Disney’s forthcoming vehicle for Johnny Depp in makeup has us pondering the hero/sidekick dynamic. In The Lone Ranger the relationship is blatantly juxtaposed by virtue of Depp’s incumbency. However, there have been many Sancho Panzas who have outshined their Don Quixotes. Just because you’re the #2 guy doesn’t mean you can’t steal the show.
(Please note that we are aware that Robin from Batman is not on the list. That is because Robin is terrible. Thanks for reading.)
Without Eddie Murphy’s brazen and good-natured Donkey, Shrek would just be about a whiney Scottish ogre. However, Donkey steps up to become the archetypal sidekick due to both his sense of humor and general self deprecation. He should be the Eeyore to Shrek’s Pooh, but Mr. Murphy reminds us all that he’s been making fart jokes since Mr. Myers was playing with G.I. Joes in the bath tub.
Speaking of self deprecating sidekicks, Renee Zellweger is the official romantic and professional sidekick to Jerry Maguire, but the show was stolen by her sidekick, her adorable son Ray. The kid also served as the sidekick to the audience by inspiring empathy for the otherwise pitiful (if not intolerable) Zellweger character. Zellweger may be a wonderful actress in outstanding films who doesn’t need a sidekick, but there is no way that I’ll ever know.
The male hopeless romantic sidekick of our generation is McLovin. Michael Cera and Jonah Hill are without question the heroes of the adolescent quest for sex and alcohol. McLovin’s perpetual smile and roll-with-the-punches attitude (and actual ability to take a punch) are endearing to not only the audience but also the cops who are so impressed with him that he gets a ride along for the night. Does the McLovin character exist to make us feel more comfortable identifying with the mainstream nerds so that we don’t have to be the biggest nerd? Probably, but it worked, so he makes the cut.
Along with the theme of overcoming adolescent, unrequited love in Michael Cera films, Nick Twisp, protagonist of Youth in Revolt, could not be a hero in his quest to earn the affections of a love interest without his French alter ego sidekick. General mayhem and an awesome mustache steal the show for French Twisp and seal the deal with Sheeni. We’d all be so lucky as to have a benevolent sidekick. We appreciate Arrested Development reviving the Cera-stash for a bit in season 4, but it hit a little too close to the parallel pedophile theme. Are you uncomfortable reading this yet? You shouldn’t be… unless you’re a pedophile… or have one of those mustaches.
Speaking of things that you are doing right now at work that could get you fired, if you click on enough red flag words, not all alter ego sidekicks are so benevolent. Edward Norton had to assassinate his own, along with part of his face, but presumably all’s well that ends well. And, he even helped Raymond Kayhessle become a veterinarian. If more sidekicks spliced frames of penises into movies and pissed in soup, then the world would be a better place. Dine-in theaters might not be so popular though.
Not all alter egos who serve as sidekicks expose the hero to the dark side from which the hero emerges with a new foundation in values. The boil from How to Get Ahead in Advertising serves quite the opposite purpose. By introducing the protagonist to righteous living, the boil solidifies Begley’s commitment to deceptive, materialistic living… and he is one happy mofo in the end. I wish the effects of the sidekick boil were available in pill form and covered by universal healthcare.
As heroic quests go, Walter Sobchak is essential to accomplishing the goal set forth in The Big Lebowski… which I think had something to do with a rug? (If Lebowski was on, then watching the movie was not my goal) Having seen the first half of the movie about 400 times, and the second half about 2, I think that Walter’s leadership helped accomplish the goal, but again I can’t be certain. If Walter were not a sidekick on a misadventure, he might make a good corporate middle manager because of his relentless assertiveness in the absence of knowing what the hell is going on. We’re anxiously awaiting the A&E spin-off, Walter Sobchak: Doomsday Prepper.
It’s also fun to realize Walter as a sidekick because he’s the type of person who would punch you in the teeth with a pistol if he heard you call him a sidekick. Five thumbs up.
Penny Lane from Almost Famous
Grandpa Joe from Willy Wanka and the Chocolate Factory
Chris Tucker in Rush Hour(s)