Monday, August 14, 2023

'90s Kids Movie Club: FATHER AND SCOUT

 by Adam Riske

Arguably the best television film ever made.

Arguably the best television film ever made.

Father and Scout tells the story of Spencer Paley (played by Full House’s Bob Saget) and his son Michael Paley (played by Brian Bonsall of Family Ties fame) and their weekend camping field trip with the rest of the kids (and their fathers) from Michael’s 4th grade class. It’s been said that movies can act as wish fulfillment, that they can fill in the cracks of life experiences you never got to have for yourself. Embarrassingly enough, Father and Scout does that for me and I think at the heart of why I like this movie so much. I went on a Cub Scouts overnight with my dad once, but I was in kindergarten and barely knew what state I was living in let alone had the wherewithal to enjoy it. I never went to camp, but I always thought it seemed fun and strongly gravitated to kids’ movies and shows where camp was involved like Man of the House, Camp Nowhere, Bug Juice and Salute Your Shorts.
The great thing about Father and Scout for someone who likes the idea of camp as much as I do is you see everything in increments during the first act – the permission slip discussion, packing for the trip, driving to the meet-up, registration, the ferry ride to camp, the walk from the ferry to the campsite, going to bed, waking up, having breakfast, showering, etc., and all with that Bob Saget nebbish-sarcastic-complainer twist. It’s a complex portrayal. It’s like if Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems were in a Disney Channel movie. Saget’s on fire in Father and Scout is what I’m trying to say. The arc of the movie is really his own – he must drop his sarcasm, go with the flow, and find genuine enjoyment from a setting he bristled at from the outset. Nature baby…it cures a lot!

I mentioned just a moment ago Father and Scout feeling like a Disney Channel movie and surprisingly enough (even though it aired on ABC), the movie comes from New Line Cinema, who was known for theatrical films much more than ones made for television. According to the IMDb trivia, there was an inkling of releasing Father and Scout in theaters (which would have been a mistake, this feels very much Made for TV) on the heels of the success of Tim Allen’s launch to film from TV’s Home Improvement, but Full House’s later seasons' flagging ratings scuttled an attempted big screen bump for Bob Saget.
Saget’s really good in Father and Scout. Bonsall is fine but I’ve never really understood his acting style in movies like this one and Blank Check. It’s like he’s going for Michael J. Fox mixed with James Dean. There’s a couple of sports scenes in Father and Scout (one at a soccer game and one at a basketball game) and in both games, Bonsall gets knocked down and complains about how his ribs hurt. He’s very dramatic about it. I guess getting hit in the ribs would be unpleasant but I dunno it seems like a weird coincidence that the kid only gets rib injuries. It doesn’t ruin the movie for me and it won’t for you.

Father and Scout has an able supporting cast including a foxy as ever Heidi Swedberg (Susan from Seinfeld) as Saget’s wife/Bonsall’s mom, the invaluable Stuart Pankin as the other non-alpha dad Saget bonds with during the camping trip, and David Graf (Tackleberry from the Police Academy movies) as the aggro rival dad who likes the sanctity of these camp weekends and doesn’t have time for Saget’s one-liner bullshit. The rivalry between Saget and Graf is palpable and I see both sides until Graf escalates the situation worse than Bishop from Juice where the film climaxes with Saget, Graf, and their sons perilously dangling over a mine shaft. They could die! I didn’t expect that going into Father and Scout. This movie’s just fun. It has someone sitting in pizza, it has someone eating chips too loud while other people around them are trying to sleep, it has a Huey Lewis cover of the song “Litty Bitty Pretty One” played over a slow-mo basketball game, it has people receiving medals for heroism like it’s Star Wars or Terminal Velocity. The only thing it doesn’t have is a grizzly bear wearing a hat, which is deceptively promised on the DVD cover art. It doesn’t ruin the movie for me and it won’t for you.
My only other gripe is we get a jump cut towards the end of the movie where we go from the medal ceremony at camp back to the dining room of Saget’s house while Bonsall is telling Swedberg about the weekend. Maybe it’s just me but I would have rather seen an extra half hour of them packing up their stuff, putting it on the truck, hiking back to the ferry, taking the ferry back to drop-off, driving home, unpacking their gear, taking a quick nap, getting ready for dinner, telling Swedberg about the trip…

I want to remake this movie.


  1. I have never heard of this movie until now, but it sounds very promising! I have a Saget soft spot, and I can relate to enjoying movies where people experience things I wanted to do but never got to.

  2. Only Adam could not only be familiar w/ this movie but champion it as hard as he does. I read this charming review and had to carve out time to watch it tonight. I was highly entertained throughout. My favorite moment was the pizza wiping. It went on so long! (Real ones know) Thanks Adam!