The Rescuers Down Under

1990, Movie, G, 109 mins

Review

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As the title implies, this sequel to the 1977 hit THE RESCUERS is set in Australia where young Cody (voiced by Adam Ryen), a fatherless boy, leads his own band of animal rescuers against evil poacher McLeach (George C. Scott). Barely after bounding out of bed in the morning (and skipping breakfast--some role model!), Cody comes to the rescue of McLeach's latest quarry, a giant, majestic golden eagle whose mate was already victimized by the poacher. With Cody's help, the eagle escapes McLeach's trap and Cody is rewarded with a soaring flight on the eagle's back, ending in her nest where she shows him three eggs which are about to hatch. While returning home, Cody falls into one of McLeach's traps and is captured by the villain. Finding one of the eagle's feathers on the boy, McLeach attempts to force him to reveal the location of the nest. Word of McLeach's misdeeds soon gets back to the International Rescue Aid Society in New York, where the original film's mouse hero and heroine, Bernard (Bob Newhart) and Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor), are once again pressed into service. They get down under with the help of goofy albatross Wilbur (John Candy). Once there, they acquire a Crocodile Dundee-type mouse guide (soap opera star Tristan Rogers) who has an eye for Miss Bianca, to whom Bernard was about to propose marriage before they got swept up in their new adventure. It isn't long before the mouse trio finds itself deep in trouble as they attempt to foil McLeach's foul plan.

Not a great hit with audiences (it didn't even sell as many tickets as Disney's low-budget 1990 television knockoff DUCKTALES: THE MOVIE--THE TREASURE OF THE LOST LAMP), the problems with the film begin with its title. Three years in the making, it was obviously conceived during the height of this country's fascination with Australia, brought on by Paul Hogan's fabulously successful CROCODILE DUNDEE. By 1990, the mania had long since subsided, and this film's Australian setting did nothing to enhance its box office appeal. Further, the film doesn't make particularly imaginative use of the location. Take away the accents and the obligatory kangaroos and koalas, and the story could have taken place anywhere. Another problem is that "the rescuers" themselves don't even enter the action until a third of the film has passed. And when they do appear, they don't have much to do with the main plot until near the film's end. The characters seem grafted on to a story that probably would have been more successful without them. Finally, the film suffers from some action and plotting that is questionable in a children's film. The villain is far too malignant, the young vigilante hero seems to be a kiddie "Rambo," and some of the action is quite violent, if not tasteless.

Still, whatever else it is, this is a Disney cartoon. And, as those that went before it, it sets the standard for animated spectacle with some truly stupendous sequences--the eagle in flight is the obvious highlight--that will keep kids on the edges of their seats. Appearing with this film during its theatrical run was an animated short, THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER, featuring Mickey Mouse. It actually could have been a nifty feature of its own, but for some inexplicable reason, the Disney studio decided to adapt the Mark Twain classic as a brutally abrupt 30-minute short subject. Mickey Mouse plays both title roles in the story of a prince who trades places with a lookalike peasant. Pluto, the amazing dog who wears human dentures, is as manically frisky as ever as the pauper's faithful pooch, with Goofy as goofy as ever as the pauper's roommate and best friend. Donald Duck, alas, only consented to a cameo appearance. If anything, the quality of the animation in this short is even better than the feature it precedes, but the truncated script comes close to ruining a terrific story. leave a comment

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