12 Hours Left to Support a Troper-Created Project : Personal Space (discuss)

The Family for the Whole Family

"Then I drive him out to the woods. Badda bing badda bang. Three in back of the head, that's the end of Little Paulie. So what do you think Frankie says when I report back in? 'Little Paulie? Nah, I told you to pop Big Paulie!' That's the problem with our business, too many guys named Paulie."
Cicci, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ("Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang")

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. Obviously a subtrope of Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain.

See also Terrible Trio, Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters and The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything. Contrast Quirky Miniboss Squad, Harmless Villain, Bad Butt. When the bad guys at least try to shoot people but fail miserably, that's Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy.

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 
  • The Dola Gang from Castle in the Sky, moreso the sons than Dola herself
  • The Air Pirates in Porco Rosso aren't very skilled, either. Curtis was more dangerous then the whole bunch of them.
    • The pirates seem less effectual than they actually are because we only ever see them fighting Porco, who is quite possibly the most skilled ace in the Mediterranean. At the beginning of the film, the Mama Aiuto Gang manages to heist a cargo ship and take a group of schoolgirls hostage. Given, the girls proceed to walk all over them, but that illustrates their latent honorable tendencies.
  • The "Very Nice People" in Hayate the Combat Butler.
  • Surprisingly, Team Rocket is only on the border of this. Sure, the Terrible Trio are G-rated Harmless Villains, but every once in a while you're reminded that they're the oddballs of a larger and much more dangerous syndicate. In fact, Jessie, James, and Meowth are very lucky to still have their job!
    Max: All those Team Rocket guys, and us only having three to deal with? We're lucky.
  • The Oedo Family in Gokusen. The town's people loves them, the grandfather utterly loves his granddaughter, and they are ready to help anyway they can. Did I mention they are one of the most powerful yakuzas in Japan?
  • The Wong Family in Rosario + Vampire employs numerous powerful and intimidating monsters, they were founded by one of the Three Dark Lords, and they're currently headed by the most powerful Sword and Sorcerer Battle Couple around. They throw a ridiculously lavish and flamboyant welcome party when the heir brings home friends, and Inner Moka notes them to be "a noisy bunch". Overall, they're more cheerful than you'd expect.
  • Bodacious Space Pirates: They rob tourist yachts and take on bounties for odd jobs. Really, the whole "space privateer" thing has already been bogged down by the local bureaucracy, making teenage girls the perfect star-system neighborhood tax collectors... And then they kidnap a multibillionaire heiress so she can dump her hipster fiancée and get married to her girlfriend. And take down a prototype battlespace fortress.

