Sunday, September 8, 2013

Let’s Review a Movie: The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

Finally after a summer of bad and mediocre sequels I’m going to review something awesome!

I love this movie I really, really do.  It was one of my favourites as a kid and it still holds up great to me as an adult.  First off it has spectacular animation, this film is truly beautiful.   The backgrounds are lush and huge.  The characters have great designs and even a bit of updating from the old Xerox look.  Even the CGI holds up remarkably well, McLeach’s truck in particular is just as menacing as it always was.  I complained in my review of it that the first Rescuers film felt very small and that has been totally fixed here.  Right from the opening title shot that shoots across the Australian landscape to Cody’s house we can tell this is going to be a big film, and that feeling of vastness continues all throughout the piece.  From the great cliff shots with Cody and Marahute flying around,  to the rescue signal traveling from Australia to New York with the great score in the background.  Even things like the angles of showing the pea traveling from the floor to the chandelier where Bianca and Bernard are having dinner it all works.   

Animation isn’t the only thing going for this film though.  It also makes wonderful use of the voice cast too.  The old cast are still great and have good things to do, and the new cast members like John Candy provide a lot of humour and charm for the movie.  His performance as Wilbur is the most memorable for me and I love his whole side plot in the hospital.  Jake is also really good and I like the small love triangle they build between the three main mice, because it isn’t mean spirited in anyway.  Jake isn’t trying to knowingly get in the way of Bernard and Bianca, he just assumes she’s available when she says they aren’t married; and Bernard doesn’t speak up about it.  That’s good though because Bernard actually gets a character arc in this film and becomes more assertive as we see when he gets the razorback to help him catch up to Mcleach’s truck at the end.

Bianca is still good too.  Keeping her femininity with the blush and eye shadow look the animators gave her while still loving adventure and her and Jake working together at the end to escape the cage.  Cody is a great character too.  He is likable and still a kid very much like Penny was with his innocence and wonder, but I also like how ingenious he is when trying to escape from Mcleach with the other animals.  He is kind and resourceful and stands firm and brave against Mcleach even when knives are being thrown at him. 

Speaking of Mcleach he is a great villain, striking a really nice balance between funny and threatening.  Actually for supposedly only passing third grade Mcleach is actually quite smart too.  Throwing Cody’s backpack into the river so the rangers will think he is dead and stop looking for him and figuring out how to get Cody to lead him to Marahute unknowingly.  Mcleach’s side kick brings a lot of good comic relief to the film too.  The only problem I have with her now though is her name.  As a trekkie Joanna’s name now makes me think of McCoy’s daughter and is obviously jarring when they call the Goanna that, but the egg scene with both Joanna and Mcleach is still hilarious in spite of that mental connection, along with Frank riding Joanna around when he gets the keys.

To tie it all up I think this film is pretty much perfect all around.  The animation is great, the casting is great, there is fun and humour, and tension and honestly I love it so much I will go ahead and declare this sequel as actually better than the original movie.   

Honestly this film really that is why I’m so hard on the other Disney sequels and want them to be better than they are.  Because with this film Disney once showed me that they could indeed do better.  They could have put real and true time, effort, and money into the landslide of sequels they made in the early 2000s, but they deliberately chose not to.  They farmed the projects out to their TV studio instead because it was all about dollar signs not about making quality entertainment.  This film however was about making quality entertainment.  It was about expanding a story that really did have great potential to be expanded upon.  It also didn’t just retell the story of the first film.  It took us to a whole new location, gave us new characters, and let the old ones develop, thus giving the voice cast a great reason to come back.  The newer animation style allowed the movie to have such a different look than its previous counterpart but not in a bad way.  It has a larger scale, better angles, and more detail in the designs of the characters.  Truly this film is absolutely wonderful and I only wish all the Disney sequels were as great as this one is.      

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