Apparently, grumpy old men are the new action hero.

Watching Gran Torino and UP fairly close together is a truly weird movie combination. My family and I went to the theater last night and caught the latest Disney/Pixar flick, after spending the day at the funeral, graveside service, and funeral meal for our friend’s quirky, often-sarcastic and usually hilarious mom.

So yeah, it ended up being an odd choice of movie. But we really weren’t interested in seeing another bad Eddie Murphy “family” movie, which was our other option. On the whole, it was a good idea–the kids loved it, and by the end, even Chris and I were having a good time.

But–the last movie Chris and I had watched just a couple days earlier was Eastwood’s Gran Torino. And let me tell you, those two movies make for one seriously odd double-feature.

Gran Torino – Begins with the main character, a grumpy geriatric Clint Eastwood, at his beloved wife’s funeral.
UP – After a short sequence showing how they met and fell in love, begins with a grumpy geriatric character voice by Ed Asner, shortly after his beloved wife’s death.

Gran Torino – Fatherless Asian kids next door gradually win him over and coax him into participating in life again.
UP – Asian kid on a quest to get his last Wilderness Explorer badge (so his dad will show up for the ceremony) gradually wins him over and coaxes him into participating in life again.

Gran Torino – Perilous situations ensue because of generally bad, self-centered bullies.
UP – Ditto.

Gran Torino – In the end bad guys are neutralized by a selfless act of sacrifice on the part of the main character.
UP – Ditto.

Aside from the obscenities, constant racial epithets, graphic violence, and whether the hero and/or villain survives to the end, they’re basically the same movie. ETA: I forgot another difference: whether the dog is a yellow lab or a golden retriever who can talk.

Also, so close to Father’s Day, I thought that both movies dealt with the issue of fatherlessness in an interesting way. Both movies explored the effect of fatherlessness on both the kids and the men in question. Eastwood’s Walt has sons with whom he has no real relationship. When he finally confesses to the priest, his biggest regret is that he never really connected with his own kids. UP implies in the opening montage that Carl and his wife Ellie were childless for medical reasons.

As you watch both characters become surrogate fathers, you realize (along with them, I think) the effect of missing out on being a dad. Our modern day myths and stories often focus on fatherless children. And childlessness is often discussed in the context of women’s issues. It’s rare that you see attention drawn to what it means to be a childless man.

Being a dad, it turns out, is as spiritually formative for the dad as it is for the kid.

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