Wednesday, 6 April 2016

The Rescuers Down Under (1990) - Movie Review

As you can probably tell by the name of this blog, the fact that I have an Australian flag as a background, and the fact that lamingtons rain from the sky every time someone reads a page, I am an Australian. And as an Australian, I am often fascinated by the depictions of Australia in media. Often times we're painted in broad, cultural parody brushes. You know the stuff, crazy overly-masculine supermen, hilariously dangerous deserts filled with all kinds of eldritch abominations and giant nightmare spiders and ridiculous accents filled with such incomprehensible slang as "G'Day" and "Tucka" and "Tony Abbott". 
Well, I'm here, as an Australian, to tell's all true.
This is me on my way to work.
As I type this I'm fighting off an armada of giant spiders using nothing but my boomerang and two meat pies. I except to be dead by the time this review is over. In any case, I'm gonna use my remaining time on this earth to talk about a Disney movie.

Now, I'm a big fan of Disney. Like I said back in my Pan review it's difficult to pull sentimentality off well in movies, but they have it down almost to a formula. They are able to pretty regularly and reliably put out content that appeals to both adults and children. I am an 18 year old. I am drowning in the putrescent waters of teenage angst, and crippling self-doubt and I believe that THE whole world is awful and that most things produced by the Hollywood machine are horrible, manipulative garbage. I went to Disneyland only a couple of weeks ago and it was one of the most magical freakin' experiences of my entire life. My outer shell of sarcastic teenage bitterness washed away and I was genuinely excited at the prospect of riding The Haunted Mansion. If they can do that to me, then they must be doing something right. 
MOST of the time anyway.
So, I'm Australian, I like Disney movies, I think you can all guess where this is going (well of course you can, you saw the poster at the top right?). That's right, we're diving into the forgotten step child of the Disney Renaissance, The Rescuers Down Under.

Disney were at the top of the world during the early nineties, producing such classics as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and, of course, The Lion King. But in-between Mermaid and Beauty was a sequel to Disney's The Rescuers, The Rescuers Down Under, the one outright bomb of that golden age. For reasons that I'm too lazy to look up that elude me, pretty much all the marketing for this film was pulled, leading it to fail at the box office despite good reviews. Since then, it has grown a fairly sizable cult following, but I'm not here to talk about that. If you didn't know, this movie is set in Australia and as an Australian I feel it's my patriotic duty to analyze its depiction of Australian culture and its people!
Nah, not really, I just want to make fun of a movie made by people I respect that's aimed mostly at children.

Let's see if the Yowies are kind, and let's play some didgeridoo for The Rescuers Down Under
(NOTE: Also, yes I realize that reviewing Disney films is mostly the Unshaved Mouse's thing but I actually am Australian so I feel I can provide an interesting point of view on this movie so be silent)


The films opens to a quiet, peaceful shot of some Australian bush and we see some examples of Australian bugs. Allow me to tell what each of their individual poisons will do to an average person.
Causes intestines to liquefy.
Causes inoperable bowel blockage

Causes you to drink XXXX.(Oh yeah, I went there)
Then suddenly this quiet opening gives way to a mad explosive dash across a field of Australian outback. It's hard to convey with just words but it really gets the blood going and gets you ready for the adventure ahead!
Although I am going to have to take away a few points due to the fact that flowers don't exist in Australia.
The camera moves across the field and then into a random Australian house. Here, we meet our main child for the movie, Cody (voiced by Adam Ryen), waking up in a traditional Australian bed.
Doonas (or "Bed Covers" for you yanks) are too risky in the outback, too accustoming to small bitey things. The stench of man clothes should keep them away. Should
He is awoken by the sounds of a Didgeridoo playing in the distance. He tries to sneak away from his house without his Mum noticing but she calls out to him right before he can get away. Something interesting to note is that Cody's mother speaks with an Australian accent whilst Cody speaks with an American one (he even calls his mother "Mom" instead of "Mum",  *egugh*). Now, Adam Ryen was Norwegian and they probably cast him for his performance over his ability to do an Australian accent, but I still like to make my own fan theories about animated films that no one remembers so here we go: Cody was born in Australia but he lived for a short while in America while growing up. He moved back to Australia while he was still fairly young but he was never quite able to shake the accent leading to every single person that met him to assume he was AMERICAN DESPITE THE FACT THAT HE HAD LIVED AUSTRALIA FOR MOST OF HIS DAMN LIFE AND EVERY ONE JUST ASSUMES HE'S  AMERICAN AND IT REALLY GETS UNDER HIS SKIN!.


