The Family for the Whole Family
"This is one Hollywood lesson that's legitimately dangerous. Real crooks show up pissed off, desperate and with weapons. And, even strung out on meth, they're not stupid enough to be foiled by quickly scampering under coffee tables (even crackheads are known to negotiate simple obstacles). The real world has a term for kids who try to use Micro Machines to outsmart bad guys during a robbery: missing and presumed dead."
What do you do when you need some big, tough guys to menace the heroes, but don't want to risk having them actually, you know, hurt
anybody? You call in The Family For The Whole Family. They're not the scary, make-it-look-like-an-accident mobsters seen in Mafia
movies; they're the harmless
, ineffectual, and very, very stupid mobsters
that are a staple of family-oriented comedies. No matter how many of them are in their group, you can be sure of two things: there will only be one shared gun among them all, and they'll always forget that there's a trigger on it when they want to threaten someone.
Despite the name, this brand of goon doesn't necessarily have to be a member of The Mafia
. They can be from any group who is normally considered dangerous by definition
(i.e. gangsters, thieves, spies, hitmen, Yakuza
, escaped criminals, et al), but when appearing in the context of a PG-rated film becomes highly susceptible to messy booby traps, banana peels
, and precocious youngsters who know karate
In the 1990s, it was popular to add these characters to Dom Com
movies to pad the script with villains for a Home Alone
-inspired climax. (John Hughes
, who wrote the script for Home Alone
and a few of the other examples on this page, loved
this trope.) Just to drive home the point of them being totally superfluous to the point of the movie, they are totally absent from most trailers and summaries of the film - only existing for some B-plot slapstick gags to add an extra 20 minutes on to what would otherwise be only 1 hour of screentime.
As the above quote from Cracked.com states, this is a Family-Unfriendly Aesop
See also Terrible Trio
, Neighbourhood Friendly Gangsters
, Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain
and The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything
. Contrast Quirky Miniboss Squad
, Harmless Villain
, Bad Butt
Keep in mind that this trope is not "Villains who are not very evil." This trope concerns villains who are willing to commit heinous crimes, but are simply incapable of doing so because of their incompetence.
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Anime & Manga
- Guys and Dolls has Big Jule from Chicago. Although he carries a gun, he only uses its existence to threaten people and is easily disarmed with one punch.
- Mike Nelson's novel Death Rat! features several expatriate Danes observing the protagonist. Their ineptitude stems mostly from the fact that they aren't really even bad guys; they're just old associates of the antagonist who had been browbeaten into assisting him.
- While not as inept as other examples, the Mob in the Myth Adventures novels is bizarrely gullible, falling for even more elementary con games than the series' average villains.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe is famous for its lovable villains, but there are a few villains—and heroes— of this sort:
- The Diversity Alliance, a human-hating Marxist group in Young Jedi Knights. Being a children's book, yeah.
- The Lost Tribe of the Sith, who don't seem as dark as Bane's Sith, Kun's Sith, or Lumiya's Sith. That said, they have plans to use Ben's DNA to create a master race of Sith.
- Finally, Abeloth. Relative to Eldritch Abominations in other literature, Abeloth is relatively tame. Also relative to three previous series, she's definitely Lighter and Softer. Though that says a lot about just how dark those prior stories were that an insane, murderous Eldritch Abomination was a Lighter and Softer villain.
- Most of the plot of the stage musical Kiss Me Kate is driven by a pair of humourously ignorant gangsters, although they have a few Black Comedy moments as well, such as when they reminisce about dumping people in the Potomac.
- Likewise, Guys and Dolls has Big Jule from Chicago. Although he carries a gun, he only uses its existence to threaten people and is easily disarmed with one punch.
- The concept is lampshaded in The Drowsy Chaperone.
- Moonface Martin in Anything Goes is a perfectly harmless gangster who genuinely tries to help the hero and also smuggles a tommy gun on board... just in case.
- The Pianta Syndicate from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.
- The Animal Crossing games have Sonny Resetti, a mole who blows up at players who shut down without saving, but never does anything to them. Which is good, because you'll see him even if the game froze and you couldn't save.
- Probably more related to this trope would be "Crazy Redd", a fox who runs a furniture black market. Complete with needing a password to get in, police on the watch for him, and the occasional painting bought from him being a forgery. However, most of this is played for laughs, and if you have good insurance, you'll get refunded (at least some) for the phony paintings.
- Tom Nook, THE resident mobster. Redd is just a crook, but Nook brings his nephews into the mix.
- The Plob from Dragon Quest Heroes Rocket Slime
- Almost all of the Grunts of various teams from Pokémon. They never truly pose a threat past Poisoning all of your Pokémon to a knockout with their Goddamn Zubat. Once you get to the Commanders, Admins, and Leaders, though...
- In the games, Giovanni of Team Rocket is just plain bad. The first two times you run into him, he threatens that he will make you "experience a world of pain!" Yeah, that guy threatens an eleven year old with physical violence.
- Averted in Pokémon Colosseum and Pokemon XD; while various members of Cipher could be goofy, the entire organization, even the low-level flunkies, was treated as incredibly dangerous—silly goons were the exception, not the rule.
- In Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, the mafia is actually referred to as "The Family". However, the only run-ins you have with them are solving puzzles. There's even a Lampshade Hanging that they're not allowed to hurt you.
- The Mafia of Cooks from A Hat In Time do seem to rob people and drive non-Mafia restaurants out of business, but they also do things like punch barrels dressed as old ladies to scare people.
- There was a short on Animaniacs in which Yakko, Wakko, and Dot completely humiliated a Godfather-esque mafia boss who tried to kick them out of "his" table at a small Italian restaurant. The Don was actually played fairly straight, but was totally Genre Blind to the fact that he was up against a group of Cartoon Tricksters who didn't care who he was and had the ability to violate the usual laws of reality in order to Break the Haughty.
- Many episodes of The Flintstones.
- The Mafia's appearances are mostly played for laughs on The Simpsons, as is the Robot Mafia on Futurama.
- The Simpsons mafia can be consider something of a subversion, as some of the stuff they do is ridiculous and played for laughs, and other stuff is actually violent or highly illegal (like making loans and beating people when they can't pay them, or rigging sports events) yet it's also played for laughs.
- The robot Mafia plays this up. The mafia is only three robots. They act tough, but so far they haven't killed anybody onscreen. They machine gunned a robot who owed them in their first appearance, but being a robot, he just got back up. One of them mentions giving somebody Cement Shoes, which he enjoyed, because they were lighter than his lead ones. They came pretty close to burning the Planet Express crew up though, and they would have killed Flexo if Bender hadn't bent the unbendable girder they dropped on him.
- Big Daddy's organization in The Fairly Oddparents acts like your typical gangster family, with Big Daddy himself even voiced by Tony Sirocio, but they work in garbage collection.
- Yes...garbage collecting.
- Subsequent episodes (as well as the premiere) show that yes, Big Daddy's company does do actual garbage collecting, just...with mob-like tactics and some gangster work on the side.
- Luigi Vendetta, the opera-singing juvenile Canadian Mafia boss Kick sends to exact revenge on his brother Brad in Kick Buttowski.
- The Crooks in COPS are supposed to be a mafia organization, but since stealing is basically the only crime you're really even allowed to show on a kid's cartoon, they spend most of their time (unsuccessfully) robbing and burglarizing rather than racketeering and legbreaking.