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'Furious 7' fan react: They got it right where it mattered most—family

No one is surprised that Furious 7 raced to the top of the box office. The latest installment in The Fast and the Furious franchise delivered everything audiences have come to expect: fast cars, massive stunts, big fights, shots of scantily clad ladies, and a pulsating rap/hip-hop soundtrack. But while all those things grab our attention, what’s often overlooked is that the films have a whole lot more to offer.

Furious 7 was a wildly entertaining next chapter in the saga, but more importantly, it got things right where they mattered most: family.

Underneath the Vin Diesel–versus–everyone slugfests and the flaming cars, what the franchise has always been about—going back to 2001’s The Fast and the Furious—is the concept of family. Undercover cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) falls in love with Dominic Toretto’s (Diesel) younger sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), and by the end of the film discovers that Dom and his crew aren’t just a race team, but also a surrogate family.

Since then, the plots of all the movies—excepting 2 Fast 2 Furious and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, which were sequels without most of the key cast—have had something to do with that same idea. 2009’s Fast & Furious was based on avenging a main character’s death. 2011’s Fast Five included the issue of Mia’s pregnancy. 2013’s Fast & Furious 6 involved bringing back Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and the crew trying to peacefully retire, which obviously went by the wayside in Furious 7. This latest film cast Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw, out to get revenge for his family, while there’s also a subplot involving Brian still adjusting to fatherhood.

That’s because the ensemble has evolved over the last 14 years; as the actors have gotten older, so have their characters. We’ve seen everything that you’d expect from people moving into the next phases of their lives—marriages, births, career changes, attempts to establish homes, and, sadly, deaths. These aren’t reckless 20-somethings anymore; these are adults who have more to consider now, even if they’re still driving cars off bridges or blowing them up. Should there be a Furious 8, we’ll be looking at characters still kicking while most of us are settling down with our own families, the actors included: Vin Diesel turns 48 this year, and he’s got three kids.

Yet watching Brian, Dom, Mia, Letty, and the crew grow up is what’s made them so endearing. They’re not the It Guys and Girls of the moment; they’re characters that many of us have spent half of our lives with. A lot of us were teenagers when The Fast and the Furious premiered, and now we too are getting married, having kids, and looking toward our long-term futures. We’ve seen them go through the same things and then some, and that’s made us feel like part of their family.

And they do represent a sort of ideal family—not one with the white picket fence, but what family is really about: being loyal to one another no matter what, supporting each other through every adversity, and finding a way back to each other despite numerous separations. That concept gives the films tremendous heart, something that’s kept The Fast and the Furious franchise worth going back to for a decade and a half—beyond just the promise of a good time.

The passing of Paul Walker also pushed Furious 7 into an uncomfortable crossroads between the on-screen family and the real one—not just Walker’s loved ones and colleagues, but also the relationship that the franchise has built with its fans. It’s impossible to watch the movie and not be consistently reminded of Walker’s absence, despite the film’s best efforts to carry on without him (even using his brothers as stand-ins). That’s shown us how much like a family the series has become; we lose actors all the time, but even for the fans who never met him, Walker was someone we felt like we knew. Brian O’Conner was someone we saw every two years like an old friend. Furious 7, then, became about saying goodbye to the actor we lost and the character that we knew couldn’t continue without him.

We won’t spoil for those of you who have yet to see the movie, but the film did the best that it possibly could given the circumstances, and tied up Brian’s storyline in a way that ought to satisfy fans. More than that, the filmmakers’ choice to include a tribute to Walker himself was much appreciated. It was what he deserved, and it gave the audience a chance to collectively grieve. In our particular theater on Thursday night, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

That’s what’s really made The Fast and the Furious films one of the outstanding franchises in the business. Yes, it’s great fun to watch the fast cars and the fistfights, and Vin Diesel going head-to-head with Jason Statham is one of those awesome movie moments. But that’s not the stuff that you remember. What sticks in your mind is the characters that you’ve come to love, who have created this bond among themselves and with the audience. While Furious 7 delivers the box-office goods, what makes it a real winner was that it does well by the concept that has really driven the franchise: family.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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