Sorry, got off track there.

Cody assures his Mum that he'll be back soon and runs into the forest.

The forest near Uluru.

Truly a land of bountiful green.
There he meets a Kangaroo who informs him that a Giant Golden Eagle called Marahute (Ma-ra-HOO-tay) has been trapped atop a cliff. And so Cody, the small boy with only a bag and some minor tools, decides to climb up a very tall cliff to save the Eagle. Alone. By himself. Small boy. Minor Tools. Very tall cliff.
Well, makes sense to me!
In any case he scales the cliff and finds Marahute,
Seen here having been trapped on her way to kick the Witch King's arse.
Because I like overthinking films meant for younger audiences, I am now going to explain what exactly I think Marahute is.
Well, she's an Eagle obviously but that's beside the point.
I choose to believe that she is one of the last members of an ancient Australian Animal sub-group called Mega-fauna. And if you thought modern day Australian animals were dangerous...well they are, but they have nothing on the various Mega-fauna species that used to inhabit Australia.
Case in point, Megalania. The T-Rexes of Australia. Hey, that rhymed!
In any case, Cody begins to cut Marahute free of her bonds but the sight of Cody's knife causes her to panic. She accidentally knocks Cody off of the cliff, but is able to grab him before he regrets going up a very tall cliff. Alone. By himself. Small boy. Minor Tools. Very tall cliff.

They then take off on a flight across the Australian sky and it is here I would like to drop the snark and sarcasm for a moment to just say that this film, and this sequence in particular, is...


In any case, Marahute flies Cody back to her nest to act as food for her soon-to-be-hatched chicks to meet her eggs. It's a cute scene if a bit on the saccharine side but another bit of praise I have to give to this movie is the animation on Marahute. Without a single line of dialogue, using only body language and feathers they are able to get across exactly what she's feeling and thinking. Cody remarks that the eggs are warm and will hatch soon and then he wonders where the father is, to which Marahute makes this face.
"He's having an affair with a Kookaburra. Bloody thing won't stop laughing about it."
Cody realizes that the daddy Eagle has been shot and then says that he's lost his dad too. Damn, more parents lost to the terrible Disney-Protagonist-Dead-Parent-Cliche Disease. The Black Plague of our time.
They cover back up Marahute's nest but one of her feathers comes loose, which she allows Cody to keep.

