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Monday, June 11, 2012

Disneyear: The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

You all know the films of the Disney Renaissance in order right? First we have Little Mermaid, then Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. So far that's correct, right? Actually, you'd be wrong. There was a film released between the time of Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast that a lot of folks seem to forget about: The Rescuers Down Under. I mentioned earlier that I can't recall much of the first film from my childhood but I remember so much more from this film. Why is that? I guess it's about time we headed over to the land down under via albatross and find out.

The story is about a little boy named Cody who lives in Australia (yet has no accent) frees a rare golden eagle from a poacher's trap. He finds out that it was set up by a poacher named McLeach (played by George C. Scott) who kidnaps Cody because he wants to know where the eagle is. Word goes all the way to New York where the Rescuers themselves Bernard and Miss Bianca (played once again by Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor) take the case. They have to fly there of course only to find that Orville isn't there and instead meet with a new albatross there named Wilbur (get it? Orville? Wilbur? It's cute.)  who agrees to take them there. After landing, poor Wilbur breaks his back and is sent to a psychotic hospital for treatment. The two also meet up with a kangaroo rat named Jake that agrees to help rescue the kid. After several intense scenes with them trying to get to McLeach that include Jake and Bianca being accidentally captured themselves with the eagle, Bernard overcomes his timid side and actually winds up the hero, saving Cody, the eagle, Jake, and of course Miss Bianca. He even pops the question and she happily accepts! Talk about a happy ending!

Now I'll admit that out of all the Disney films to do a sequel for, it's a little strange to me that they chose to do one for The Rescuers. But Disney really put so much effort into this film! This has to be one of the best action/adventure films the studio ever produced! The animation is beautiful, the main characters are likable, the villain's great (hey, it's George C. Scott!), the action scenes are intense, it's fun, it's funny, it's just a wonderful experience. I think one of the best scenes is when Cody frees the eagle. You'd think they'd go the simple route, they fly to her nest. But instead, we get intense falls off mountains, flying in the sky, skating through water... you know what? Just watch it!

Like I said earlier, all the characters are likable. I liked Bernard and Bianca in the first film and here Bernard wants to take his relationship with her to the next level by proposing to her. One problem: some crap keeps happening to keep him from doing so. On top of that, he gets new competition with Jake. You really feel for him!

See the heartbreak in poor Bernard's face? :'(
There's also some great voice-over work here. I mentioned that George C. Scott plays the villain, McLeach, who's a fun but nasty villain who wants the eagle for money since it's a rare species. He's kind of fun especially with his lizard Joanna, who's another funny character. What I didn't mention was that the voice of Wilbur was John Candy in another heart-felt role that he just gets passionate in. He's just so much fun and gets a lot of funny scenes. I really miss him.

So why is it that this film keeps getting glossed over? Well, I think I have some ideas. One is that on it's opening weekend, it didn't do so hot at the box office so Disney immediately pulled all advertising from it. It's almost like they didn't want us to know it exists... Second is that there's not a whole lot of things that Disney's famous for marketing for in this film. It's not a musical, it's not a fairy tale, there's no strong ethics, and it doesn't have those overly-cute animals in here that the marketing folks like to make toys out of.

They're cute but I guess not Flounder or Stitch cute...
But that's just it! It's not supposed to be any of these things! It's just your basic, fun family adventure film that is vastly underrated in my eyes. I mean we never look at films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and call them bad  just because they're not up to par with films like Casablanca. It's it's own little genre. So again, why doesn't this film get some glory? Trust me when I say that this is a rare case where the sequel completely improves the original. It's your basic adventure film with cute little mice like the first film but done a million times better! If you haven't seen it by now, check it out and see where I'm getting at here. Or better yet, buy it! This film could use the DVD revenue.

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