Today is my Grandad’s birthday, happy birthday Grandad! If he knew what the Internet was, he still probably wouldn’t be reading this, but in tribute let’s have a look at the greatest Grandad’s on film (spoiler alert).
5. Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
On the surface, Joe seems to be a pretty decent grandparent – he never loses faith in Charlie and accompanies him to the chocolate factory upon his grandson’s finding of the last golden ticket, but there are many reasons why he isn’t higher on this list. Firstly, he’s been in bed, unmoving, with Charlie’s other three grandparents, for many years, complaining of a medical condition preventing him from working, whilst his daughter (or daughter-in-law, I’m not sure) slaves away all day, every day to provide for the entire family. Secondly, his undying faith that Charlie was going to win a ticket is only acceptable because Charlie did in fact win. The entire first half of the film depicts the chances of Charlie finding a ticket as so remote, that it’s nothing short of an astronomical miracle that he finds one. Had he not, it’s likely that his hopes had been built up so high, mainly because of his grandfather, that it’d be surprising if he didn’t end up with some kind of a complex. Thirdly, Joe’s antics within the factory almost cost Charlie and his family the life of their dreams when he coaxes Charlie into drinking the Fizzy Lifting Drink (not to mention threatening what little life he already had with that giant fan). All that being said, as a grandfather he isn’t too bad, and does seem to be a lovely man.
4. Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman), The Royal Tenenbaums
Being a grood grandfather doesn’t necessarily mean being a great person, something Royal here is in no danger of being accused of, seeing as he fakes a bout of stomach cancer in an effort to win back the affections of his separated wife (Angelica Huston) and three children (Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow & Luke Wilson) all of whom he screwed up as much as possible in their youth. But Royal is nothing but devoted to his grandsons Ari and Uzi, whom he frees from their overprotective father (Stiller) and takes on several adventures, including go-karting. Oh, and later he saves their lives from a car crashing into their house. Not too shabby really.
3. Don Vito Corleone, (Marlon Brando), The Godfather
Vito was devoted to his family, and always made time for his grandkids, he just happened to be an accomplished and ruthless mob boss and committer of many numerous crimes. But, even after surviving two assassination attempts and recovering from being shot, he stares death in the face to play a game of hide and seek with the little ones. Nothing shows devotion like being willing to sacrifice your life for a few minutes of pleasure.
2. Edwin Hoover (Alan Arkin), Little Miss Sunshine
Another one of those good grandfathers that aren’t necessarily the best people in the world, Edwin is a foul-mouthed heroine addict kicked out of his nursing home for drug abuse (“When you’re old, you’re crazy not to do it”) and finds himself lumbered with his failed motivational speaker son Richard (Greg Kinnear), his put upon wife Sheryl (Toni Collette) and her gay suicidal brother Frank (Steve Carell), but it’s Edwin’s relationships with the children of the group, the silent Dwayne (Paul Dano) and little Olive (Abigail Breslin) that are most amusing and heartwarming. He advises the 15-year old Dwayne to sleep with other “jailbait” before it becomes illegal, and is the only one to spend time with Olive, training her for the upcoming Little Miss Sunshine competition to which they are all heading. Yes, he’s the very definition of cantankerous, but who hasn’t had to roll their eyes or look down at their feet when their grandparent tells his daughter-in-law’s homosexual brother to go buy himself “a fag rag”?
1. The Grandfather (Peter Falk), The Princess Bride
It’s not a big role, but as the narrator of this wonderful film, Peter Falk’s Grandfather is exactly the kind of Grandad every child needs when they’re ill. He takes the time to come visit his grandson (Fred Savage) and expand his horizons with a story that, although at first the kid adamantly does not want to hear, Grandpa knows that by the end he’ll love it. My Grandad is proud of the knowledge that he’s never read a book in his life, so alas this experience has never happened to me, plus he lives on the Isle of Wight so was never accessible for a pop-round-storytelling-session, but hey, he let me drive a lawnmower through a greenhouse when I was 10, so it’s swings and roundabouts. Anyway, Falk is the perfect movie Grandad, and in the space of one story teaches his Grandson to listen, not judge a book by it’s cover, and keeps him thoroughly entertained with a book I wish I’d read as a child.
Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood), Gran Torino
Carter (Morgan Freeman), The Bucket List
Park Hie-bong (Hie-bong Byeon), The Host
Bart Trinke (George Carlin), Jersey Girl
Henry Jones (Sean Connery), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (OK, he doesn’t know he’s a Grandad in this film, and dies before he ever does, but had he known he’d have been great.)
An the worst…
John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), Jurassic Park
This was a tough one, and up until the last minute he was my number one, but John Hammond is a truly terrible grandfather. You’d think he’d be perfect; he’s got the twinkly eyes, cuddly face and fluffy beard, as well as that childish glee when discovering new things, plus, what child wouldn’t want an amusement park full of dinosaurs? Like, actual, full on dinosaurs to play with and feed goats to? That’s so much more than a dream come true. But, and here’s the thing, Hammond knows that dinosaurs are dangerous – the park is full of electric fences, gates and whatnot to stop them escaping – but the first test subjects he sends in to try out the park are his own grandkids, and he doesn’t even go with them, or send any protection other than three scientists and a lawyer! How much of a fight is he expecting them to put up? Plus, his company background checks aren’t good enough to wheedle out Nedry as being an opportunistic bastard, and he manages to unwittingly send another child to a different dinosaur infested island, this time without any fences at all, in The Lost World.