We transition to the forest were Marahute drops Cody off before taking flight. Cody runs through forest happily before passing this completely not ominous sign.
Oh hey! The "Wanted" musical is in town. Sweet!
He spots a mouse strung up in what is obviously a trap, but Cody frees the thing anyway and falls in. Ah, first rule of the Outback mate: Never undo another man's trap. Such a crime is punishable by a good booting.
I assume you've all seen the documentary.
The trap alerts our villain McLeach (played by the delicious diabolical George C. Scott) who makes a beeline for the trap. The mouse that Cody freed tries to get him out but they are foiled by McLeach's subtle entrance.
That's "subtle" in a relative sense, of course.
Hmm, that is a mighty impressive death machine on wheels, but let's see what our main judge has to say on the matter.
Well, I ain't gonna argue with him.
McLeach exits his truck and it is here we are introduced to Joanna (voiced by that guy who voices everything, Frank Welker), McLeach's personal pet Goanna. Ha. Ha. What a lame joke. There's no way this character is going to be the least bit AAAAAAAAHHHHH!
Sorry, that bit still just makes me jump. McLeach approaches his trap, wondering aloud what kind of animal he's bagged. When he sees that it's just Cody, he's disappointed because he's not in The Most Dangerous Game. He kicks Joanna, pinning the blame for the trap on Joanna burying squirrels. But Cody is immediately suspicious of McLeach for two reasons: One, he looks like this.
You ever hear a story like "Man sleeps with Sheep", or "Women bakes children in oven"  and then  you see their profile picture and they look EXACTLY like how you think they'd look. Yeah.
And two, squirrels don't exist in Australia. He helps Cody out of the hole and Cody accuses McLeach of poaching, which is illegal don'tcha know? They converse for a bit, but Joanna sees the mouse in Cody's backpack and pounces, knocking McLeach into the hole. He climbs back up and points his gun at Joanna but then notices that Cody has one of the Eagle's feathers. He hoists Cody up and asks where he got the feather. Cody says it was a "present" and then McLeach reveals that...HE WAS THE ONE WHO SHOT MARAHUTE'S HUSBAND! Cody gets loose and tries to run, but because this is Australia, he only takes five paces before running into Crocodiles.
Honestly, they're the Starbucks of the outback.
McLeach grabs Cody but the boy is tenacious and threatens McLeach with his Mother calling The Rangers, to which McLeach laughs off.
Y'know, that's really a threat you should take more seriously around here. 
I swear that's the last Mad Max joke. Maybe. McLeach throws Cody's bag to the crocodiles and then drives off with him. The mouse that Cody saved earlier runs over to a mouse sized telegram office that informs the Rescue Aid Society (RAS) (a coalition of mice from all over the world dedicated to helping kidnapped children) that Cody has been stolen. From there the signal Indiana Jones's its way to New York City, the headquarters of the RAS. Now most of the CGI in this movie is good and a lot of it holds up really well, it's just that this depiction of New York City...doesn't.
Man, New York City has way less pixels than I remember.
In any case, the RAS head informs the cabinet of mice about the situation in Australia, claiming that it requires their top agents, Bernard and Bianca (Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor respectively, reprising their roles from the original).  Bernard and Bianca are very likable protagonists and their voice actors infuse them with a lot of charm but if I do have another complaint with this film it's that Bianca never really seems to get much to do, she's always there to get captured and rescued by Bernard and is rather passive. 
In any case, Bernard and Bianca can't accept the mission due to the fact that they're not there, but at a restaurant celebrating the anniversary of their "partnership".
Ah, partner-zoned, I've been there buddy.
Bianca is jovial about their partner-versary but Bernard is nervous because he's gearing up to propose. Unfortunately for him, just as he's about to pop the question, the ring falls out of his pocket and he leaves the table to go after it. Hijinks ensue. Bianca is approached by one of the Cockroach waiters (Ewww!) with a letter informing her of the Cody situation. Bernard returns to the table and a misunderstanding  happens wherein he assumes that she already knows he's about to propose and is going to announce their marriage to the RAS, when really shes says that they've accepted the mission to Australia!
Wah Wah Waaaaaaah!
Cut to a snowy roof top as Bianca and Bernard try to get help from Orville the Albatross to give them a lift to Australia but find he's out of town. Instead they have to go to his younger brother Wilbur (Orville and Wilbur! Wright Brothers reference!) played by the late great John Candy. I love John Candy's performance in this, he manages to be both funny and moving. In any case, Wilbur is adamant about not flying in a snow storm but changes his tune once he hears that a kid is in danger.

WILBUR: Kidnapped? Oh! That-that's awful! Lockin' up a little kid. Kids should be free! Free to run wild through the house on Saturday mornings, free to have cookies and milk, and get those little white mustaches, you know?  Nobody's gonna take a kid's freedom away while I'm around! Nobody ain't! Hear me?

That's beautiful man!
They take off through the city, really showing off how dated it is.  Wilbur says that he can't fly all the way to Australia by himself and that he's going to have to make connections with a "bigger bird". Fair enough, I've walked from Brisbane to New York, it's a fair chog. 

Cut back to Cody and McLeach, and the old poacher has taken the boy out to his hideout in some abandoned opal mines. He yells at Cody to be quiet in case anyone hears him. Mate, you're in the middle of the outback, you could blast out a Dragonforce concert and the only ones that'd hear you would be the kangaroo carcasses.
There's a brief cut back to Cody's house with his Mum merely yelling his name in worry. It's a simple moment but one that's guaranteed to make any parents watching to just clutch their children slightly.

