They Call Me Mister Tibbs! San Francisco Police Lieutenant Virgil Tibbs is called in to investigate when a liberal street preacher and political candidate is accused of murdering a prostitute. Tibbs is also battling domestic woes, including a frustrated wife and a rebellious adolescent son.
Parenting and Police Work in S.F.
“They Call Me Mister Tibbs!” is a sequel to “In the Heat of the Night.” It’s also a famous line from that same movie. There is a scene in which the old, overweight, gum-chewing, Mississippi sheriff asks Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Portier), in a rather derogatory way, what they call him in Philadelphia; to which Virgil replies, “They call me Mister Tibbs!” It was a powerful moment in the movie. It was a putting-the-foot-down moment where Mr. Tibbs was emphatically saying that I will take no more of this even if I am a black man in Mississippi.
They Call Me Mister Tibbs! Well, in the sequel, Sidney Portier is in San Francisco and it’s not for dinner (a reference to the movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” in case you were unaware). I guess he requested a transfer from the Philadelphia PD when his boss ordered him to help out the good folks of Mississippi. In S.F. he has a family and a nice home. His superior sleuthing skills are needed when a well-known political preacher by the name of Logan Sharpe (Martin Landau) is the primary suspect in the killing of a high priced prostitute. In the absence of the racial tension present in “In the Heat of the Night” we get a very contentious relationship between Virgil and his son Andy (George Spell). Andy can’t be older than 10 years old yet he’s smoking, totally disobeying his mother, hitting his sister, and challenging his father. All the qualities you hope for in a son. That, and that he’ll remain at home the rest of his life (which he flat out said he’d do!!!).
They Call Me Mister Tibbs! The father-son relationship was a disturbing distraction especially from a 2019 lens. There is a strong case for Virgil to do the 1970’s fatherly thing and take off his belt but it’s clear he’s trying to be a more new-age, maybe even San Francisco type of parent that can solve behavioral issues without hitting. He does slap his son a couple of times but his son took it-dare I say it-like a man, which is exactly what any father DOESN’T want from the 10 y/o he’s disciplining. Tears, contrition, and corrected behavior is what he wants. But somehow this defiant display by Andy was further proof that hitting your child is not helpful (not that the movie showed an alternative).
When we weren’t treated to the head-scratching disfunction of Virgil Tibbs’ home life there was a clever detective movie going on. It wasn’t quite as good as “In the Heat of the Night” but what sequels are as good as their predecessors?