Most of the time I plan out what films I’ll be reviewing on here. As a result I’ll only watch films that I plan to review. Sometimes I just watch a random film due to circumstance. Then I have to write a review of that film because that’s the rules around here. This is one of those times. As a lad I had seen both the Rescuers films multiple times over. I still own them both on VHS. I sat down to watch the Rescuers Down Under the other day with little memory of the film itself, but it’s odd how your brain works, because a few minutes into watching this I found I remembered the whole blooming thing. Good job it didn’t suck! Click the link for my review.
The Rescuers Down Under holds three notable firsts for Disney. It is the first direct sequel to a Disney Classic animated film, it is the first 100% digitally animated film and also marks the first collaboration between Disney and Pixar. Think about that, there was a time when Disney didn’t churn out sequels to any film they can and also a time when they could survive without Pixar propping them up. That said Disney didn’t exactly have a string of hits one after the other in the 80s. The Rescuers Down Under could be seen as part of their turn around but really that was all down to The Little Mermaid the year before, and more-so, Beauty and the Beast a year later. Due to being sandwiched between those two behemoths of the Disney Classic catalogue The Rescuers Down Under has always been somewhat overlooked. It’s a shame really because, whilst it isn’t a full blown classic, it is a fine and enjoyable family film.
The film follows a young boy named Cody (Adam Ryen) who, like Penny from the first film, is able to talk to animals like young Dr Doolittle would have. The Rex Harrison one, not the Eddie Murphy one. I dislike that Eddie Murphy film. Although the Harrison one wasn’t great either. Where was I? After going out on one of his adventures he meets a giant golden Eagle that has been caught in a trap. Cody frees the bird and is given a golden feather as a gift. Later a poacher by the name of Percival C McLeach (George C Scott) comes across Cody after the child falls into one of his traps. He notes the feather as belonging to this giant Eagle and kidnaps Cody in order to get him to reveal the Eagles whereabouts. His kidnapping leads to his animal friends to call upon the help of the Rescue Aid Society, an organisation of animals that help those in need be they animal or human. This leads to field mice Bernard (Bob Newhart) and Ms Bianca (Eva Gabor) to be sent via Albatross to Australia to rescue the boy and keep McLeach from the Golden Eagle.
It’s a pretty straight forward Disney film set up allowing for plenty of potential to provide crazy animal character laughs, basic themes of animal conservation and, most importantly, that troubling issue of knowing when yo propose to the girl you love. Yes, there’s a romance sub-plot between the two lead mice brewing throughout this film, which is complicated by the pair meeting Jake (Tristan Roberts), an adventurous action mouse that has set his eyes on Ms Bianca. Due to Cody’s capture this love triangle is really all the film has going on story wise for a large portion of its runtime. That said the scenarios, such as a very classically staged comedy skit involving McLeach, his pet Goanna Joanna (Frank Welker) and a dozen eggs, prove to be enough to keep the entertainment factor up at a point where the film could have easily sagged.
Whilst Cody is captured he makes a few attempts to escape with the help of a number of animals also in confinement by McLeach. This leads to a few fun scenarios, mostly involving a neurotic Frill-necked Lizard named Frank (William Robson). But ultimately these films don’t show much other than Cody not being willing to sit back and do nothing. He doesn’t actually escape either. McLeach lets him go in the hope he’ll lead him to the Eagle’s nest, which is the event that leads The Rescuers themselves to finally meet Cody. So what has really happened is not much of anything until the third act can get under way. Again, it’s a good job the scenes themselves are entertaining enough as they are.
To be fair to the film it’s only major issues are with it’s plotting and pacing, it takes nearly 20 minutes before we even get to meet The Rescuers themselves, for example. There’s also no mention of why Cody can talk to animals, a presumption made that you will have seen the first film is clearly being made. None of the animals seem surprised so why should we? To add to that a number of plot threads are left a little loose by the films end, particularly the lack of a reuniting between Cody and his mother, who by the films end believes him to be dead. What the film excels at is how it fully utilised the animation techniques Disney had embraced to create some genuinely excellent sequences. The animation is silky smooth and still holds up well today. The computer generated scenery in the Miyazaki inspired flying sequences do look ropey by today’s standards but they’re not used for every single shot and are unobtrusive. There is also a sequence towards the film’s finale set on and under a caterpillar tracked truck driven by McLeach which proves to be another showcase of how well the Disney animation team had embraced the new technology at their fingertips.
Whilst the film lacks the songs and and fairytale qualities usually associated with Disney Classics it does manage to present charming characters, fun scenarios and some beautiful animation. It is certainly a hell of a lot better than the straight to video Disney sequels we got bombarded with in its wake. Hey, did you know there’s a sequel to planes being made? Yeah… thanks Disney. The Rescuers Down Under failed at the box office upon its release which apparently led to Disney’s aversion to releasing sequels in the cinema. To be fair though, it was released on the same day as Home Alone. It was always going to suffer. Shame the Rescue Aid Society couldn’t have been called in to… I dunno… push the release date back or something. Can they do that? I’m not sure if it’s within their power. Anyway, The Rescuers Down Under, it’s actually pretty decent.