March to Disney: The Rescuers in More Ways Than One

This is a series of posts this month wherein I will focus on Disney films. For more on my background with Disney films and about the timing of this focus please read the introductory post here.

One of my more recent revisits in the Disney library were the two Rescuers films. There are a few interesting things to note about this series, especially when one considers the seemingly unusual fact (due to how overlooked the films seem to be) that this was the first Disney animated property to spawn a sequel, and a theatrically released one nonetheless.

Now, the soft spot I have for these titles it does turn out is for more reasons than just the fact that in some territories these films are referred to as Bernardo and Bianca.

The first thing that both these titles share in common is that they truly embrace the “It’s a Small World” ethos that Disney incorporated in its parks, but didn’t truly exemplify in its films until later on. The Rescuers Down Under is the first non-package film that takes place outside a fictitious kingdom that’s vaguely European or in Europe itself. As much as I love Saludos Amigos and the Three Caballeros, there’s a very “Hey, let’s all go to South America” feel to it, rather than just naturally incorporating the location into the tale. Also, Bianca, voiced by Eva Gabor, in the first film serves in a mouse version of the United Nations and does represent Hungary.

The first film’s adventure, saving a girl named Penny from jewel thieves, is US-based, but is a trip down to the bayou that’s wonderfully exploited by Disney’s artists who in the 70s were vastly underrated. Many people find the movies that came out of this decade a bit subpar, but to me there was a flair and artistry, a painterly finesse to the backgrounds and a still-present fluidity that leant itself wonderfully to the stories they were putting out.

The sequel, as the title would indicate, takes the narrative to Australia. While the films succeed in complementing one another, they do have shortcomings individually. Taking the best from both would make one truly masterful work. In the sequel, there’s a more developed victim in need of rescuing whose story needs a cap. The villain is more motivated in the second film and less cartoonish.

Whereas the first film’s title is very apropos it really is about The Rescuers above all other characters, here in the second film its more split.

What The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under both did aesthetically was set the table for the decade to come. More so than any sequel footnote, each film seemed to encapsulate the aesthetic and sensibility of the decade prior and push towards the future. The Rescuers in certain scenes is the apex of the ’70s style, but pushing the boundary toward the more polished, less sketchbook ’80s feel and then The Rescuers Down Under with its aerial animation and action sequences was a precursor of the more dynamic swooping crane-simualtions and action shots in things like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. The Rescuers, it would seem, was a fitting title in more ways than one.

Short Film Saturday: Family Values

I was looking for a different film from the same production company that I couldn’t seem to locate. However, when I saw this I found it to be so zany, well-timed and hilarious that I just had to post it. No question about it. Enjoy!

Mini-Review Round-Up #4

This is something I’m going to do periodically. Basically, I will employ many means to qualify films for the BAM Awards be it either seeing the film theatrically acquiring a DVD either through purchase or on Netflix. This could lead to an influx of several new titles being seen in a short span of time which would be difficult to write full reviews for. At least this way the film gets some of its deserved attention and you get some notion of my thoughts on them.

If you have questions or comments feel free to respond. I always get back.

As always please refer to My Rating Scale for an indication of what the scores mean and if you’re curious where these films might make a dent in my personal awards please check my BAM Considerations.

The Inheritance

Rochelle Aytes in The Inheritance (Duly Noted)

A family reunion in the country quickly becomes something more insidious.

I use the word quickly above almost for the lack of a better word. There’s nothing quick about The Inheritance, it all takes far too long to unravel, too many things are played close to the vest and by the time secrets are spilled and the true intention starts to come out it’s too late to salvage it. The idea is interesting: it’s a generational tale going back to slavery and mixing in voodoo aspects, however, all the information finally flows in a barrage and then you get bad effects towards the end and truly anticlimactic escape. It all could’ve gone somewhere very interesting but never gets its momentum going.

3/10

Stake Land

Connor Paolo in Stake Land (IFC Films)

A post-apocalyptic world wherein vampires rule and it’s kill or be killed.

There is a lot going for this film from cinematography to score to a well-delivered, at times poetic, at times humorous narration by the lead Connor Paolo. Where Stake Land struggles some is in its pace. There are some potentially rather huge situations glossed over and a lot of time is dedicated to roaming the abandoned countryside. There is also a lot of great acting in this film. While it is recommended viewing it’s also nowhere near as good as it could’ve been.

7/10

Dream Home

Josie Ho in Dream Home (IFC Films)

A woman will do anything to get her dream home.

This is almost like two different movies entirely. I get how they connect but while I appreciate the bit of time traveling done by the narrative in the beginning, and the subtext at the end in the nice simple button, but I really just could not get into this one. The film goes out of its way to explain why this means so much to her and thus we identify but it all seems so superficial. It is rather suspenseful, the kills are great but it ends up feeling a bit vacuous. It almost would’ve been better if the film tried its hand at subtext more and didn’t get so cutesy with the whodunit. Instead, we eventually get all the pieces, put them in place and say “So what?” Sometimes I’d rather be confused and intrigued at times than lucid and unimpressed.

5/10

The Reef

Adrienne Pickering in The Reef (Image Entertainment)

It’s a shark attack movie.

Not to disparage it in the synopsis section but that’s what it is. It’s one in the Open Water mold and while the performances are good a very believable the film takes the concept of slow burn a bit too far such that it burns out. It becomes completely and totally uninteresting and after a while downright boring. There’s only so much of people treading water, or even swimming, that you can take before it becomes mind-numbing shark or no shark. The score does nothing to heighten the tension and there’s really no drama to the whole affair. I will grant that it’s more realistic than most of the goofy shark movies as of late and more interesting but it still doesn’t make it good.

4/10

Fright Flick

Allyn Carrell in Fright Flick (Breaking Glass Pictures)

The story is that of a series of murders on a film set.

One of the first problem this film runs into is that it’s about a cheesy low budget horror movie. It starts with a film-within-a-film and you’re thinking “Wow, is it going to be this terrible throughout?” The good news is no it’s not; the bad news is it doesn’t get much better. The gore effects are really strong, when the chips are down some of the performances are decent but the characters are pathetic and so are some of the performances at times, only some are consistently annoying throughout. A lot of the inconsistency stems from the direction just upload it on instant and watch the in-credits scene and you’ll see the confusion that plagues this film. The standout performances are those of Chad Allen and Allyn Carrell.

3/10