A GOOFY MOVIE (1995):
Written by: Jymn Magon, Chris Matheson & Biran Pimental
The movie’s two showstoppers, “Stand Out” and “I2I” one after the other. Nothing in history is more “1990s” than this.
Of all the shows on the much-fabled “Disney Afternoon” Saturday Cartoon block, the one I would consider LEAST LIKELY to have gotten a theatrically-released Full-Length Feature would have been Goof Troop. I dunno if it was my age or what, but I always thought it was the worst of the block, up until Bonkers and Marsupilami came on and invented totally new ways to suck. It took out all the adventure themes common to most of the Afternoon block, had little action at ALL, and was basically about the schemes of Goofy & Pete. I just never GOT the whole thing, and kind of discounted it. So when a MOVIE was announced based around the characters, I didn’t think it was going to be any good. But the trailers seemed to show some promise (ie. a cute chick), and I figured I would check it out when my parents got the VHS release. Yeah… the fact that it was GOOD would have been a delightful surprise, but the fact that it rapidly became my FAVORITE Disney Movie was completely unreal.
The movie is SORT OF like Goof Troop in that it’s about fathers and their relationships with their sons- the dumbassed Goofy and his son Max, and the boorish Pete and his wimpy son P.J. But the movie goes off on a completely different tangent, ignoring Pete’s wife Peg (aka The Patron Saint of Pervy DeviantArt MILF Pictures) and daughter Pistol, as well as the pets and other characters, and aging all of the characters a bit, so the sons aren’t so buddy/buddy with their fathers. Max (with Jason Marsden voice-acting instead of his original female V.A., who unfortunately died of diabetes only a year later) & P.J. are now sixteen-ish instead of being in Middle School, they have a new friend played by Paulie Shore (suggested in the trailers as being Max’s “Best Friend” but he really wasn’t, much like they pretended Max was cool when he was really a dork), and the whole theme is now that of a “Road Movie”.
What’s funny is that it’s a movie that barely needed to be animated (save for some slapstick & dangerous scenes), and could basically be done in Live Action, which is something you usually only see in Japan. The idea of an ENTIRE MOVIE being based around a father & son’s relationship is crazy for a cartoon. And how good is this movie? It’s a thoughtful movie featuring FREAKING GOOFY, and PAULIE SHORE is in it… AND IT DOESN’T SUCK!!
What’s great about it is that I see it differently almost every time I watch it- when I first saw it, I identified with the Max character. He was a cynical teenager with low self-image and a crush on some unattainable (but cute, not “High-End Cheerleader” stuff like in most teen movies) girl, with a dopey parent who wanted to hang out with him all the time, much to his chagrin. So I was all “MAN Max is just like me, and WOW wouldn’t it suck to have a parent that annoying”. Watching it as an adult, I am basically going “OH MY GOD TEENAGERS ARE F***ING ASS-HOLES I AM GETTING A VASECTOMY TOMORROOOOOOWWWWWW!!!!” Max’s attitude is CLASSIC whiny-ass teenage stuff that drives adults NUTS, and you now empathize with Goofy, no matter how nutty he is.
The parts that I identified with as a teen (Max and the crush on Roxanne) are still good, but what strikes me more as I get older is the whole commentary on the nature of parenting. Goofy is more open and caring as a parent than, say, PETE, who keeps his son “Under My Thumb” and lords over P.J. like a king. This suits Goofy just fine until Max gets in trouble at school for staging an impromptu rock concert, and he sets up a Road Trip like his daddy brought him on to set the boy straight, horrifying Max (who just made a date with Roxanne). So Max makes up some B.S. lie that is COMPLETELY ludicrous to get out of it, then has to try and make his lie come true by changing the map and take them to LA instead of Idaho.
The only real flaw in the movie is that the whole thing is dependent on the Idiot Plot. Goofy should have asked Max OR the Principal just what the hell Max did (the Principal, voiced with classic comic whininess by Wallace Shawn, thinks Max was dressed as a gang member trying to start a riot), and Max’s lie to Roxanne about where he was going was insane (was “my dad is dragging me on a road trip” REALLY harder to say that “oh we’re going to be at the greatest rock concert ever and get to be ON STAGE FOR THE FINAL NUMBER”?!?!), and Max should have just told his dad that the road trip was going to cost him a date with the local babe… okay that last part makes sense given that teenagers are AWFUL HORRIBLE PEOPLE WHO NEVER OPEN UP, but still. This whole thing actually makes a bit of sense in context (Roxanne was SO disappointed with Max breaking their date that he felt he had to come up with something better to excuse it- she merely MENTIONED “maybe I’ll get asked by someone else…” and he was like “WUHHH?”), but it’s still a bit nutty. They really jumped through hoops to get the plot moving.
