In Praise of Pip - Recap

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In Vietnam, a comrade brings in fellow soldier Pvt. Pip Phillips, who has taken shrapnel to the chest and whose condition is critical.

In Los Angeles, bookie Max Phillips waking up screaming. He looks around a room and two photos catch his eye: his son Pip as a soldier, and as a ten-year-old boy. The next day, Max puts up with the complaints of his landlady, Mrs. Feeny, who tells him to kick the alcohol. Max admits there’s nothing to do but to laugh. Mrs. Feeny sends up a teenager, George Reynold, who complains that Max gave him a hot tip on a horse that didn’t pay off. Max just shrugs, admitting he’s lousy at picking out winning horses. George admits that he stole the #300 from his business to cover his bet and needs the money back. Max just shrugs and says there’s nothing he can do.

Max goes to see his boss, Moran, who notes that Max hasn’t been in recently. Max gives him the payoff from his bookie earnings but Moran says that he’s $300 short. The gangster has figured out that Max gave George the money back, and had the kid beaten up. His henchman brings George in, and George begs for the $300. Moran warns George that he shouldn’t have listened to Max in the first place and Max just shrugs and agrees. Mr. Feeny calls and gives Max the news: his son Pip is dying in Vietnam. Max goes to the window and wonders about how his son can be dying in a place where there isn’t supposed to be a war. Moran offers his sympathies and Max looks out at the nearby amusement park. He explains that he and Pip used to go to the amusement parks, when he wasn’t out drinking or running numbers for Moran. There were too many nights when he wasn’t there for Pip. Max, resolved, grabs the money off the desk and gives it to George, and tells him to get out. Moran’s gunman starts to draw his gun but Max draws a knife and tells Moran to tell his boy to back down. The gunman tries to finish and Max stabs him. The gun goes off and Max takes the shot in the stomach. Max shoves Moran away and gets out with George.

Max stumbles to the amusement park, clutching at his side, and begs with God for one more chance to talk to Pip. The amusement park lights up and Max sees a ten-year-old Pip ahead. Max calls out to the boy and the two embrace. Pip says he’s been waiting for his best buddy, his dad, but says that sometimes he didn’t show up when he’s waited in the past. Max promises to make it up for him and the amusement park lights up. They go on the rides and finally end up at the shooting gallery. When Pip misses a shot, Max tells him to do more aiming and less jawing on his gum.

Pip suddenly runs away to the Hall of Mirrors. Max runs in after him as his wound starts to get the best of him. Max can’t find his son and comes face-to-face with all of the reflections of Pip. Max apologizes for neglecting Pip, who says it doesn’t matter any more and his hour with his father is up. Max says he’ll give up everything for Pip, but the boy disappears and Max breaks a mirror chasing after him. Max looks into a mirror fragment and Pip says he has go back. Max staggers out onto the midway and pleads with God, offering his life for Pip’s. He collapses to the ground, dead.

A few months later, Pvt. Pip visits the amusement park, walking with the aid of a cane. As he prepares to shoot, he remembers his dad, his “best buddy,” telling him more aiming and less jawing.