Title: The Rescuers
Two plucky mice played by Eva Gabor (you know, from Green Acres…that show with Eddie Albert…Arnold the Pig…anyone?) and Bob Newhart (from the Bob Newhart Show, and the show Newhart, and that other show Bob…moving on) set out to rescue a little orphan girl kidnapped by sadistic jewel thieves. There are songs that positively drip 70s light rock, although it’s not a musical in the traditional sense where the characters do the singing. There is some serious child abuse and hillbilly woodland creatures help to save the day. Throw in that guy from McHale’s Navy (Love American Style? Never mind) and you have a perfect storm of mid-20th century talent.
At least age 6 and up
Remember that part in the summary where I mention serious child abuse? Yeah. I wasn’t kidding. The kidnapped orphan girl who thinks she’s too homely to be adopted is forced into a tidal cave chock full of diamonds and Human Remains and repeatedly threatened with forced drowning if she doesn’t somehow find a diamond called the Devil’s Eye. The girl, Penny, is the ultimate fictional representation of pathos but she’s also remarkably fearless.
I think you might be able to see where this is going.
- Sex and nudity – not really.
- Profanity – no.
- Alcohol/Drugs – one of the adorable hillbilly animals uses moonshine like Popeye uses spinach.
- Violence – if we restrict ourselves to physical violence only then there’s a lot of shooting guns by the main villain Madame Medusa. Penny and the mice are pounded by waves and almost drowned in the cave.
- Frightening scenes – oh yes. The tricky thing about this part is, on paper the movie is terrifying, but once you animate it in Technicolor with the voices of Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, and that guy from McHale’s Navy (…still nothing?) it loses its terror and people come away from it nodding to each other and saying, “that was pretty good”. Our kids, at 9 and 11, didn’t have any problem with it and in fact requested it specifically for movie night.
Ok, I’ve been pretty hard on the movie up until now but I think it’s important to say that my wife has fond memories of this film from her childhood and our kids know the Rescue Aid Society theme song by heart. I’m not sure how that happened but they sing along with gusto when the song comes up in the movie, or driving somewhere in the car, or at dinner, etc.
To say that Disney was going through a bad patch in the 70s is an understatement. I will not be reviewing the 1975 film Escape to Witch Mountain because we couldn’t finish watching it. The embarrassingly low production values combined with the just plain creepy Exorcist children made it too much for our kids to handle. Our son has been taking stop-motion animation classes so now we’re extra-sensitive to the detail put into contemporary animation. By any measure The Rescuers is a remarkably low-budget and poorly made film compared to the rest of Disney’s output.
And yet, despite all this, kids still love it. I would have to chalk that up to the relationship between the main characters, the mice Bianca and Bernard, which develops nicely throughout the film and gives it an emotional sweetness. Some of the supporting characters are also quite entertaining. The gull Orville and the dragonfly Evenrude are two favorites in our family. So while it would not be my first recommendation for classic Disney animation I have to say it’s worth picking up at some point, preferably when your kids are post-kindergarten.
But if it doesn’t end happily don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Do you agree or disagree with my assessment or have something to add?
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Let me know what you think.