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Curly Sue is a 1991 comedy film written and directed by John Hughes; his final film as a director.
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Bill (James Belushi) and Curly Sue (Alisan Porter) are a father-and-daughter team of con artists, who are taken in by lawyer Grey Ellison (Kelly Lynch) after she accidentally hits Bill with her car.


This film provides examples of:

  • Award-Bait Song: "You Never Know" by Ringo Starr.
  • Bastard Boyfriend: Grey's boyfriend Walker. He is rude to both Bill and Curly Sue and looks down on them for being homeless. When he finds out about Bill and Curly Sue being con artists and that Bill isn't Curly Sue's father he calls the police and has Bill arrested and Curly Sue placed in foster care just to get Bill away from Grey.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: When Grey asks Curly Sue why she calls her father Bill, Sue initially explains: "Well...If I'm in a crowded place and I yell...'Dad!' 50 guys would turn around. If I yell 'Bill!' maybe two will turn around. It's a timesaver, really." It's later revealed that Bill is not actually Sue's father.
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  • Character Title
  • Cute Bruiser: Curly Sue may be a small child but is capable of defending herself as shown when she hurt two grown men through the movie.
  • Department of Child Disservices: The social worker who apprehends Curly Sue gives the impression of being cold and methodical, bluntly telling Grey that it's "irrelevant" that she loves Curly Sue, as opposed to the destitute but fatherly Bill; the home she is placed in appears to be a similarly cold, emotionless place and they also cut Sue's hair there.
  • Disappeared Dad: Curly Sue's biological father is never seen nor mentioned.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After dumping her selfish boyfriend, Grey bails Bill out of jail and manages to get custody of Curly Sue. Bill recovers Sue's mother's ring and decides to stay with Curly Sue even after she is finally given a proper home. Grey and Bill start a relationship and Curly Sue is finally able to go to school and have a normal, happy childhood.
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  • Everyone Has Standards: Bill scams people for a living but disapproves of stealing money and forbids Curly Sue from doing so.
  • Family Versus Career: A question facing Grey.
  • Flopsy: Bill tries to pull this on Grey, with Curly Sue playing the concerned bystander ("You've killed him!"). Then Grey accidentally hits him for real ("Now you've really killed him!").
  • Happily Adopted: Grey manages to get custody of Curly Sue and her and Bill officially become Curly Sue's adoptive parents.
  • Hereditary Hairstyle: Curly Sue's mother had thick curly hair just like her daughter.
  • I Choose to Stay: According to Curly Sue, Bill's plan was to find her a foster family and leave but Bill, having grown to love Sue as his own child, decides to stay with her.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: All in fairness Walker is right in that it is dangerous for Grey to invite homeless people she doesn't even know into her home.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: A restaurant host has a chef literally throw Bill out of the restaurant early in the movie due to his unkept appearance. Later, Bill, now clean and well dressed returns with Grey and Sue to the restaurant, where the host apologizes to him and Bill gets a chance to get back at him by punching him in the face twice.
  • Like a Son to Me: Bill loves Curly Sue as if she were his own biological daughter.
  • Little Miss Badass: Curly Sue is very tough and brave despite all the hardships she and Bill went through. She only loses her composture when she is taken to a foster home and when she believes Bill is going to leave her with Grey.
  • Little Miss Con Artist: Curly Sue.
  • Mama Bear: Immediately after Grey takes in Bill and Curly Sue she takes it upon herself to take care of Sue, making sure she is fed, clean and clothed. Grey at one point tells Bill to leave Sue with her to make sure she is well taken care of (he doesn't).
  • Missing Mom: Curly Sue's mother passed away when Curly Sue was still a baby.
  • Odd Name Out: Curly Sue told Grey that she wanted to have seven kids and would name them Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Bill after her surrogate father.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: The ring which belonged to Curly Sue's mother serves as an interesting variant of this trope. Sue and Bill are homeless, and the ring is stolen by another homeless man early in the film. Later, when Bill is missing, she is unconcerned, asking whether he left a note or a ring; as he left neither, she knows he'll be back, since he won't leave her without first recovering her mother's ring. Near the end of the movie, he does leave both the ring and a note and she's heartbroken... until she learns that the note says he is in the next room.
  • Papa Wolf: Bill will go to great lenghts to protect Curly Sue from anyone who does her wrong in any way or tries to take her away from him.
  • Parental Substitute: Bill is this for Curly Sue and so is Grey at the end of the film when she adopts Curly Sue.
  • Proper Tights with a Skirt: Curly Sue is forced to wear those when Grey takes her and Bill to a nice restaurant and wears them again for her first day of school.
  • Running Gag: Bill being struck on the head.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Subverted. Sue appears out of character and somewhat uncomfortable in the cute clothes Grey buys her. Bill also feels out of place in his new suit.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Paper Moon.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Curly Sue claims that she hates anything feminine but owns several pink necklaces and bracelets and always wears a woman's ring. After Grey takes her in Curly Sue wears more feminine clothes.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Curly Sue wasn't exactly mean but she had poor manners and becomes more polite after Grey takes her in.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Curly Sue always wears a tin ring that belonged to her late mother until it gets stolen and pawned by one of their roommates at a shelter. Fortunately, Bill manages to get it back and Curly Sue wears it on her first day of school. Among the many trinkets that Curly Sue has in her traveling bag there is an old candy tin box with a vintage paper doll Valentine's Day card, dried flowers and a tattered picture of a woman presumed to be Curly Sue's mother inside.
  • Traumatic Haircut: At some point while in the custody of the child welfare authorities, Sue's trademark very long, curly hair is cut to about shoulder-length, which seems to also make it look poofier. Upon being reunited with Grey, she breaks down crying. (She's sobbing about the entire ordeal, but it's discussing the forced haircut that sets her off.)

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