Thursday, July 11, 2013

Movie Review: The Rescuers Down Under (1990)


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun story and wonderful animation
Cons: Wilber's sub-plot; very dark and realistically scary.
The Bottom Line
An Australian trip
With plenty of danger and
Great animation




Disney's First animated Sequel Takes Bernard and Miss Bianca to Australia

When the second golden age of Disney animation is discussed, people always talk about The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast near the beginning of that decade.  But there was a movie in between them - Disney's first animated sequel, The Rescuers Down Under.  Released in 1990, thirteen years after the first one, it isn't quite as good as the movies around it, but it is still worth watching.

Our story opens in the Australian outback as we meet Cody (voiced by Adam Ryen).  He is a friend to all the animals in the area, but on this day, he sets out to free a rare, giant golden eagle.  Once freed from a trap, the two become friends, and Cody even learns the location of the bird's nest.

But that night he falls into a trap set by McLeach (George C. Scott), a poacher in the area.  When McLeach realizes that Cody knows where the eagle can be found, he kidnaps the boy to try to get the information from him.

And so the call goes out to the Rescue Aid Society, who send their two best agents, Miss Bianca and Bernard (Eva Gabor and Bob Newhart).  When the two land, they meet up with Jake (Tristan Rogers) a kangaroo mouse who helps them in this foreign territory.  But will the mice find Cody and free him before McLeach finds the eagle?

The first thing you'll notice if you watch these two movies back to back is how different the animation style is.  Thirteen years makes a huge difference.  The background is deeper, and some of the shots in the opening are breathtaking.  They easily foreshadow the opening of The Lion King just a couple years down the road.  This film was near the beginning of the flirting with using computer even in hand drawn animation, and the results are beautiful.  You can especially see this in the fun flying sequence near the beginning.  This film also marks the first collaboration between Disney and Pixar since Pixar did much of the post production for the film.

The movie itself seems to have dual stories until the end.  We'll spend some time with Cody and the cast of animal characters he's met at McLeach's cabin, and then we'll watch Bernard, Miss Bianca, and Jake's journey to find them.  It's not until the final third that things really come together, but when they do it is great.

The characters here are pretty basic, the exception being Bernard and Miss Bianca.  We get to watch as Bernard spends most of the film trying to propose to Miss Bianca, only to be interrupted time and time again.  Meanwhile, Jake is flirting with her.  The way this pays off in the end is fun to watch.  Plus they resurrect Bernard's fear of flying to great comic effect.

Of course, all the voice cast does a great job bringing their characters to life.  There isn't a poor performance in the bunch.

While this film does use the melody of "Rescue Aid Society" at one point, none of the characters sing and there are no original songs in the film.  Frankly, I don't think the movie needs them.

Like the original, this film features a kid in pretty serious danger, but for some reason McLeach seems like the darker villain, and some of what he does and almost does to Cody is pretty dark for a kid's film.  I'm a little surprised this one is rated G.  Again, other Disney films are scarier, but this one certainly has it's moments.

My biggest complaint about the film is Wilber.  Voiced by John Candy, he is the albatross our heroes use to get to Australia.  Unlike his brother Orville in the first movie (get it?), he sticks around after they land.  Yes, he does wind up playing a part later in the film, but his scenes until then aren't funny at all, and he's supposed to be the comic relief.  I really wish they'd done something else with his character.

These complaints aside, The Rescuers Down Under is a worthy sequel.  With some beautiful animation and a good story, it's certainly worth watching.

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