Sometimes a movie relies far too much to the audience’s tendency of teaming up with the main character no matter what kind of low-life he is.
In The Prince of Pennsylvania that main character is Rupert Marshetta, an oddball with a grudge with his family, his school and the small coal mining community he resides in. His father Gary, played by the always superb Fred Ward is a modest blue collar man who’s worked his fingers to the bone to have a nice house for his family to live in, to clothe them and put food on their table. After his no-good wife gets caught sleeping with Gary’s best friend, his no-good son decides to rub some more shit in his old man’s face by kidnapping him and intenting to rob the $200,000 Gary was offered to sell his land.
With a despicable family like this I really just felt sorry for Gary throughout the whole movie. Even when his crackpot son turns out to be the kidnapper, Gary at first refuses to believe it, and as the grimm reality sets in, he is being a really good sport about it all. And in the end, after finding out his wife had teamed up with his son to split the money Gary, the man with a heart of gold forgives her, even for the nasty cheating part.
The Prince of Pennsylvania is a massive misfire from the writer and director Ron Nyswaner who later got it together with Philadelphia (1993). The little cozy mining town succesfully established in this movie surely would’ve had tons of more sympathetic, believable stories to tell.