For this week’s Modern Family episode, the Dunphy and Pritchett clans spend the entire day together at a Southern California theme park. We’ll give you one guess which park. Hint: It’s not Knott’s Berry Farm or Legoland. The 30-minute infomercial show takes place almost entirely at Disneyland. (And Disney owns ABC Television.)
But pushing that marketing angle aside, “Disneyland” turned out to be a decent episode, faring much better than the past two offerings, with better integration of stories and more laughs—which is always great for a sitcom.
Claire believes she can make Haley’s life so much better if her eldest daughter would only let her control it. Haley’s into bad boys, so Claire invites a friend’s preppy college-aged son on the Disneyland trip. Phil, in one of several funny lines sprinkled throughout the episode, comments on how he had a bad boy as a roommate: “Man, I had a good time on the back of that motorcycle.” That line delivery and the consequential look Claire gives him are rife with comedy.
The girls oppose their mom’s meddling, until they see that the preppy boy is really easy on the eyes. Claire’s pleased that her plan is working—until the family runs into Haley’s underachieving ex, Dylan. But this bad boy has a little secret: He works at the park as one of the Dapper Dans, the barbershop quartet. Claire’s smug because she thinks she’s finally rid of Dylan once and for all.
In another storyline, Luke is finally tall enough to ride the rides with Phil, the self-proclaimed king of the roller coaster. Unfortunately, Phil’s age is catching up with him, and his equilibrium isn’t what it used to be. Ty Burrell has moments of great physical comedy in these scenes: being off-balance while trying mightily to hold down his breakfast. At first he chalks everything up to making too large of a whipped-cream smiley face on his pancakes, but Jay sets him straight: “I gotta pop a Dramamine to get in my swivel chair.”
But it’s Cam and Mitchell who steal the show again. Lily’s two dads have a “runner” on their hands, and they’re at their wits’ end trying to keep up with her. Cam says they have to use a “child safety tether,” which Mitchell clarifies as “a leash.” The first scene is hilarious as they try to navigate Lily like a little puppy. (“Lily, heel!”) Mitchell isn’t quite satisfied with the solution, especially when they get dirty looks from other people. He hasn’t felt ostracized since he “forgot canvas bags at Whole Foods.”
In a good crossover scene, an exasperated Mitchell runs into his dad while chasing Lily around the park. Jay asks if he wants help with Lily, which is a great touch, and a complete contrast to Claire’s parenting methods. Jay buys the little princess toddler high heels, which she loves, plus it slows the little runner down. This episode shows how far Jay’s come as a father and as a better communicator with his children. We know that Jay’s always loved his kids (and that becomes even more evident during an on-camera confession about the Great Moments with Lincoln attraction at the park), but he didn’t learn how to express himself until much much later.
While Jay’s interactions with Mitchell and Phil were great, the stories lately with his own immediate family have kind of, well…sucked. Gloria is being just plain stubborn and decides to wear stilettos to the amusement park, though he warns her that they’re bound to hurt while walking. She wants to show him that he doesn’t always know best, and her pride gets in the way. When her feet do start to hurt, the audience has no pity, and Jay’s fuzzy slipper solution, while cute, wasn’t nearly as satisfying as helping Mitchell out with the princess heels.
And Manny? He’s too busy paying attention to his stock market competition/school project to pay much attention to the rides and attractions. Even Gloria calls out her son for not being the same old Manny—the kid who’d stop and smell the roses.
Yes, we wonder where he went, too.