But really, it all comes down to the relationship between Goofy & Max. Goofy wants to be a part of his son’s life, while Max just wants to bitch, moan and get more distant. When Goofy realizes that Max is lying to him this whole time, he figures that Pete was RIGHT, and that “Under Your Thumb” is the best way to parent- he thinks he was too lax with his son, and is now ready to lay down the law. And when the two finally have a major blow-up (it’s usually only been Max complaining the whole way), they make a lot of good points (mostly Goofy- “I’ve got my own LIFE now, dad!” “I KNOW THAT!! I just wanted to be a PART of it!”) and make amends.
Of course, I would be remiss in not mentioning THE MUSIC. Done by a Prince/Michael Jackson-ish guy named Tevin Campbell for the most part, it adds a couple of INSANELY catchy pop-songs to a pretty funny, well-rounded soundtrack, and both I2I and Stand Out are completely unforgettable to me. I mean, I can STILL get these songs stuck in my head (in the good way) to this very day, and I would hold them up against the best of Disney’s stuff. Granted, they’re schlocky and very sentimental and more likely to draw laughs, but DAAAANG SO CATCHY!! After Today is pretty funny, and the rest is more forgettable (with a few funny gags), but those two songs coulda been major pop hits in an earlier era.
Another great thing is the movie’s STYLE.
Without really trying, they managed to make this 1995 film a snapshot of the 1990s- Max wears long, baggy jeans and a big red hoodie, multiple characters wear either flannel or baggy t-shirts (or my favorite- the “flannel or vest over the white t-shirt” look), and several characters are seen with that CLASSIC “Early ’90s” hairstyle where the hair is super short except for the top, where it’s parted in the middle so you get long hair coming down at the sides (Hector in Zits had this hair for like fifteen years after it was fashionable and only RECENTLY changed it). There’s girls in belly-shirts, some weird outfits you wouldn’t see later (some skanky chick at the school has some kind of weird black belly-top with holes cut into both it and her jeans), etc. Except for the pop soundtrack, you would think this was a direct riff on the Grunge Generation, but that’s actually just the backdrop.
The movie actually did rather well, but was never really a major deal- it doesn’t get counted as part of the Animated Canon, though it did get a Straight-To-DVD sequel that mostly kept up with continuity (with one glaring exception). It wasn’t super well-reviewed, but like most people, I only count the opinions of “Rotten Tomatoes” WHEN I AGREE WITH THEM, DAMMIT!!!!, and the good ones like Roger Ebert enjoyed it. Max would later appear on other Disney products in his more aged form (those CGI Mickey cartoons, and The House of Mouse, where he was a recurring cast member, working at the club as an usher or something.
Fun things I note while watching it for the 99th time: Why does the school’s gymasium have a podium with a TRAP DOOR? Max’s hilarious Powerline routine reminds me of Poochie’s debut in The Simpsons– he even slam-dunks a f*ckin’ basketball for no reason! I love the cutesiness of the Max/Roxanne relationship- though teens are really MUCH more dirty-minded than that, watching her twist her hair in her fingers in excitement over Max/Powerline is great. Her nervousness establishes her not as some A-Ranking School Babe, but as a cute, shy, Regular Girl who is a much nicer mix of traits than if she’d been the generic Head Cheerleader that’s so often in these.
Has anyone else ever noticed that Disney characters have the pupils drawn OVER their eyes as if they had solid mass, so they stick out a bit if they look to one side- I noticed it on Belle & The Beast, and I notice it here on close-ups. And it’s the obligatory “teen hero rides a skateboard” scene (and he STOLE IT from some kid who was just sitting there! Were they afraid of being too on-the-nose if he’d just had one othe whole time, like they were trying too hard or something? And he just gives it to some other kid! WTF MAX?!?).
I like how the plot progresses- they basically go from place to place, but hit a new level in their relationship- peak teen disgust (the sucky “County Bear Jamboree” parody at the Possum Park), mutual understanding based off of the past, back before they couldn’t stand each other (the Sasquatch incident, which actually avoids being a random “Big Lipped Alligator Moment” because of how it moves the plot along), mutual good times (when Goofy gives Max the map and lets him pick all the fun stops, then Max picks one GOOFY will like when he realizes how little his dad likes those things), then a big act of betrayal (once Goofy realizes Max’s plot to send them to L.A.) a huge argument (going across the river), and finally a real understanding of each other (Nobody Else But You). It’s legitimately heartwarming in a sense that isn’t overly cheesy, which is a REAL feat, given that it’s a Father Son DISNEY MOVIE about GOOFY of all people. And then you get the “Goofy Scream” in a moment of blood-curdling terror as he goes over the edge of the waterfall.