  • UHF ultimately subverts this: the goons at first try to simply keep Stanley out of the way to sabotage the U-62 telethon, but after one pratfall too many, they get pissed off enough to decide on taking both him and George for "the long ride." The only thing that stops them from just shooting the two is a certain "SUPPLIES!!" waiting in a utility closet.
  • The Magic Kid movies, starring teen-aged fight choreographer T.J. Roberts.
  • The Mob movie spoof: Jane Austen's Mafia!
  • Harry and Marv from the first two Home Alone movies.
    Cracked 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.
    • By that same token, the bumbling spies from Home Alone 3. Bumbling burglars are believable; but the inherent stupidity of a band of highly-trained secret agents doing anything other than simply shooting the little brat between his eyes caused most viewers to pretend this installment never happened. Well, that and many, many other reasons.
    • Actually, the ends of both Harry and Marv's appearances subvert this trope. They eventually do catch the kid, and they are planning to kill him (with Cold-Blooded Torture in the first one), and they're only stopped by the intervention of an adult.
    • In fact you could argue that Harry and Marv are a subversion, as in the beginning they have no plans to harm Kevin at all, simply tie him up and get him out of the way while they empty the house. It's only after going through all of Kevin's traps that they get pissed off enough to actually kill him. It's Kevin that gets Hoist by His Own Petard.
    • They still play it straight enough by falling for said traps repeatedly.
  • The idiot kidnappers from Baby's Day Out.
  • The mafia mooks in Man Of The House.
  • Pulled off substantially better in Flushed Away: the main minions are rats, but later a frog hitman shows up, along with French ninja-frogs. It would be kind of mean except that their leader is voiced by French-Moroccan actor Jean Reno, who's clearly in on the joke.
  • 3 Ninjas; a movie series where NINJAS are effortlessly defeated by children, who realistically, would get slaughtered like helpless puppies. Particularly pathetic in the case of Tum-Tum, the youngest of the group, who looks to be about only five years old. Sure the ninjas in the films weren't exactly of the finest order (wearing black outfits in broad daylight, among other things), but still the idea that a small child can beat up legions of grown men, trained to be dangerous combatants, gets a little ridiculous really quickly. He even rated second place on 6 Supposed Action Heroes You Could Probably Take In A Fight.
    You know what happens when a 5-year-old performs a flying kick against a grown man? The kid falls on his barely- out-of-diapers ass. Why does this happen? Physics. It's the law and everyone knows you can't fight the law, especially if you weigh 30 pounds and stand 3-feet-tall.
  • The movie musical Bugsy Malone, with its rival gangs of kids whose Tommy guns fire custard instead of bullets.
  • The Rat Pack, particularly in Robin And The Seven Hoods and the original Ocean's Eleven.
  • Houseguest. The mob boss even calls them out on their stupidity...but he still gives them repeated chances to go after Franklin (instead, you know, sending in someone more competent), putting his intelligence in question as well. Unlike some of these examples though, the mobsters might be inept but their presence is what drives the plot of the movie.
  • Bushwhacked.
  • Dennis The Menace: The Movie.
  • Corky Romano plays this painfully straight. While the underlings certainly act tough (they're not), the Don swears to his son that he's never done anything serious like kidnapping or murder. Then why is the FBI so desperate to get him?
  • The sharks in Shark Tale.
  • A group of mobsters help out Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vanessa Williams in Eraser. They're a bit of a subversion in that they're fairly competent when they have to be (skillfully slaughtering their more evil counterparts), but they're still pretty stupid much of the time.
  • Some Like It Hot has "Spats" Colombo and his gang. They're briefly competent at the beginning (they supposedly commit the St. Valentine's Day Massacre), and then spend the rest of the movie being completely ineffectual until they're eventually killed by rival gangsters (who themselves are stupid enough to do this by having another gangster with a tommygun jump out of a giant cake in a crowded hotel in a room where all the gangsters are meeting) near the end.

  • 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. The only time they stand up to him is when he makes the mistake of insulting their beloved pickled herring.
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 

  • 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.
  • Sugar is essentially the musical version of Some Like It Hot. "Spats" Palazzo is no more effectual post-Massacre than "Spats" Colombo was. Hilariously, he and his gang do a tap dance while chanting "We're gonna tear this whole damn town apart" (looking for the escaped witnesses), which just hangs a lampshade on how credible of a threat they're going to be.

    Video Games 
  • The Pianta Syndicate from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. The game never confirms or denies if they do any family-unfriendly crimes behind the black, instead focussing on the godfather's daughter and her boyfriend as they try to go on wacky vacations.
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
    • The Goodfeathers are a pigeon version of this, as well.
  • 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. They are shown dumping a dead body (wrapped in a length of carpet) into a trash bin in a 1999 episode, so they clearly are able to commit murder when necessary.
    • The Robot Mafia plays this up. The mafia is only three robotsnote . 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 (it's clear they didn't even intend it to kill him, as they say "Consider that a warning"). 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. Of the three, Clamps is probably the most violent, but generally he's restrained by the Donbot (or, sometimes, by Joey Mousepad) from carrying through.
  • 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.
  • Boo Boo the ghost on Ruby Gloom is part of a ghost mafia where he tries in vain to scare others.
  • The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series featured a group of gangsters who torture their victims by tickling them with a feather.
  • In Jackie Chan Adventures, the heroes often fight the Enforcers, a bunch of hired goons who worked for a gang called the Dark Hand. However they are very woefully incompetent criminals, usually treated as recurring joke villains instead of actual threats. The Dark Hand Enforcers never even use any guns in combat (Finn did own a pistol at one point, but he never gets the chance to fire it).