While films like Toy Story and The Lion King are the face of ’90s Disney — and rightfully so, as they’re groundbreaking – the 1995 film A Goofy Movie should stand with them. Though critically panned, for many ‘90s babies like myself this movie was a coming-of-age staple. And in honor of its 25th anniversary, it’s time to revisit A Goofy Movie in all its epic dad joke glory.
Currently streaming on Disney+, A Goofy Movie follows Goofy, a single father, and his angsty teenaged son Max. Goofy forces his son on a summer road trip, hoping time on the road will bring them together. It does not. It’s a road trip similar to ones many of us have probably faced in the past, full of dad jokes and old music on the radio. At a time when a lot of us are stuck at home with our families, A Goofy Movie speaks our language. How do we get over the boring hobbies and music that our parents have forced upon us for years? Now that we’re quarantined with them, we have to find a way to accept them. A Goofy Movie teaches us how to do just that.
Back when it was released, legendary film critic Roger Ebert presented a legendary argument: how could the ditzy, disorganized Goofy win in a custody battle for Max? Maybe it’s illogical. Maybe Goofy is all over the place, and maybe he’s not the perfect image of a parent. But it’s precisely this imperfection that makes me root for Goofy. He’s full of dad habits and he makes his son cringe, but A Goofy Movie unravels these knots of embarrassment to reveal the heart of the parent/child relationships.
Being sequestered in a small car with his father — social distancing, one could say, from his friends back home — infuriates Max. Whenever Goofy tries to get closer to Max, Max takes two steps back. To illustrate their feelings, the pair sing, “On the Open Road,” an upbeat folky song. The road tune complements Goofy’s optimism for the trip, to Max’s passive-aggressive attitude about spending time with his dopey dad. “Just me and little Maxie, my pipsqueak pioneer,” hums Goofy, admiring his son. Max fires back: “Could someone call a taxi and get me out of here?” These two lines really nail their dynamic. No teenager wants to be called a “pipsqueak,” for obvious reasons. But Goofy has so much love for his son, his unabashed dad-ness gets the better of him.
Then there’s the music of A Goofy Movie, a masterful blend of ’90s pop and banjo-twangin’ folk. “On the Open Road” is an excellent example of the latter, and it’s decidedly “dad music.” Before singing this, Max and Goofy get into an argument about the radio. Max wants to listen to a rock guitar song, but Goofy prefers a sweet child-like jingle. They flip back and forth until the radio’s busted. This parallels the nature of music in the film — while Max’s songs are cool ’90s rock songs, Goofy’s are childish and slow.
Max rejects his dad’s boring songs, just like he rejects his dad’s road trip. He’s obsessed with the pop-star Powerline. Who wouldn’t be? Powerline’s songs include “I2I” and “Stand Out” — two rock symphonies. In reality, all of the songs in A Goofy Movie are complete bangers. Even Goofy’s hokey dad songs — like the country song the pair hear at Lester’s Possum Park, a busted animatronic nightmare theme park — are enjoyable. Dad music may not seem like great quarantunes, but he likes them for a reason!
The road trip, the music, and the dad jokes are all one huge gesture towards Max. Goofy points out, time and time again, that these are things Max used to love as a kid. It’s like your parents forcing you to watch that old Disney movie you were obsessed with, one from, say, 1995. Ahem. Goofy and Max finally bond over “The Perfect Cast,” a fishing cast Goofy’s dad taught him as a kid. When they end up on stage at a Powerline concert, Goofy doesn’t know how to dance. Max, remembering the moves of “The Perfect Cast,” tells his dad to recreate it on stage. Goofy swings his arms above his head, jumps around, and Powerline dances with him. The moves are a hit: it’s the ultimate Dad scene.
Before the brothers of Onward took their magical road trip, before The Incredibles fought villains as one big family, and before Finding Nemo put Marlin on a quest to find his son, there was A Goofy Movie. Goofy brought the hearty dad jokes to the front-and-center. My dad and I, holed up in quarantine, just rewatched it. It hasn’t aged a bit. And it helped relieve some of my stress. Though some of us have got to spend at least another month in quarantine with our family, take some advice from Max. Take a second to dance it off with dad—it may be goofy, but it’s much more fun than you might expect.
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