lot, prompting Harry to pack up and move the family to Guam. Matilda doesn’t want to go, as she’s grown fond of her sweet, exceedingly more maternal teacher, Ms. Honey. She suggests Ms. Honey adopt her, having secured adoption papers from the library at a young age, and Harry agrees.

And frankly, this is best thing he ever does as Matilda’s dad: stops being Matilda’s dad.

VERDICT

One of the worst fictional dads we’ve looked into. Just wholly unfit to raise children. It’s quite baffling that the FBI got to him before Child Protective Services could.

FINAL GRADE: F

Dad Grades: Mufasa From The Lion King

(Disney)

Before you take your family to see the live-action rendition of one of the most beloved animated films of all time, let’s take a moment to do what we do best and analyze the dad in it. This is the Dad Grades for Mufasa from The Lion King.

 STRENGTHS

Spoiler alert: Mufasa dies at the end of the first act.

With so little to work with, it’s tricky to properly assess his abilities as a father. However, using context clues, we’re able to deduce that Mufasa commands a tremendous amount of respect in the Pride Lands of Africa.

(Disney)

Just look at that. Did this many people show up to witness the birth of your kid? Didn’t think so. You can’t buy that kind of reverence. This leadership spills over into fatherhood, as demonstrated in Simba’s morning lessons.

We could all take a lesson or two from Mr., um, King. You are your child’s primary source of education. No schoolteacher is gonna take them on a walk to sternly point out where all the hyenas are.

WEAKNESSES

Whether we’re shoving photos in friends’ faces or gloating about a recent test score, we all love bragging on our kids. Hell, even the uncertainty of a baby’s gender warrants ceremony these days. Our kids are our worlds, and we need you to look at them.

However…

This is too much. Baby showers are one thing. Gender reveal parties are another. But this? This is a whole other ballpark of self-importance, bro. What makes you think the zebras and antelopes, two animals you routinely hunt and murder, would be enthusiastic about another predator?

WHY ARE YOU CELEBRATING? HIS KID IS GOING TO EAT YOUR KID ONE DAY.

Another area in which Mufasa can improve is respecting boundaries. Picture this: you meet someone special. One night, the two of you make sweet love to an Elton John tune.

You did it. You lost your virginity.

Then, out of nowhere, YOUR DAD SHOWS UP.

Not sure how Simba didn’t die of embarrassment then and there. Butt out, dad.

Another downside to having Mufasa for a dad is the fact that he shares a voice with Darth Vader. This might sound cool at first, but the novelty would surely wear thin after a couple of weeks. After that, a paralyzing fear washes over you. Every “clean your room” and “finish your vegetables” now evokes memories of the Admiral Motti force choke.

VERDICT

From what we can gather, Mufasa would’ve made a fantastic dad had he not fell from a cliff and got trampled to death by a stampede. He’s playful, noble, and quite the protector. He shows respect to all the animals, even the ones he intends to eat. This alone speaks volumes to his character. Do you eat a cheeseburger with the intention to maintain balance in the universe? Didn’t think so.

FINAL GRADE: A-

Check out our previous edition when we graded the two dads from Willy Wonka.

Dad Grades: The Dads From Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

(Paramount)

♪ Come with me
And you’ll be
In a wooorld where we take dads and grade them ♪

Welcome to the Dad Grades for the two dads from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.

HENRY SALT

(Paramount)

Meet Mr. Salt. Mr. Salt has a daughter, nay, a demon named Veruca. She is demanding, greedy, and impatient. You’re probably thinking, but wait, isn’t that most kids? Okay. Listen. We’re sure your toddler is a handful in the toy aisle, but we’re talking unprecedented levels of entitlement here. Observe:

Amazing. She was such an unlikable child that she plummeted into a furnace and no one showed an iota of concern. How did she get this way? Look no further than the register in the back of daddy’s checkbook.

