Cobb: [holding a bag] I brought these for you to give to the kids when you get a chance.

Miles: It'll take more than the occasional stuffed animal to convince those children they still have a father.
Source: Dialogue from Inception (2010)

Could you explain the meaning of the second sentence? I understand the following separate phrases:

  • stuffed animal

  • to convince those children they still have a father

I still cannot get the point of the whole sentence, however.

  • @TylerJamesYoung Why do you replace my keep to your get. Is it nonsencial here? – Dmitrii Bundin Sep 30 '14 at 3:21
  • I agree that "get" seems right, with "to get the point" meaning "to understand what it means", and with "keep", I don't get the point of the sentence. – Volker Siegel Sep 30 '14 at 9:49
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    @DmitryFucintv 'Get the point' is an idiom meaning "to successfully interpret or understand". 'Keep the point' doesn't mean much; if it meant anything, it would mean that you are able to successfully remember the meaning, after having understood it. – AakashM Sep 30 '14 at 10:11

Here's what is happening:

Sentence #1: Cobb is giving the children's caregiver Miles a stuffed animal, and tells him to give it to his children.

Sentence #2: Miles tells him he has to do more than give gifts once in a while in order for the children to continue to care about him, and not resent him or forget him.

In other words, Cobb has been putting very little work into raising his own children.

If the part you are confused by is "the occasional stuffed animal", occasional is similar in meaning to "sometimes", "once in a while." So, he gives the children a stuffed animal sometimes. Miles is implying that giving stuffed animals occasionally is all Cobb has been doing for his children.

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  • 2
    It's worth mentioning that "the occasional (noun)" is a common phrase in colloquial English. – Crazy Eyes Sep 29 '14 at 21:35
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    Stuffed animal = cuddly soft toy – queeg Sep 29 '14 at 22:53
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    Good, but some of the subtle parts of your interpretation aren't quite right in the actual source. Miles, isn't the mother or caregiver, he's something of a family friend. The issue isn't that Cobb hasn't been putting work into raising his own children, he's prevented from seeing them because he's wanted (wrongly) for the death of his wife, their mother. Miles doesn't resent Cobb for not putting effort into raising the children, he's just pointing out the ill of the situation Cobb is in. – Winston Ewert Sep 30 '14 at 2:27
  • Could you help me explain what "It'll take more than..." means here, please? As far as I understand more than the occsaional ... means in highest degree occasional here, right? How can I bound it'll take and more than the occasional? – Dmitrii Bundin Sep 30 '14 at 6:21
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    It'll take more than x... means x is not adequate, i.e. more than x is required. Also the use of the is slightly colloquial - the strictly grammatical version would be an occasional stuffed animal. But that's not what people say. – nekomatic Sep 30 '14 at 7:57

In addition to the fine answer by @Kai, what makes this confusing in my opinion is that there is a missing implied word.

It'll take more than the gift of the occasional stuffed animal to...

Or think of it as:

It will take more than an occasional gift to...

The tone as written comes across as funny/biting/sarcastic.

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