The Family for the Whole Family

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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 anyone? 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 try to threaten someone.

Despite the name, this brand of goon doesn't necessarily have to be a member of The Mafia. They can be of 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. 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 and The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything. Contrast Quirky Miniboss Squad, Harmless Villain.

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.

Examples of The Family for the Whole Family include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • The Dola Gang from Laputa: 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.


Films[edit | hide]

  • UHF (Variant form: each one packs a gun, but they still forget what guns are for).
    • Even RJ Fletcher couldn't get them off for murder, especially considering what happens to him at the end, they were just being (rightfully) cautious and using their guns to intimidate. It's not as funny as having them be just plain incompetent though.
    • By the time the goons got "Supplised!" it looked they really were ready to just shoot George and Stanley.
  • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Ma Fratelli and her sons from The Goonies, in this case a literal family fit for the whole family.
  • 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.
  • Three Ninjas; an entire movie series where FREAKIN' 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.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • 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 a few villains—and heroes—come to mind:
    • 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.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]


Theater[edit | hide]

  • 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.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The Pianta Syndicate from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door.
  • The Animal Crossing games have Sonny Resetti, a gangsterish 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 (how is Resetti gangsterish?) 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 Pokémon 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.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • 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 entire 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.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • The Weather Underground was a terrorist organization that called ahead to tell people they were going to bomb buildings, and only bombed empty buildings (though people have been injured in their attacks and nearly killed). All signs point to this being for publicity reasons, as their leaders are quoted as saying they didn't do enough on 9-11 2001.
    • Similarly, the Youth International Party's most famous terrorist act was attempting to levitate the Pentagon.
    • Bill Ayers has said his comment about not doing enough was a reference to the American people not doing enough to end the Vietnam War sooner rather than a refence to not making enough bombs.