(Paramount)

Henry Salt is quite possibly the biggest pushover ever committed to film stock. He’s a man of wealth, fully convinced that a child’s love can and should be purchased. He owns a nut factory, although this is initially unclear, as the workers are instead tasked with unwrapping thousands of Wonka Bars until a golden ticket is found.

We’ve yet to see paternal incompetence of this nature. Frank Costanza may shout, and Thanos may halve humankind with the snap of a finger, but we’ve yet to see a dad compromise his own livelihood in order to briefly sate his insatiable brat of a daughter. As he says in the book:

“As soon as my little girl told me that she simply had to have one of those Golden tickets, I went out into the town and started buying up all the Wonka bars I could lay my hands on. Thousands of them, I must have bought. Hundreds of thousands!”

Pathetic. We’re big advocates of keeping your kid happy, but a spoiling of this magnitude can bring about significant developmental issues, including social isolation and low self-esteem. Put the checkbook down and learn to braid hair or something, pal.

SAM BEAUREGARDE

(Paramount)

Also along for the tour is Sam Beauregarde. Sam is a local politician and car dealership owner. Clearly an upstanding member of his community. His daughter is a disrespectful know-it-all named Violet. She’s obsessed with chewing gum.

Her insolence eventually gets the best of her when, despite Wonka’s half-hearted objection, she takes and chews a piece of experimental gum. Mr. Beauregarde then watches in abject horror as his daughter rapidly transforms into a human blueberry.

We’d love to chalk this bizarre fate up to shitty parenting, but we can’t. From what we see of Sam Beauregarde, he appears to be a friendly, generally likable man. This affability could be disingenuous given his background as both a politician and used car salesman, but we’ll let that slide for now. I mean, what other dad is this encouraging about career ambitions in gum-chewing?

None. No dad is excited about that because that’s not a career anyone goes into. Or exists. It’d take a pretty solid dad to entertain such foolish aspirations for so long. This is a guy who loves seeing his kid happy, and he doesn’t have to leverage his wealth to do so. That fact alone makes him the superior Wonka Tour Dad.

FINAL GRADES

MR. BEAUREGARDE: D
MR. SALT: B

Check out our previous edition where we graded George McFly from Back to the Future.

Dad Grades: George McFly From Back To The Future

(Universal)

The question crosses all of our minds at some point: what were our dads like in high school? Would we have been friends with him? Or perhaps enemies? Could we, should the situation to present itself, play Cupid with our parents, while simultaneously rebuffing advances from our moms? In this edition of Dad Grades, we take a look at George McFly from Back to the Future.

Because this movie deals with time travel, there are three versions of George McFly we must take into consideration.

Loser 1985 George

(Universal Pictures)

1955 George

(Universal Pictures)

And last but not least, Cool 1985 George.

(Universal Pictures)

STRENGTHS

It’s established in the first act of the movie that Loser 1985 George is a total dud; his misery the prime objective of a lifelong bully named Biff Tannen.


So it’s not easy to wring the strengths out of a character whose whole “thing” is weakness. Double so for 1955 George, seen here helping a classmate with a reading assignment.

So where then does his strength lie? Why, none other than Timeline #2, of course, set in motion by the punch heard ’round Hill Valley.

It’s hard to say how George’s newfound confidence played out over those next three decades. We only get a glimpse of Cool 1985 George in the movie’s epilogue, when Marty realizes he butterfly-effected himself hotter parents.

(Universal Pictures)

His high school bully now relegated to a lifetime of indentured servitude, we finally get to see George’s one strength: he is a published author. Pretty cool thing to be able to say about your dad, in our book.

(Speaking of which, we too have a book.)

WEAKNESSES

George and his wife, high school sweetheart Lorraine, have three grown kids: Dave, Linda, and Marty, seen here disappearing from existence.

George’s relationship with the three seems… fatigued? His involvement in their lives feels as if it’s all dismissed as routine: apologize to Marty for being a pushover, bid farewell to Dave as he leaves for his shift at Burger King, entertain Linda’s boy troubles, laugh at The Honeymooners.

