Normally pairing an adult with a child to create a protagonal (I may have just made that word up) duo spells a cinematic groin kick for the audience. Curly Sue. Cop and a Half. Over the Top. The list goes on. But sometimes things work out differently and that groin kick turns into a cinematic groin massage. Here is a quick list of ten excellent adult/child movie duos. Feel free to chime in with other examples, both good and bad!
The Film: The Bicycle Thief (or Bicycle Thieves) (1948)
The Adult: Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani), a downtrodden laborer.
The Child: Bruno (Enzo Staiola), Aontonio’s son.
Nature of Duo: Bruno is helping his father look for a stolen bicycle, while inadvertently shaming his father by bearing witness to his desperation.
Killer Moment: When Antonio decides to fuck it all and treats the two of them to a meal of wine and cheese bread that they can’t afford.
The Film: City of Lost Children (1995)
The Adult: One (Ron Perlman), a sideshow strong man.
The Child: Miette (Judith Vittet), an orphaned street thief.
Nature of Duo: Miette is helping One find his little brother, who has been kidnapped for use in a bizarre dream-stealing experiment.
Killer Moment: When One, under mind-control, starts choking Miette. Then a single tear from the girl sets off a Rube Goldbergian chain of events that saves them both.
The Film: Honkytonk Man (1982)
The Adult: Red Stovall (Clint Eastwood), a struggling country singer with tuberculosis.
The Child: Whit (Eastwood’s son, Kyle), Red’s nephew.
Nature of Duo: Whit is accompanying Red to Nashville, where Red is being given the biggest shot of his career.
Killer Moment: The heartbreaking scene where Whit watches Red struggle to hold back his coughs and keep it together long enough to record the song he hopes to be his legacy.
The Film: Kick Ass (2010)
The Adult: Damon Macready/Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), a single father driven to vigilantism.
The Child: Mindy Macready/Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), Damon’s daughter.
Nature of Duo: Trying to take down organized crime as a super hero duo.
Killer Moment: Mindy’s birthday, which begins with a father-daughter high five and ends with her receiving weapons. Aww.
[Big Daddy and Hit-Girl are not the leads of Kick Ass, but considering that they’re the best part of the film, I think their inclusion here is natural.]
The Film: The Professional (aka Leon) (1994)
The Adult: Leon (Jean Reno), a simple-minded hitman, or “cleaner.”
The Child: Mathilda (Natalie Portman), Leon’s neighbor, who is orphaned when corrupt DEA agents murder her family.
Nature of Duo: Mathilda wants Leon to train her to be a cleaner. He does.
Killer Moment: When Mathilda proves she’s got what it takes to be a cleaner by haphazardly firing Leon’s gun out the window.
The Film: Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972)
The Adult: Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama), a disgraced former executioner.
The Child: Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa), Ogami Itto’s infant son.
Nature of Duo: Ogami Itto is an assassin for hire, Daigoro rides in a crib.
Killer Moment: With father and son wearing matching white robes, Ogami Itto fights off a room full of adversaries while clutching Daigoro in his arms.
The Film: Paper Moon (1973)
The Adult: Moses Pray (Ryan O’Neal), a traveling conman.
The Child: Addie Loggins (O’Neal’s daughter Tatum), the orphaned daughter of a prostitute. She is potentially Moses’ child.
Nature of Duo: The two scam recently widowed women into buying inscribed bibles.
Killer Moment: When, over a meal of a Nehi and a Coney Island, Addie demands the $200 Moses conned out of a man as payment for taking her.
The Film: Sling Blade (1996)
The Adult: Karl Childers (Billy Bob Thorton), a mentally challenged murderer.
The Child: Frank Wheatley (Lucas Black), who lives with his single mother.
Nature of Duo: Frank offers Karl friendship, Karl offers him the closest thing he has to a respectable father figure.
Killer Moment: When Karl says goodbye to Frank, before Frank (or the audience) knows the exact nature of Karl’s planned exit from the town.
The Film: There Will Be Blood (2007)
The Adult: Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), an oil man.
The Child: H.W. (Dillon Freasier), his adopted son.
Nature of Duo: Daniel pretends that H.W. is his son and business “partner” to improve his image.
Killer Moment: When H.W. loses his hearing in a rig accident.
The Film: Up (2009)
The Adult: Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner), a widower.
The Child: Russell (Jordan Nagai), an over-achieving boy scout.
Nature of Duo: Russell is trying to help Carl place his floating house next to an Amazonian waterfall to earn a merit badge for assisting the elderly.
Killer Moment: When Carl presents Russell with his final merit badge.