Cinema’s 10 Worst Animal Sidekicks, Ranked
The bond between man and beast is a profound one — and, like most things that are deep and touching in the real world, the magic of that bond has been splashed up on the big screen since the dawn of cinema itself (no, really, one of the first bits of known film featured a pair of kittens boxing with the help of an attentive human handler, as filmed by Thomas Edison himself). The appeal of putting humans and animals together for maximum dramatic potential, comedic hijinks, and a healthy dose of “aww, so cute” can’t be denied, but that doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea.
Practically speaking, hooking up with an animal sidekick is serious business — and it can have some pretty dire consequences, especially when life, death, and taxes hang in the balance (these are, of course, the three most common threads of all animal-centric movies). Cute, cuddly, and often totally deadly, even cinema’s most adorable animal sidekicks are rarely worth the trouble — or the price of keeping them in kibble and bits.
10. Charley, ‘The Million Dollar Duck’
Traditionally speaking, the world’s most popular poultry are of the chicken variety, and if you’re looking to make money from your beloved be-feathered pet, they’re really your go-to option (eggs, wings, breasts, oh my!). A somewhat offbeat choice? A duck! Really want to mix things up? Why not get a radiation-saturated duck that lays eggs with golden yolks? Sure, they’re not easy to find, and it may seem worrisome to bring an accidental lab experiment into your home for your loved ones to lavish with attention, but this thing can pay for itself in no time.
However, if the 1971 Walt Disney family-friendly feature ‘The Million Dollar Duck’ taught us anything, it’s that even the most profitable and loving duck, like superstar Charley, can cause big trouble. Really, like trouble with the United States Treasury. No pet is worth the tax hassles!
9. Theodore “Teddy” Rex, ‘Theodore Rex’
Words that no one has ever said: “I want to be a police officer so that I can work with a wise-cracking dinosaur partner and solve the murders of other prehistoric animals that are somehow alive in the present day.” That didn’t stop Jonathan Betuel from making the 1995 super-disaster ‘Theodore Rex,’ which saw Whoopi Goldberg as a put-upon cop saddled with a T. rex partner, charmingly named Teddy. Although the idea of a crime-fighting, relatively human-sized dinosaur sure sounds fun, it’s also a quick way to make a notoriously panned Hollywood flop and basically destroy the (respect of the) world’s dinosaur population…again.
Another unfortunate trait of all future fake T. rex policemen? They sound like George Newbern. Yes, the groom from the ‘Father of the Bride’ movies. This is not a sidekick that anyone needs, even if he sports awesome sneakers and comes complete with his own catchy theme song.
8. Charlotte, ‘Charlotte’s Web’
The entire point of spiders as pets and/or sidekicks is that they have a tortuously short lifespan. We’re talking a year, max. If you like a hefty dose of personal pain with your animal affection, by all means, get a spider. Watch that spider learn how to read and write. Let them bring together your entire farmyard. Allow them to charm the surrounding human population.
Endure their tragic, gut-wrenching death. “Some Pig,” Charlotte? Some Spider. (Sniff sniff sniff.)
7. 101 Dalmatians, ‘101 Dalmatians’
It’s just too many Dalmatians.
6. Geese, ‘Fly Away Home’
Do you feel as if your animals are your children? Do you find yourself overly attached to your favorite animal sidekicks? By all means, stay away from geese. The takeaway from Carroll Ballard’s 1996 family drama is that, yes, baby geese will imprint on cute kids and then ruin their lives because they require an actual aircraft to learn how to fly.
5. Guinea pigs, ‘G-Force’
Most rodents – mice, Guinea pigs, hamsters – make excellent pets for kids. They’re small, relatively easy to care for, cuddly, and they don’t live so long that when little Timmy or Susie head off to college, Mom and Pop are stuck with the little nibblers. You don’t need to change the basic make-up of the rodent. For instance, you don’t need to turn your sweet little rodent into a government operative with unlimited access to weapons and slightly violent gadgets.
No one told that to the creative team behind ‘G-Force,’ and the 2009 action comedy relies on the apparent humor of crime-fighting Guinea pig super-spies for all its laughs and narrative momentum. Why can’t they just have a little carrot and a wee spin in their tiny wheel? Isn’t that enough?
4. Mighty Joe Young, ‘Mighty Joe Young’
Although the idea of adopting an orphaned young gorilla right out of the wilds of Africa is certainly appealing – especially if that gorilla helps you get over the death of your own mother – the logistics of gorilla care are pretty formidable. Why not compound that with a gorilla that, through a genetic anomaly, is nearly seventeen-feet tall? Where could you possibly take this gorilla? What do you feed this gorilla? How do you find a suitable lady gorilla for this gorilla? What happens when this gorilla is chased by a madman bent on revenge? It’s just too much to feasibly plan for.
3. Willy, ‘Free Willy’
Only slightly more unwieldy than a giant gorilla with a price on his head, there’s Willy, an Orca trapped in captivity with kind of an attitude problem. He’s “surly.” No one wants a surly cat, let alone a surly apex killer that weighs about six tons. And yet, there’s an unmistakable charm to Willy, especially when it comes to his taste in music (Michael Jackson) and his love of leaping over things (including his beloved best pal, which sounds, frankly, pretty dangerous). However, he’s a terrible pet, simply because you can’t keep him in your home, and he’s a terrible sidekick, because the only thing he really wants is to swim in the wild.
2. Toothless, ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ series
Dragons are, by and large, hard to keep and train, not only because of their size, tremendous power, and (rumored) fire-breathing tendencies, but because their fictional nature makes them nearly impossible to fully understand. The truth about the mythological beasts – which, again, don’t actually exist in nature – has long been clouded by misinformation (can they fly? Do they really breathe fire? Is it possible to morph into one? Is adult contemporary really their favorite musical genre?), the kind that makes feasibly capturing and caring for them sound highly unlikely.
Even in big-screen best-case scenarios, dragon ownership requires whole towns to adapt their lifestyles to the whims and needs of their winged pals. In Dean DeBlois’ ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2,’ the village of Berk has configured itself to ensure the happiness of their dragon friends, including the installation of a brand new dragon stable. Sure, they’re adorable and good for travel and defense, but they’re also prone to abandoning their loving nature in service to the nefarious Alpha dragons – and occasionally committing horrifying, heinous crimes, like the (seeming) darling Toothless. Do you have enough room for these beasts in your village? Probably not.
1. Richard Parker, ‘Life of Pi’
It’s like a bad riddle – “did you hear the one about the boy and the tiger, stranded in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean?” – and one that can only end in either total carnage or the reveal of some serious mental trickery. The basic plot of Ang Lee’s 2012 film (an adaptation of the beloved Yann Martel book of the same name) is essentially one big lesson in just how bad the very worst of cinema’s animal sidekicks have to offer – shipwrecked and orphaned young Pi has to contend with a boat full of animals trying to kill each other, is eventually stuck with the really ungrateful tiger Richard Parker (awesome animal name, though), and has to figure out a way to keep both himself and the tiger alive.
What happens after they reach land? That jerk Richard Parker saunters off into the jungle without even a glance back at Pi. What’s worse than a murderous tiger? An ungrateful murderous tiger. Even worse than that? A totally imaginary ungrateful murderous tiger. Richard Parker doesn’t even really exist, and he still manages to be the most terrifically awful animal sidekick around. Nice work, stripes.