Seriously, George’s family is so lethargic that not even a cake celebrating a family member’s release from prison can curb the monotony of dinner time.

(Universal Pictures)

Come on, dude. It’s 1985. Calvin and Hobbes just made its debut. Freddie Mercury just crushed it at Live Aid. Seriously, how can your family be this glum now that New Coke is available?

VERDICT

This one’s tough. In the history of Dad Grades, we’ve never had a father-son duo who are, for most of the story, in the same grade. We’ve also never had to critique three versions of one dad in the context of two timelines. It sounds impossible but, as a wise man once said:

“If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

– George McFly, not realizing he’s just
repeating advice his son gave to him 
after accidentally traveling back in time

 

1955 GEORGE FINAL GRADE: C+
LOSER 1985 GEORGE FINAL GRADE: N/A
COOL 1985 GEORGE FINAL GRADE: B

Check out our previous edition when we graded Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers flicks.

Dad Grades: Dr. Evil

(New Line Cinema)

We’ll admit, reading the Dad Grades for a guy named Dr. Evil is a bit like reading a food review column for a restaurant named Our Chef Has The Flu. You’re well aware a failing grade is at the end of this. So why read it? We’ll tell you why. Our column has Seth Green in it. This is the Dad Grades for Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers franchise.

STRENGTHS

Much like that restaurant with the sick chef from earlier, Dr. Evil’s strengths are a hard sell. No matter how many tussles of the hair he doles out, no matter how many school plays he shows up to, no matter how many father-son fishing trips he may plan. None of that really matters when your whole thing is “look how evil I am.”

Nevertheless, we find it’s best to seek the silver lining in all things. So we’d be remiss to not point out that, at the end of the day, Dr. Evil embodies that Goofy Dad spirit we’re so eager to encourage.

Here he is trying to win his son’s affection with an impromptu Macarena.

And lest we forget all the ingenious methods he has for telling his child to be quiet. There’s The Shh, a time-tested classic:

The Zip It:

And, our personal favorite, The Scotty Don’t. This one will only work for some kids.

A hush-up hat trick if we’ve ever seen one.

Also, according to Austin Powers in Goldmember, he does a pretty good job accepting gifts from his kid. Perhaps Dr. Evil might not have reacted this way had his son Scott presented him with, say, a picture frame with macaroni glued to it, yes. And we’re sure you weren’t totally insincere in your enthusiasm for the assault on grammar that was your last Father’s Day card. But come on.

Parenting tip: treat every gift your kid gives you as if it were sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads.

WEAKNESSES

We’ve had quite the streak of irredeemably horrible dads in recent months. From Tywin Lannister, to Thanos, to Darth Vader, cinema has no shortage of despicable fathers for us to put through the wringer here on Dad Grades.

But Dr. Evil is in his own class of unfit. His son, Scott, is a fairly normal young man with no aspirations of living up to his surname. Over the course of three films we see him try and fail to gain the approval of his estranged father. But, as Dr. Evil himself stated on Jerry Springer, Scott’s just never been quite evil enough.

This is a truly abhorrent thing to wish of your child. Time and time again we’ve made clear that it’s never okay to push your kids into hobbies in which they show an active disinterest, be it ballet or world domination. This “never enough” mindset crushes a kid’s self-esteem, breeding detachment.

Dr. Evil only furthers the emotional distance between him and his son after successfully cloning a miniature version of himself. Mini-Me functions as the evil son Dr. Evil never had and, naturally, tensions rise between him and Scott.

(New Line Cinema)

Mini-Me’s existence is particularly cruel in that it removes all doubt from a question that’s plagued siblings since the beginning of time: am I the least favorite? This is easy to answer when your only sibling looks exactly like a 2-foot-8 version of your dad. You may be Dr. Evil’s biological son, Scott, but your new brother is his actual biology.

