I must say, when I pitched the concept for this article to Paul the other week, I hadn’t seen a romantic comedy for some time. I had been blessed. But hey, it’s the beginning of March, and I’m somewhere in the middle of my seasonal depression (it’s real, I checked). As my improv troupe knows all too well, this is the perfect time for sadomasochism, and what better medium to visit than last year’s date night fodder?
I’m happy to report, dear readers, that I was not disappointed. If you enjoy wallowing in your own brand of depression from time to time, allow me to introduce the perfect kiddy pools…
1) No Strings Attached – Adam can never trust his horny father again
This movie’s subject matter is pretty straightforward: hot, progressive 20-somethings eschewing relationships in favor of “just the boning, please.” Adam (Ashton Kutcher) is a production assistant for a TV show, and his dad Alvin (Kevin Kline) is an actor. The movie starts with Adam discovering that Alvin has started screwing his hot, ditsy ex-girlfriend Vanessa (Ophelia Lovibond). Eesh, I can only imagine how awful it would feel to discover your ex’s rebound guy was 30 years her senior. And also related to you. The lopsided couple soon announces their plans to procreate, but Daddy’s wild lifestyle eventually puts him in the hospital. Vanessa predictably ends it with Alvin soon after because “old people scare her.”
This all happens while Adam’s a grown man, and Alvin went through not one, but two failed marriages. He obviously has no problem with free, promiscuous sex with younger chicks: “When you’re married and you do blow, try to stay away from women who want to f*** you. Even ugly women. Blow is blind, Adam. Blow is blind.” Sage words indeed, sir. So what happened when Adam was in high school and college? Was Daddy trolling nearby house parties for underage tail the whole time? Was Adam just an involuntary talent scout?
Even if Adam somehow avoided bro-style threesomes with Alvin after prom, it’s a safe bet he can’t trust this man-child dad ever again. We know this for a fact because the movie ends with Alvin wining and dining Lucy—an attractive coworker of Adam’s who, at the exact time of Alvin’s overdose, was just a bra strap away from dipping her tongue in company ink. Serendipity!
So yeah, no matter who Adam settled down with eventually, he’d constantly be looking over his shoulder to make sure a wrinkly, Speedo-d penis wasn’t crouched in “attack” position nearby.
This dude would f**k that shrub if he thought his son was attracted to it.
2) Friends with Benefits – Dylan’s dad kind of wishes Dylan never existed
As you might have guessed from the name, this flick’s plot is virtually identical to No Strings Attached (the films were bafflingly released exactly six months apart). Swap in Dylan Harper (JT) and Jamie (Mila Kunis) as the semen-swapping lovebirds, and you’re pretty much up to speed.
Instead of sharing DNA with a man who should dedicate a whole beach house to his Asshole Father of the Year plaques, Dylan has a sweet older dad (Richard Jenkins). Unfortunately, Mr. Harper is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, which obviously sucks all around for his family. It’s depressing enough that Dylan will have to watch the man he once knew slip further away with each passing year, but one scene is especially soul-crushing. In it, Dylan picks up his dad from the airport. While enjoying their pants-less lunch (a genuinely touching moment), the increasingly senile man calls out to a passing woman in a moment of confusion. After his dad snaps back to lucidity, Dylan asks about the woman he thought he saw. Mr. Harper reluctantly shares a few details about a girl he met in the Navy, but here’s the important one: “She was the love of my life.”
While Mr. Harper claims he has “no regrets” about spawning Dylan and his sister, it’s clear he has huge regrets about leaving Didi-from-the-Navy behind. Seems like a bit of a mixed message there. That’s not the disease talking, either—his Alzheimer’s-induced episode had passed. Of course Mr. Harper’s love for Dylan is real, but wouldn’t it be unsettling to find out in your mid-20s that a huge part of your dad wishes he could rewrite history without even putting you in the footnotes?