A father loses control when he thinks his newly made-over daughter is the one who's really out of control -- when it comes to boys, that is. Doug Simpson (Tony Danza), a producer at K-Hey Radio in Los Angeles, is a single-father, raising two daughters, Katie (Ami Dolenz) and Bonnie (Laura Mooney). After the death of his wife, Doug began dating Janet Pearson (Catherine Hicks). At the start of the film, Doug is telling a group of police officers why he assaulted the self-proclaimed expert in father-daughter relationships, Dr. Fishbinder (Wallace Shawn). Doug takes us back in time to just a few months before. Doug and Janet have been together for three years, his youngest daughter is eleven, his oldest, Katie, is about to turn fifteen, and his radio station is number one in the ratings. Everything is perfect.
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Doug goes home to surprise Katie with a summer trip to Europe. She expresses worry through her coke-bottle glasses and thick braces that she'll leave him and have no one to take care of him. He reminds her of Janet and Bonnie and tells her that she has to move on with life. The school year is far from over, so Katie won't be going anywhere quite yet. In fact, it's Doug who soon leaves on a business trip. Then Katie gets a makeover from Janet. Doug, already disappointed that Katie dumped her sandbox dorky little boyfriend Richard (Lance Wilson-White), comes home to his 1980s telephone ringing off the hook. Katie soon comes downstairs, and with a deer in the headlights expression, Doug mutely watches Katie leave on a date with some boy he's never met before. When the door closes, he instantly sobers, telling Janet and his younger daughter, Bonnie, that any other boy that comes to the house for Katie has to be approved by him and follow a set of strict guidelines. Since Janet doesn't live there, this job falls on Bonnie's shoulders, who has already taken on the job of running Katie's new hectic social calendar. Obviously, the makeover worked, and Katie is out of control, at least in her father's eyes.
When Doug feels control is slipping out of hands after a day at the beach full of ogling men staring at his daughter, he begins seeing Dr. Fishbinder. Fishbinder gives him a book called Daddy's Little Girl and tells Doug to consult the book between regular visits with him. After the psychologist feeds him with frightening statistics about teen sex, Doug snatches the book and reads it from cover to cover.
Soon Katie begins dating a rocker named Joey (Dana Ashbrook). Fishbinder tells Doug to befriend the guy before freaking out. Meanwhile, Doug has proposed to Janet and the ratings have dropped significantly at his radio station due to his preoccupation with controlling Katie's social life.
Joey and Doug hit it off, but Katie soon dumps Joey, stating that he's too immature for her. Doug worries that she's playing games with boys and not valuing herself and relationships as a person. He tells her this. She thinks about it briefly but continues doing what she's doing when she begins dating Timothy (Matthew Perry). Timothy is Mr. Perfect Yale Bound Senior. Doug thinks this is great until he remembers a chapter in Fishbinder's book. "He's too perfect!" Doug is right. Timothy is a leech and a new girlfriend every other day. Still, he invites Katie to his prom, and Doug, who is supposed to be meeting Janet's parents for the first time to announce their engagement, arranges the evening at the hotel where Katie will be attending the prom. After peering over Janet's overprotective father's shoulder for half of the night at the young people walking in and out of the prom ballroom, he runs off. Janet is stuck explaining that Doug is not a pervert to her parents, while he crashes the prom and sees that Katie is the center of a lot of male attention. He's worried, but before he can say anything, he's escorted out by several teachers.
When he spots Katie getting into a limo to head to the after-prom at a motel, he crashes that party too. Of course, Katie has been raised well by her father and when Timothy tries to get her to have sex, she tells him that she's not ready and she'd rather it be special. Timothy calls her a bitch. Katie is through with him. She catches Doug there and storms away. Doug, saddened, drives home and hears Dr. Fishbinder giving an interview on his radio station. When Fishbinder admits that he doesn't have any children to a confrontational father on the air, Doug turns around and heads to the station. He chases Fishbinder but ends up crashing through the window and in the hospital.
The next morning, Janet and her parents arrive. Doug has a necksprain but is fine and Janet's father is proud of him for watching out for his daughter with such gusto. There are no charges pressed by Fishbinder. Afterward, Doug catches up with Katie at the airport. She's off to Europe (with her old boyfriend Richard and schoolmates) and explains to her father that she knows he did all of it because he cares. They make up, but when Doug goes home, he finds he has a new problem. Little Bonnie has decided to get dressed up and head out on her first date. Doug says he trusts Bonnie, who just giggles and waves. It starts all over again, but this time hopefully, Doug is a bit of a wiser parent.
In a tag to close the film, Doug and Fishbinder agree to do an on-air face-off. Who knows more about parenting? The parent or the shrink?
Best part of story, including ending:
I think it's a great father-daughter comedy. It's very 1980s, which can sometimes be kind of fun. I definitely enjoyed re-watching it after all of these years.
Best scene in story:
Doug and Joey go with Katie drag racing and Doug's Jaguar gets run over by a train. He wants to strangle Joey for leaving it on the train tracks, but instead he faints.
Opinion about the main character:
He is an over-the-top parent, but Tony Danza is always loveable. I didn't love the Todd Bridges cameo, when the writers made a joke about Doug being all for civil rights but he'd never go so far as to -- Then Todd Bridges relieves the audience saying he's there to deliver the water. I know it was 1989, but I don't think it added to the story. It also didn't seem like something the character Doug would actually say. To me, it seemed out of place.