When unemployed law-school dropout Sonny answers his apartment door, he is confronted with Julian, the heretofore unknown five-year-old son of Sonny’s absent roommate, Kevin. Julian’s mother is dying, and she wants Julian to be raised by his father rather than a foster home. Sonny pretends to be Kevin. He manages to trick social services into leaving Julian with him. For a short time Sonny raises Julian as his own son. Eventually, though, social services discovers the ruse. They take Julian from Sonny. Although Sonny petitions the court to get Julian back, the court warns Sonny that he is in danger of criminal prosecution. Sonny is saved when Kevin acknowledges that Julian is his son. Kevin will raise Julian. Sonny is able to stay in Julian’s life in an uncle-like role.
The Adoption Connection
For a short time, Sonny functions as an adoptive father to Julian. At one point, Sonny tries to convince his girlfriend that she has also, unwittingly, become an adoptive parent to Julian. The girlfriend quickly breaks up with him.
Sonny does love Julian, and encourages Julian to face his fears. Kevin, Julian’s father, ultimately acknowledges his responsibility as a father.
Sonny promises Julian that, although he can’t be is dad, he’ll always “be your friend… your family. And I’ll always be around.”
Sonny’s parenting of Julian should never have happened; Sonny was only allowed to parent Julian because he convinced social services that he was Kevin, Julian’s father. The social service worker is so lax in his work that he allows this to go unchecked for a long time. He never realizes that Sonny doesn’t know how to care for a child. Later, when Sonny asks to give Julian back, the social worker allows Sonny to take Julian back home with him, suggesting that we “pretend you never came in.” Most social workers are more diligent.
Sonny’s father adamantly opposes Sonny’s desire to adopt Julian. While his father is right that it isn’t a good choice for Sonny, some young viewers might be troubled by adoption being shot down as a bad idea, if they’re not able to see it in context.
When the social worker takes Julian away from Sonny, Julian protests that he doesn’t want to go. He feels that it must be his fault that he is being taken away, and he tries in vain to bargain to stay. It could be a hard scene for some viewers.
In his own words, Sonny tries “to adopt a kid to fix a troubled relationship, like a lady getting pregnant.” Not a good motivation for adoption! When his relationship ends, he tries to use Julian to pick up girls in a park.
Julian kills many birds with a slingshot.
In a way, Julian is almost adopted by his sort-of foster family before being reunified with his birth parent, and afterwards, foster and actual father remain positively involved in his life. That is actually a best-case scenario for kids in foster care. So Big Daddy might be an interesting film for prospective foster parents to watch prior to taking in kids. For kids who have been adopted from foster care, the movie could be hard for them because, in the end, Julian gets to go home. The movie will probably appeal most to teens.
Questions for Discussion
Why didn’t Sonny’s dad want Sonny to adopt Julian?
Why did Kevin decide to say he’s Julian’s dad? Why was it hard for him to say it?
Why did the social worker take Julian away from Sonny?