This sort of “am I enough?” mindset can damage a kid’s self-esteem, causing feelings of isolation, detachment, and resentment. Just look at the sort of pressure he puts on this poor kid.

Scott: I was thinking I like animals. Maybe I’d be a vet.
Dr. Evil: An evil vet?
Scott: No! Maybe like work in a petting zoo.
Dr. Evil: An evil petting zoo?

We at The Dad are strong proponents of letting children grow into who they want to be. If the only interest you show in your child involves ushering them into a family business, of course, they’re gonna challenge you at every turn. Especially if you name your big evil plan The Alan Parsons Project.

Or Preparation H.

VERDICT

Dr. Evil has a complicated relationship with his son. He was frozen for all of Scott’s childhood, and any transition back into fatherhood, let alone warmth, is going to be a rocky one. However, he is quite resolute in his mission to wreak havoc on a global scale, and we can’t see any father-son camping trips getting in the way of that.

But we’ll award bonus points just because it’s fun to imagine getting picked up from school in this.

(New Line Cinema)

FINAL GRADE: D

Check out our previous edition when we graded another supervillain named Darth.

Dad Grades: Darth Vader

(20th Century Fox)

If haven’t seen the original Star Wars trilogy, major spoiler alert:

Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia’s father. Also, what’s your deal? It’s one of the most beloved media franchises in history and you don’t even have to stand up to rent movies anymore. 

Anyway, in the spirit of Star Wars Day, we present to you the Dad Grades for Darth Vader.

(20th Century Fox)

Note: This Dad Grades will only take into account the three original films. No prequels, no sequel trilogy, no novels, no comics, no lunch trays. The Star Wars universe is far too expansive to consider how Anakin Skywalker’s story arc in 1993’s The Truce at Bakura may have shaped his approach to diaper changing. 

STRENGTHS

Darth Vader was many things. A father. A foe. A fashion icon. But we often forget that fourth thing he was: a business owner. Vader employed roughly 1.1 billion stormtroopers alone and oversaw the operations of 25,000 Star Destroyers. “Married to his work” would be an understatement.

Touching base with employees on Bring Your Daughter To Work Day. (20th Century Fox)

In any other other edition of Dad Grades, over-commitment to one’s career would be disqualifying. But despite all that midnight oil clearly being burned—long days at the office supervising Jedi purges and hammering out the logistics of space-wide oppression—he still made strides to remain active in his son’s life.

(20th Century Fox)

Sure, the circumstances under which he seeks involvement are suspect. Coasting through space, eradicating life one planet at a time. This may not sound like your ideal father-son dynamic. But having catch in the backyard, building pinewood derby cars— bonding rituals of the dad who doesn’t have access to galactic superweapons.

“Luke, we can destroy the emperor… Join me and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.”

There was also a sweet moment near the end of Return of the Jedi when Vader throws Emperor Palpatine down a reactor shaft, getting electrocuted in the process, effectively sacrificing himself to save Luke. In his final moments, he asks Luke to remove his helmet, so that he can get one final good look at his boy.

No, you’re crying.

WEAKNESSES

Vader’s big reveal to Luke, that they are father and son, is done with little if any tact. Reconnecting with your estranged father member should be, by all accounts, heartwarming. Expressing forgiveness, recouping decades of missed hugs. A moment of reconciliation worthy of Ellen.

But no. This dude indulges his son in a lightsaber duel.

And cuts off his hand.

Then, in his son’s most vulnerable, handless moment, Vader reveals that it was from his own villainous balls from which Luke swam. There’s bad timing, then there’s this.

(20th Century Fox)

Seems like the sort of thing he could’ve revealed moments earlier, precluding the lightsaber duel. Had the issue been approached with the pageantry and enthusiasm of a gender reveal party, Luke might still have his real hand.

We also can’t condone how adamant Vader is about his son joining the family business. This would be poor form even for a dad who owned a used car dealership, let alone one whose line of work involves boundless celestial genocide.

