A GOOFY MOVIE (1995)

  • Director: Kevin Lima
  • Writers: Story by Jymn Magon, Screenplay by Jymn Magon, Chris Matheson, and Bruce Pimental, based on the TV Series Goof Troop, created by Robert Taylor and Michael Peraza, Jr.
  • Starring: Bill Farmer, Jason Marsden, Kellie Martin, Jim Cummings, Rob Paulsen, Pauly Shore, Wallace Shawn, and Jenna von Oy
  • Where to Watch: Free Streaming with subscription to Disney Plus, buy or rent with Amazon Video or YouTube

The first paragraph of the Wikipedia page for A Goofy Movie says that, upon its release in 1995, it “received mixed reviews,” and its release “was seen by Disney as solely a contractual obligation,” but that in the years since it has “garnered a cult following, particularly among millennials.” I would say that this is likely accurate, based solely on anecdotal evidence from various millennials I know. This includes my wife, whose idea it was that we watch this movie. I recall either seeing this movie in a theater or watching it immediately after its release on home video, and thinking it was fine. Watching the movie this time, I recalled various bits like the weird techie friend obsessed with cheez-wiz and voiced by Pauly Shore, but I again found that it sort of failed to make much of an impression. The next morning, I tried to remember any of the songs, and just couldn’t at all.

A Goofy Movie’s longevity is partly a result of nostalgia, sure, but also because it tells a fairly universal story of the disconnect between two generations of parent and child. Goofy (voiced by Bill Farmer) is doing his best to raise his teenage son, Max (Jason Marsden), but the two of them can’t seem to connect on anything or communicate. Max is solely worried about catching the eye of a girl at school, Roxanne (Kellie Martin), and is deeply embarrassed by all of Goofy’s cartoon antics. Goofy does not pick up on Max’s social cues and, after the school’s disciplinarian principal (Wallace Shawn) yells at Goofy that Max is headed for the electric chair (this strikes me as an extremely dark moment for a Disney cartoon) , decides the best thing to do is take him on a weeks-long road trip to go fishing in Idaho. Hijinks ensue. Quick note here, not only is Max’s mother never mentioned, no mothers are ever mentioned in this movie. I’m not sure mothers exist in this cartoon universe. Anyway, the movie thus succeeds on levels that you might not expect from a “contractual obligation” based on characters from original Disney shorts… i.e. as a tearjerker for people with unresolved issues with their dads. This is a movie where Goofy finds out his son is lying to him, gets depressed, and curls up on a hotel room bed in the fetal position.

The movie is based on a semi-successful after school cartoon series from the early 1990s Disney Channel, Goof Troop. Most of the voice cast returned from that series, as well. Disney Studios Chief Jeffrey Katzenberg was very involved in the movie, and even suggested the basic plotline after he went on a road trip that he said improved his relationship with his estranged daughter. But near the end of production, Katzenberg was fired, and his successors weren’t particularly interested in his movie. The movie was seen as an afterthought compared to “main” Disney releases like The Lion King, which is what they were making at the primary Disney animation studio at this point.

Like the “main” Disney movies of its era, A Goofy Movie is a musical, with the characters bursting into song a handful of times over its running time. However, while those movies tended to be more influenced by classic musicals, this one feels more ensconced in whatever was going on in pop music at the time. Large swathes of the plot center around a “rock star” named Powerline, who is clearly heavily influenced by Michael Jackson and Prince. We hear more than one of his songs pretty much in its entirety, and if you told me they were Prince tracks from albums I hadn’t checked out before, I’d probably believe you. In reality, they were performed by a 17-year-old R&B star named Tevin Campbell. In early example of motion capture technology, Campbell apparently performed all of Powerline’s songs in front of a green screen, which the animators then used to create the final drawings. 

The problems I have with A Goofy Movie are generally my problems, not the movie’s. Max is a relentlessly sullen spoilsport, who completely fails for most of the movie to communicate with his father or meet him halfway, even though Goofy is never doing anything but trying his best. I am informed that this is “because he’s a teenager.” I get this, there is a reason that I don’t spend huge amounts of my time hanging out with teenagers. But the thing is, Max is our point of view character here. Despite the title, Max gets a lot more screen-time than his dad. There is no Goofy equivalent of the long Act I bit where Max does an elaborate, nonsensical karaoke performance in front of his classmates. So, on a basic level, I’m supposed to be rooting for, at least identifying with, Max here. This doesn’t work very well for me when Max is just an unrelentingly terrible person for the first two-thirds of the movie.

I also understand that the arc of this movie is built around Max and Goofy’s failure to communicate. It’s very clear that the instigating event of Act III, in screenwriting terms, is Max and his Dad finally having a real conversation. So the fact that the movie’s plot is entirely driven by a lack of communication between two dudes is, again, not a flaw in this movie. But I have grown weary of lack of communication between grown humans as a plot device over the years. I watched one too many seasons of Supernatural, I guess. Few things make me want to grab characters on a screen and shake some sense into them more than those characters keeping secrets from each other for no reason. Which, again, is the entire plot driver of this movie. So you could say that I am not among the “cult following” of A Goofy Movie. Sorry guys.

It is also worth mentioning that this movie marks the directing debut of Kevin Lima, who had mid-level credits on movies like The Brave Little Toaster, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, for the last of which he received a writing credit. After he cut his teeth on this movie, Disney allowed him to helm their 1999 tentpole release, Tarzan. His other directing credits include 102 Dalmatians and Enchanted. He has spent the thirteen years since Enchanted on various projects that did not turn into finished movies, including five years on the never-finished Monkeys of Mumbai, a “Bollywood-style musical version of the Ramayana from the point of view of the monkeys.” It sounds like one of the made-up movies Dustin Hoffman’s Wag the Dog producer character keeps referring to. I would also be remiss if I left without mentioning this movie’s very ridiculous direct-to-video sequel, An Extremely Goofy Movie, in which Max goes to college and he and Goofy compete against each other in skateboarding at the X-Games. It’s easy to watch by mistake on Disney Plus… don’t do that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: