This post contains spoilers for Us. Read at your own risk!
On Sunday, New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski retired from the NFL after nine record-breaking seasons. Experts, fellow players, and fans alike all instantly declared the 29-year-old Entourage movie alum a no-brainer selection into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Well, also on Sunday, I watched Us for the second time and walked out ready to enshrine Winston Duke into the Movie Dad Hall of Fame (previous inductees include Clark Griswold and Bryan Mills).
Most of the praise for the smash horror hit, which opened to over $70 million at the box office, has gone to writer-director Jordan Peele and star Lupita Nyong’o, who finally got the (dual) spotlight role that she’s deserved since winning her Oscar. And everyone is great in the movie, from all of the kids to Tim Heidecker to Elisabeth Moss (there’s just something about her in red). But, Us‘ not-so-secret weapon is Duke’s Gabe, the patriarch of the Wilson family, a reliable source of comic relief, and the ultimate movie dad of a new generation.
Ahead of Us‘ release, Duke, who broke out as M’Baku in Black Panther, told EW that for his performance, he was inspired by a few beloved TV dads like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s Uncle Phil, Family Matters’ Carl Winslow, and The Simpsons’ Homer Simpson. “I wanted him to have a familiarity,” shared the 32-year-old. “I wanted him to feel like he could be invited into your living room once a week and be welcomed back again and again on his hijinks.” (If only we’d be so lucky to have him back once a week.)
But what makes Gabe such an iconic movie dad? Well, what first got him on my Hall of Fame radar was the perfect decision to have him dab early in the movie. And then there were some classic dad traits that he goes into hard, such as getting way too excited about a family trip, buying a boat, and trying to seduce mom in hilarious fashion. He also injured himself around the house, which is something all dads do. To be fair, his doppelgänger beat him with a baseball bat, but that still counts as injuring yourself. And speaking of baseball bats, Gabe proves to be a bit of a push-sports-on-your-kid kind of dad. First, he won’t leave Zora alone about becoming an Olympic runner, and later, when the shadows first arrive, he tells Jason to get his bat (thinking he can scare off intruders and doesn’t need the police is another go-to dad move). I loved the subtleness of Zora actually going to grab it, because there’s no way that Jason is ever playing baseball. Thankfully, Gabe didn’t see Jason kill Kitty’s doppelgänger or he’d be signing him up for shot put.
And still, more important than all of those valid reasons, Gabe is a true movie dad because he lets mom do all of the work. Don’t get me wrong, he takes care of some business — mainly his and Josh’s Tethered counterparts, even if he lucks into those kills. But Adelaide is really doing the heavy lifting here. She’s rightfully calling the shots, and when Jason is taken, Adelaide goes by herself to find him while Gabe just chills in an ambulance. His extreme dadness is also on display earlier when the Tethered break in and he attempts to bargain with them, offering everything from cash to his boat, prompting Adelaide to basically tell him to shut it.
Some of these might sound like negatives against Gabe, but they’re not — it’s many of the qualities that make us love our own dads (well, maybe not the “make mom do all the work” stuff). And there’s just something about Duke that screams dad, like you’d just feel safe around him, no matter if the world has been taken over by doppelgängers rising from the sewers to form a murderous Hands Across America, or, you know, if your mom was actually one of them. Actually, to be honest, I’m not even sure if Uncle Phil would have been prepared for that.
Us is now in theaters.