The rock concert scene is GREAT. Dancing girls, Goofy walking in on a lingerie-clad fat lady, Max accidentally committing murder (there is NO WAY that roadie survived!), the most understanding rock star EVER (I haven’t seen improve like that since Vanilla Ice debuted the Ninja Rap), and the greatest over-acting song EVER.
Re-watching the movie for the 90th time, I’m noticing just how much they get out of a fairly short run-time. With an hour and 17 minutes of film, they really have great plot utility- EVERY SCENE means something, and they’re off to the races very quickly.
The First Scene:
* We get a large, wind-swept wheat field in a dream sequence, establishing immediately that the animators aren’t going to half-ass this one because it’s a “Movie of a Show”.
* We get that Max is infatuated with a girl named “Roxanne”, but in a very… romantic sense. They don’t even KISS- they just fall into each other’s arms and laugh. It feels very “cute” and G-rated.
* And then we learn that Max’s greatest fear is turning into his father- a very important setting element.
* Max wakes up and interacts with his father, thus establishing their relationship from the get-go. Goofy is attempting to have fun with Max, but Max ain’t having it. And just so Max doesn’t seem COMPLETELY unreasonable, Goofy is shown to be annoying- he holds Max up when he’s trying to get going and accidentally ruins his Powerline stand-up poster. And ANOTHER establishing moment- we learn that Powerline is “the biggest rock star in the universe”, which is important to know right away.
* And then we walk right into the first Musical Number of the picture- also something you need to get right out there. And like all good Musicals, “you sing when you have too many emotions to talk anymore”. We learn that Max is thought of as a “geek” and a “loser”, that there are tiers of popularity in the school (we see a handsome guy who becomes semi-important later), and that everyone just wants to have fun for the summer. Also important.
* Max and Roxanne have a quick meeting, which establishes Max’s clumsiness and nervousness around girls. Thus, we’re on his side- he’s the “nerd” in this situation. AND he manages to mimic his father’s laugh, re-eastablishing the Dream Sequence.
* Roxanne’s geeky-looking friend is established. We get some humor. We also learn, in front of the whole student body, that she’s hosting a party to watch the Powerline concert.
* Principal Mazur shows up, and being played by Wallace Shawn immediately tells you all you need to know. He comes off like a stiff, unpopular (the crowd literally stops making noise the second he walks out), boring leader, going on about “Science SLUMBER-PARTIES!” in the background.
* Bobby is established, hammering out a ton of catchphrasres. This appears odd, because he’s not important to the rest of the picture at all. This is literally just for “Trailer Noise”, because Pauly Shore plays him and they want some phrases for the trialers, advertising that fact.
* P.J. is also established. He’s nervous, stuttering and constantly afraid. Max is pushing him into this. And, most importantly, he makes three mentions of his father, as if he’s terrified of the man. EXTREMELY IMPORTANT information.
* Max dresses as Powerline, establishing his (oh-so ’90s) musical talent, style, etc., so we don’t have to wait the whole movie to figure it out. We get it established that now Max is “famous” to the kids. We also see the handsome guy about to ask Roxanne out, which gives a time-limit to what Max is doing- he MUST act now, or possibly lose her.
* Roxanne and Max interact, and he asks her out. Immediately we like Roxanne: she’s just as shy and nervous as Max is! She laughs nervously when he says “I’ll call YOU later” and bumps into the freakin’ wall! She has to be egged on by her friend (established prior)… who is also hosting the party. They really hammer all this out immediately.
* And then Mazur phones Goofy, establishing THIS relationship- Goofy is now unsure about his parenting skills, AND has a reason to set the plot in motion. That Mazur is wildly out-of-touch was already established, so his over-the-top reaction feels more normal.
* This also sets up Goofy & Pete, showing that Goofy is good with people naturally, while Pete is a know-it-all blowhard who THINKS he knows best.
The Trip Begins:
* Goofy forcing Max to go on the road trip sets off the whole story. He tries reverse-psychology, which doesn’t work. He has to basically FORCE him into it. And then Max has to go talk to Roxanne, giving us a solo moment (and a funny gag with her father). His lie sounds INSANE, but you can see how it’s built up: Roxanne is SO DISAPPOINTED that he can’t make it, and his more casual reasoning (“My dad’s on this STUPID father-son kick!”) sounds like a minor excuse. So he has to pile it on, adding stuff needlessly: “He’s taking me to the Powerline concert in LA” soon becomes “We’re joining him on stage for the final number!”, which is INSANE, but you can see why he’s going this far- she’s not buying it at first, so he just keeps digging.
