To say that The Mandalorian has been a hit for Disney+ and Star Wars would be putting it mildly. According to Parrot Analytics, it's the most in-demand original new streaming show in the U.S., surpassing Netflix's mighty Stranger Things and other popular series.
The ever-demanding Star Wars fandom seems to be pleased with it, even if it is playing it safe, while viewers and critics are comparing it to other Star Wars properties as well as notable Westerns from yesteryear. However, most people are missing its link to a not-so-obvious film: Dennis Dugan's 1999 comedy Big Daddy, starring Adam Sandler and the Sprouse twins.
No, this isn't an early April Fool's joke, and none of us ever imagined that Sandler would be mentioned in the same sentence as Star Wars. Even so, there is an unlikely connection between Big Daddy and The Mandalorian. Intentionally or unintentionally, the theme of unexpected fatherhood cuts deeply through both productions as they evolve into stories of a man and boy on a journey of growth and discovery together.
In Big Daddy, Sandler's character, Sonny Koufax, was concerned only with himself when he suddenly became a father to Julian McGrath, a boy who was abandoned at his apartment. The Mandalorian follows a similar thread: the titular bounty hunter was only worried about collecting his paycheck and nothing else. Then, to paraphrase The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, his life got flipped-turned upside down when he encountered the cute-as-a-button Baby Yoda, who was the asset he was meant to bring back to the Client -- either dead or alive.
Both Sonny and Mando struggled with the idea of being a role model and tried to shirk responsibility and natural fatherly instincts in the beginning. Eventually, Sonny took Julian to a social worker with the intention of sending him back to his mother, while Mando dumped Baby Yoda off at the Client's.
Their respective choices weighed heavily on them, though. So, when Sonny and Mando considered the children and their circumstances, they experienced a change of heart and took the youngsters in again. While they displayed unconventional parenting skills at the best of times, they did what they thought was right and threw caution to the wind in an effort to keep the kids safe. In the case of Sonny, he ended up in court and almost in jail because of Julian, while the Mandalorian put himself on the hit list of bounty hunters across the galaxy after he dropped a bunch of Stormtroopers to save Baby Yoda.
The biggest parallel between Sonny and Mando, though, is their path of self-discovery. While they're completely different people with nothing in common, they both change in a positive way due to "fatherhood." The taking in of a child has shifted their worldview and priorities. No longer are they selfish and self-absorbed. They've come to terms with the fact that there's someone else who also needs to be looked after. They've grown for themselves and for the children.
At the end of Big Daddy, Julian ended up in the care of his real father, Kevin Gerrity (Jon Stewart), who was also Sonny's best friend. However, there was no denying that Sonny turned his life around and was there for Julian when he needed him most. For now, it's too early to tell if the Mandalorian's trajectory will be the same as Sonny's, even if Baby Yoda has changed the bounty hunter for the better. Maybe he'll get the happy ending he deserves as well.
Created by Jon Favreau, The Mandalorian stars Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Omid Abtahi, Werner Herzog and Nick Nolte. A new episode arrives each Friday on Disney+.