VERDICT

While one of cinema’s greatest characters, villain or otherwise, Darth Vader is a truly terrible father to Luke. Abandonment is never okay, regardless of how well you pull of a cape. Remember: Any guy can be a No, I Am Your Father. But it takes a real man to be a No, I Am Your Dad.

We’ll award bonus points, however, simply for the fact he has the most badass intro music of all time.

FINAL GRADE: D+

“Wait a sec,” you’re probably itching to comment. “You didn’t expound on his relationship with Princess Leia, who is also his kid.” Don’t worry. This is a Star Wars Dad Grades. We’d be remiss if we didn’t hit you with a sequel.

Check out our previous edition when we graded another supervillain named Thanos.

Dad Grades: Thanos [NO END GAME SPOILERS]

(Disney)

Heads-up! The following post contains no End Game spoilers but does reference Infinity War. 

We made it, baby. After 22 Marvel movies, we’ve finally reached end game. Not just any end game. Marvel’s The Avengers: End Game. The antagonist of which is the one dad we’ve been so anxious to take our fat red marker to: Thanos.

(Disney)

SPOILER NON-WARNING: Relax. This edition of Dad Grades will only contain plot points from Avengers: Infinity War. We assume you’ve seen this. There are no End Game spoilers within.

Onward. Thanos. Purple guy.

STRENGTHS

“Strength” is a funny word. Sometimes it can mean finding the courage to admit to a loved one you have a gambling problem. Maybe strength is pulling the trigger on that swimsuit photo you’ve always wanted to post. Sometimes strength is punching really hard. Thanos is the third thing.

Gamora’s dad is capable of great strength. He stands at a hulking 8 feet. That’s almost as tall as the Hulk! According to the Marvel Dictionary, Thanos is at least Class 100 strength, enabling him to lift over 100 tons. Blue whales weigh 115 tons, and that’s the largest mammal to ever exist. It doesn’t get much stronger than that. One would assume, however, Thanos is the kind of dude who grunts and drops the blue whale.

(Disney/PNGRiver)

With your knees, Thanos!

Oh, and lest we forget that whole Infinity Stone glove shit. Wiping out half the population with a mere snap of the fingers? Major strength. Cheating, but a strength nonetheless.

(Disney)

However, this is The Dad, so we’re seeking out strengths of non-physical nature. How does Thanos stack up against other fictional dads in terms of paternal instinct? Is he a good provider? Does he lead by example? Is he patient? Ope, he just threw his daughter off a cliff.

WEAKNESSES

Alright. Welp. That about wraps it up for this edition of Dad Grades. Really no recourse for this guy, having done that. We’re gonna give a hard and fast “no” to throwing your kid off a cliff, even if a stipulation for procuring an Infinity Stone is the sacrifice a loved one.

Nope, not even if you shed a tear afterward.

(Disney)

You just don’t do that, pal.

We could easily make light of this. Sure, we could allude his cameo in the first Avenger’s credits and joke about him not showing up until the very end of young Gamora’s piano recitals.

We could probably get in a shot or two at this pathetic excuse for a dad chair.

Or maybe said something to the effect of,

“And you thought it was scary when your parents snapped at you.”

But we’re taking the high ground here. Flinging your child off some big pointy rock is never okay. We’re done here.

VERDICT

You were probably expecting us to find some silly, roundabout way of heaping praise upon this guy, huh. Think again. We already gave Homer Simpson, beloved TV icon and verifiable child-strangler, our lowest grade possible. But a simple F isn’t enough for the unforgivable act of chucking your daughter to her rocky death. We’re gonna have to go much cruel than F.

FINAL GRADE: THE AVENGERS (THE BAD 1998 ONE)

(Warner Bros)

Check out our previous Dad Grades when we ranked the best and worst fathers on Game of Thrones.