* Another musical number. Really cheesy, but kind of deliberately-so. Goofy singing about all this joyful stuff while Max sings about vomiting, anger and hate, while condemned criminals and CORPSES dance about on top of cars! Basically establishing Goofy’s… goofiness… with Max’s cynicism and hate.
* Then we get to Lester’s Possum Park, which gives us our first big blow-up, as Goofy embarrasses Max for several minutes straight with the shittiest park in history, and Max just LOSES IT on him! This shows Goofy’s fear and failure all at once.
Fishing & Camping:
* The “Bigfoot!” sequence is another “bit for the trailers”. And we also see Goofy establish “The Perfect Cast”, which comes up not just once, but TWICE before we’re through.
* More important is the scene when Pete & PJ show up. We see Pete’s casual disregard for his son, combined with him lording his authority over PJ, and the effect it has. PJ is loyal… but you can see he’s hurting. Also it establishes more of Pete’s slovenliness. The “Under your THUMB, Goof…” thing is a big repeated thing over the course of the film from this point.
* The moment when Goofy & Max are stuck in the car and FORCED to interact is a huge thing. Goofy goes all nostalgic over Max forming letters in “Hi Dad Soup”, and Max is playing along, but being a douche about it (“Ambidextrous… I Pledge Allegiance To The—“), and Goofy just corrects him with “or I LOVE YOU!” and they both get uncomfortable at this rare moment of vulnerability. It’s SO true to life, and how guys just are. The Nostalgia Critic says “and then there’s the moment where you realize this movie is ACTUALLY WORKING.”
* And then Max gives him the remains of his cup, with “Hi Dad” spelled out in the letters. I’m not crying- YOU’RE crying.
* Max is thus established as being a rude, bitchy teen, but it ALSO shows his good side. And Goofy rewards him by making him “navigator” of the road trip, which pays off later. Max is first shown torturing Goofy with all the stuff HE wants to do, showing him in a rare moment of turnaround. But then he ALSO lets Goofy go to the “House of Yarn” and other stupid stuff. Them murdering the mime and then calmly walking away will never not be hilarious.
* And then we get one of the best moments of the picture- Max lets on to PJ that he’s changed the map (in a moment of weakness, but he’s kept it going). Pete (who’s been having Goofy talk about how much the “under your thumb” method DIDN’T work for him; and how his more tender approach DID) overhears THIS. And then he lets it out to Goofy, pointing out that “It’s not YOUR fault- he’s just a bad kid, that’s all” very callously. And Goofy is too shocked to believe it, and gives us the movie’s most important dialogue:
“Maybe Max isn’t all the things you think a son should be, but he LOVES me.”
“HEY- my son RESPECTS me!”
That’s really all it is, right there. Pete establishes dominance, while Goofy tries to play peacemaker. And you can see BOTH SIDES- Pete has a more dutiful, orderly son, while Max is a troublemaker who’s flouting some pretty big rules. Maybe Pete IS right after all…
* Goofy in the car with Max is great- he feels SO betrayed, and is almost more sad than angry. But he gives Max one last out (“left or right?”). And when Max fails the last test, Goofy is OUTRAGED. And actually ANGRY for once.
* When the car goes off the cliff and they chase after it, we get the final climax of the movie’s most important relationship. And ANOTHER of the greatest lines ever: “I’m not your little BOY and more, dad- I’ve grown up! I’ve got my own LIFE now!” “I KNOW THAT!!! I just wanted to be a PART of it!” OOF.
* The two finally sorta come to an agreement, and Max is FINALLY honest with Goofy about what he’s been doing, and why. And then we establish the kids at the party, with Bobby ripping on Max “That Goof kid ain’t there!” as if he doesn’t even know the guy.
* The concert will never not be amazing. I2I is not only INSANELY catchy, but Powerline totally just rolls with it (AND learns a new dance step instantly!) when Goofy & Max invade his stage show. Max pervs on Powerline’s back-up dancers, they murder a security guard, Goofy accidentally see a fat woman in her lingerie, and more. Non-stop comedy AND catchy music.
* And, importantly, Max kind of has to come clean to Roxanne about the whole thing, even though they could totally walk away with the lie.
Reception & Cultural Impact:
This movie had a real quiet fandom for a number of years- it seems a LOT of people enjoyed this film, but they were typically in small pockets of the internet. A few DeviantArt pics here and there (CLEAN ONES, even!). Shout-outs to I2I, the ultimate song. Comments about how the movie was a “Snapshot of 1990s Culture and Dress”.
It helped make Max a permanent part of the Disney Canon (showing up in numerous other shows as Goofy’s son, and even as a Head Character in the Disney Parks!).