Author Robert Fulghum said, “All I need to know I learned in Kindergarten” and I say, For everything else, there are mentors.
We look up to people who got more skills in hopes that they can teach us to master those skills as well. Many inspiring movies are about somebody who don’t seem to have anything going for his life until a mentor comes along and teaches him about the art of wax on and wax off.
But interestingly enough, sometimes we meet mentors who also don’t seem to have anything going in their lives. Drunk, washed up, has been, pathetic losers whose better days are behind them. They show no promises at all of becoming inspiration to anyone.
They’re the ones that come up with surprises when you least expect them. It might take forgiving the past, it might take a self-realization, it might take a tragedy, it might even take lots of trials and errors, mistakes after mistakes to finally bring them back to what they used to be good at.
Those who overcome themselves and rise above are the ones worth noticing. And so here is my top 10 list for this week. Hats off to Movies’ Unlikely Mentors
10. Drillbit Taylor (Drillbit Taylor, 2008)
Played by Owe Wilson who did an excellent job of pretending to be a bodyguard, and then pretending to be a teacher, and then pretending like he didn’t care about the kids when he actually did. You know how some people would tell so many lies, they can’t see straight anymore. Drillbit Taylor is one of those.
9. Irving Blitzer (Cool Runnings, 1993)
Played by the late John Candy who had excellent comedic timng and the dramatic ability to show a character who’s willing to do better when given the chance. His character has disgraced his reputation but still has a good heart and the determination to not make the same mistake twice.
8. Wilie (Bad Santa, 2003)
Played by Billy Bob Thornton who always seems to know how to come across as cool and awesome even when he’s not. His character is foul mouthed and a thieving loser but he still has conscience, enough to help the overweight kid to be confident and fend for himself.
7. Morris Buttermaker (Bad News Bear, 1976)
Played by the late great Walter Matthau, I saw this when I was a kid and immediately I felt sorry for those kids because the coach could care less if they’d win or not. Of course, the story proved me wrong.
6. Simon Wilder (With Honors, 1994)
Played by Joe Pesci. Someone once told me that I should treat the homeless people in a respectful manner just like any other human being because you never know if they were once somebody in the past and you never know what they’re capable of.
5. Dewey Finn (School of Rock, 2003)
Played by Jack Black. All his character wants is to win the Battle of the Bands and the kids don’t even know that they’re being used. But in time, Dewey realizes that those kids need Rock n’ Roll to get them away from their strict and boring life and winning.. isn’t everything.
4. Leon (Leon the Professional, 1994)
Played by Jean Reno. If you’re a hitman, would you want a little girl to be looking up to you like you’re her hero? But even a lonely assassin could use the company sometimes and a little girl could use a father figure.
3. Colonel Frank Slade (Scent of a Woman, 1992)
Played by the great Al Pacino. Whoo-Ah! That phrase never rings truer. My favorite actor is at the top of his game playing a decorated military veteran who’s on the brink of killing himself. Before that happens, he has to spend some time with a prep school student who can’t stand up for himself.
2. Doc Hudson (Cars, 2006)
Voiced by the great Paul Newman. Painful past can drown a legend. But you know there’s still a fire that’s burning inside, an old working engine waiting for the day to ride again. The question is how do you turn him from hating your guts into liking you just enough to bestow you with all the knowledge and wisdom that he has?
1. R.P. McMurphy (One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975)
Played by Jack Nicholson in his Oscar winning performance as the rebel who gathers mental patients to take down the oppressive regime of Nurse Ratchet. Being locked up doesn’t mean you can’t be free.