Follow TV Tropes


Film / Big Bully

Go To

"A comedy for the kid in all of us."

A 1996 comedy-drama directed by Steve Miner, in which a writer's triumphant return to his home town turns out to have a very long string attached.

As a child, small and timid David Leary grew up in Hastings, Minnesota, where he lived in mortal fear of the school bully, Roscoe Bigger, aka "Fang." Fang loved nothing more than making David's every waking moment a physical and emotional torment. Fortunately for David, his parents moved the family to California not long after David turned the tables on Fang; Fang stole a moon rock from a museum during a field trip and David finked on him, putting Fang on the fast track to reform school.

Years later, the adult David (Rick Moranis) is a successful author, and he has been invited to teach English at the school he attended as a child. David is intrigued to discover that Victoria (Julianne Phillips), the girl he used to have a crush on, is also on the faculty (as the sex ed instructor, no less) and interested in seeing him. But David's happiness is short-lived when he meets the school's shop teacher — none other than Roscoe (Tom Arnold). Fang's stay in a juvenile home shattered his spirit, and he's been a spineless loser ever since; these days, David is the only person still afraid of him. Having someone to intimidate again does Roscoe a world of good; it restores his confidence, lifts his spirits, and even saves his marriage. But it doesn't do much for David, who can't exactly complain to the principal that Fang's picking on him again.

This film stands as Rick Moranis' last live-action theatrical film appearance to date.

This movie provides examples of:

  • Age-Appropriate Angst: David's son Ben is angry and bitter at his dad for his parents divorcing. Arguably, you might feel sorry for him... that is, if he weren't the bully at the school.
  • Bat Scare: Occurs in the climax as David flees from Roscoe through a cave.
  • Big "NO!": Executed by David when Victoria was about to drink the punch at the school dance, thinking that Roscoe urinated in it because the bully once peed in David's drink when they were kids.
  • Bully Hunter
  • Butt-Monkey: David, whether he'd be the timid 10 year old boy or his current 35 year old self.
  • Cat Smile: David briefly does this when a boy asks a question.
    Boy: So writing is kinda lying?
    David: Well, kind of! :3
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In a sense. After David turns Fang in for stealing the moon rock, he got sent to a very harsh reform school that was eventually shut down after a story on 60 Minutes. His time there was not pleasant. He mentions a cellmate who set his mother on fire for vacuuming during Lost in Space.
    Fang: And when those junior psychos asked me what I was in there for, I had to tell them I was there because I STOLE A FREAKIN' ROCK!
  • Disney Death: David appears to have killed Fang after falling off a waterfall. He later shows up at his home for one final showdown.
    David: You're alive!
    Fang: You're dead!
  • Groin Attack: David gets hit in the crotch with the see-saw by Roscoe after the former admits to tattling on the latter over the moon rock as children.
  • Firefighter Arsonist: Downplayed. As a child, Ulf was always "obsessed with explosions, or setting things on fire"; now, as an adult, he's the town's fire chief. While he's still obsessed with fire (at one point, he stares mesmerized at the flame from his lighter), he doesn't set or cause any fires.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Roscoe uses that trope to explain why he messes with David, who then tells him how it really works in real life.
    David: I'm 35 years old and I still have nightmares about the 3rd grade! That's not what friends are supposed to do for each other! A friend is supposed to make you feel good about yourself!
  • Jerkass: Ben.
  • Karma Houdini: Ben received no punishment for his earlier jerkass behavior. Even despite pulling a Heel–Face Turn later in the movie.
  • Like Father, Unlike Son: A dynamic like this exists between the two main fathers and their respective sons. David is a nerdy guy who was bullied when he was a kid. David's son is the typical 90's cool kid but a bully. Roscoe is a big guy who was once David's bully who decides to continue his antics when David returns back home as a full grown man. Roscoe's son is somewhat of a nerd and is also ironically the victim of David's son's bullying.
  • Mood Whiplash: The climax. First, it's funny, then it becomes dark. How so? When David finally stands up to Roscoe and knocks him off the log bridge, he believes that he killed him!
  • My God, What Have I Done?: David, after he believes that he killed Roscoe.
  • Oh, Crap!: David's expression on the poster.
  • Parental Abandonment: After Fang gets sent to juvenile hall, his parents skip town without a trace, leaving him to grow up in an orphanage.
  • Pyromaniac: Played for Laughs. One of David's childhood friends, who loved starting fires, grows up to be a firefighter. Who stares intently at the flame from his lighter when he lights a cigarette.
  • Red-and-White Comedy Poster: See the poster above.
  • Sadist Show: Awfully sadistic for a PG-rated comedy aimed mostly at kids.
  • Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: Roscoe in adulthood is at first a changed man, but then slips into his old persona when he realizes Dave is the new teacher.