Dad Grades: Game of Thrones Edition

Dad Grades GoT Edition
(Warner Bros)

Need to quickly catch up before the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones gets underway? Well, good luck with that. Way too many characters. But if you’re looking for the three best and three worst poppas in Westeros, we’ve got you covered.

BEST DADS

Ned Stark

(Warner Bros)

Children: Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, Rickon
Fatherly Advice: “The only time a man can be brave is when he is afraid.”
Verdict:
You knew ol’ Eddard would top of this list long before the page finished loading. Mr. Stark was essentially the moral compass of Westeros, having raised five of the few people on that continent who didn’t grow up to be barbaric monsters. He was always eager to pass down wisdom, a champion of honor and loyalty in an age of betrayal. Well-deserving of a “#1 DAD” goblet. A+

Jaime Lannister

(Warner Bros)
Children: Joffrey, Myrcella, Tommen
Fatherly Advice: “How can you still count yourself a knight, when you have forsaken every vow you ever swore?”
Verdict: Okay. So. We know Cersei is his sister. And yes, we know Joffrey, the Damien of Westeros, did, in fact, swim out of this man’s urethra. The thing is, Jaime never really got the chance to properly nurture Joffrey. We’d like to think, had Cersei not been forced into an unhappy marriage, Jaime could’ve given Joffrey the fatherly affection he so clearly yearned for. Put aside the whole “dating his twin sister” thing and you’ve got yourself a B+ uncle-dad.

Mace Tyrell

(Warner Bros)

Children: Loras, Margaery
Fatherly Advice: “Is there anything as pointless as a king without a kingdom?”
Verdict: The head of House Tyrell is often regarded as a bit of an idiot, even by his own mother. He’s not a particularly good general, but he’s able to summon lots of kindness through that vulnerability. He’s the closest thing this bleak era of dragon panic and human sacrifice had to an easy-going, goofy dad. Also “Mace Tyrell” is easily the smoothest name on the show. B

 

WORST DADS

Tywin Lannister

(Warner Bros)
Children: Cersei, Jaime, Tyrion
Coldest Quote: “A lion doesn’t concern itself with the opinion of sheep.”
Verdict: We can’t even go into detail about all the despicable things Tywin Lannister has done to his children. This dude is a monster. Total disregard for the well-being of his three kids, with an especially disheartening, calculated disdain for his son Tyrion. Truly the “dad who pushes his kids into sports but only to further his own personal interests” of Westeros. F

Robert Baratheon

(Warner Bros)
Children: Mya Stone, Bella, Gendry, Edric Storm, Barra, Joffrey(-ish), Myrcella(-ish), Tommen(-ish), countless others even he doesn’t know about
Coldest Quote: “I swear to you, I was never so alive as when I was winning this throne, or so dead as now that I’ve won it.”
Verdict: This guy has like a thousand kids, one of which turned out to be a demon. The Baratheon household is a textbook example of how an unhappy marriage can affect a child. Jaime Lannister may be the biological father of Joffrey, but Robert here withheld the nurturing that might’ve kept that little shit from becoming Satan incarnate upon reaching puberty. We’re not ones to advocate for child-leashes, but good lord, bro. Control your kid. Perhaps Ned Stark’s head would still be attached to his body had you two went out back and tossed the ol’ pigskin once in a while. D-

Randyll Tarly

(Warner Bros)

Children: Samwell, Talla, Dickon
Coldest Quote: “The gods made men to fight.”
Verdict: Mr. Tarly is a vicious, cold-blooded, highly effective war general.  His gentler son Sam doesn’t care for fighting, much more interested in scholarly pursuits at the Citadel. Randyll gives Sam an ultimatum: join the Night’s Watch, a brotherhood of men who look after the Wall, OR be put to death via hunting “accident.” Again, Sports Dad written all over this shit. We will award bonus points, as Randyll Tarly, despite the spelling, is easily the dad-est name on the show. D-

Check out the previous edition when we graded Frank Costanza from Seinfeld.