Back to the Rescuers, they've fallen asleep inside a plane's landing gear. The plane opens up and Wilbur jumps out in a moment that's so pretty and exciting that it almost makes me ignore the fact that you can totally see through the Sydney Opera House in this shot.
AHG! My precious Immersion! 0 out of 10! No stars! Worse than child syphilis!
Bernard asks Bianca if they can take the train from now on instead of flying on Albatross'. To which I say, ah relax ya' gumby, it's better than flying QANTAS. 
And because Australia is nothing except Sydney followed by an immediate expanse of desert, they arrive almost instantaneously near Uluru.
It's here we meet a new character Jake, essentially Crocodile Dundee if he was a mouse, learning the first rule of the outback:Never play checkers with a fly.
Honestly it's just common sense. 
Wilbur radios in (via the radio that he the sardine can) that they're gonna land but Jake says that the runway isn't long enough. Wilbur decides to land anyway and Jake makes the runway longer through shenanigans. Wilbur comes to a complete stop but Jake is irritated with the behavior of the yank (as any good Australian should) but is immediately smitten with Bianca. 
Well, she is voiced by Eva Gabour
Bernard is of course jealous that some Australian is making moves on his sheila (well, we can't help it if we're just naturally more attractive Bernard) and says that he's also  got bags to take after Jake carries Bianca's. Wilbur offers to take his bags but he cricks his back and is now in terrible pain. They take him to the local mouse doctor who assures the Rescuers that Wilbur will be fine, and then they shoot him in the arse with a bunch painkillers from a shotgun. Well, I've heard of worse alternate treatments.
My question is, why does a shotgun need a scope?
Cut back to Bernard and Bianca and they're trying to figure out which way to go to get to Cody. Jake cuts in and asks if they're husband and wife on a romantic getaway. In the outback.
Truly, a quiet sanctum for love and peace.
Eventually he twigs on that they're searching for the boy McLeach took and "offers" to act as the Rescuer's guide purely out of the kindness of his own heart and not because he wants to make mouse babies with Bianca. The next scene is of the three travelling via Sugar-glider (the only way to travel), and it ends with Bernard being covered in poison berries. 
Well, he lasted longer than most Yanks do.
Cut back to McLeach's lair, he's throwing knives at Cody to make him loose his tongue about the bird's location. Cody refuses to tell so McLeach offers to split the rewards for the Eagle 50/50. When Cody refuses still, McLeach gets angry. I can tell because he kicks his billy.
First rule of the outback: Never kick your billy.
Back to the Rescuers and Bianca and Bernard are alone. Bernard takes the opportunity to try to propose again...before he is interrupted by a big snake.
There's a metaphor here somewhere.
Jake rustles the snake (okay there is definitely a metaphor here somewhere) and they use it as a mount and ride off.
You really feel for Bernard in this movie, he just wants to work up the courage to ask his lady friend to marry him but all this nonsense just keeps getting in the way. Bob Newhart does an excellent job of playing Bernard with a just good amount of earnestness and sympathy to make him work. 
Admit it, you wanna give the poor bugger a hug.
The next scene is kind of superfluous. McLeach locks Cody in his basement (I think) to give him a night to "think it over" and it's here we see the other animals McLeach has captured. There's a frilled-neck lizard that's kind of annoying but he isn't in the film for very long, so I won't hold it against the film. And there is a sarcastic Koala who actually is really funny, so I'm willing to give the scene a pass. 
Ah don't worry, he's just grouchy 'cause he's missing out on all of those koala orgies.
Anyway, all the animals and Cody try to build a hook to grab the keys off the wall but guess who should show up?
"I was KEYED in that something bad was going on"
She smashes the hook and everyone gets real sad about it.
After a brief scene where we see The Rescuers (And Jake) flying about on fireflies, we cut back to Wilbur as he reveals all of his vices. 
*Badum Tish!*
No, Wilbur is still with Doctor Crazy Mouse and he's been strapped down onto a table and rigged up with a heart monitor. Doctor Crazy Mouse realizes that the damage to Wilbur's back is too extensive and calls for the "Epidermal Tissue Disruptor". 
I'm beginning to think that talking mouse has never actually held a medical license. 
Wilbur realizes that this Doctor must have a few Kangaroos loose in the top paddock and makes a break for it. In the scuffle he's able to crick his own back back into place and then flies off to find B and B.
What follows is another Parent-nightmare inducing scene where one of the rangers delivers the bad news to Cody's Mum. 
'Tell me it's not true!'
'I'm afraid it is ma'm. Your son he's...joined the Warboys.'
Okay, now THAT is the last Mad Max joke, I swear!
Back with McLeach he's fixing himself some lunch whilst also figuring out how to get the boy to spill the beans. It's actually quite a humorous scene as he tries to keep his eggs away from Joanna...

Just lock the box dude.
...but it does actually lead to plot development. He figures he can exploit Marahute's eggs as the boy's weakness to give up the goose, or eagle, in this case. And he figures all of this out whilst making this face.
Purple lighting, never not evil.
Back to Cody, he's still in the cage. Skipping over a superfluous scene involving the Frilled Neck Lizard (another problem with this film is that it's surprisingly very padded), McLeach snatches the boy up and tells him "say goodbye to your little friends. It's the last you'll ever see of them!". And it's true, we never see any of these guys again.

Bernard, Bianca and Jake (B, B & J) arrive at McLeach's door and begin trying to dig under it but it opens and they climb up atop it. McLeach throws Cody out and tells him that Marahute has been shot and yells at him to scram. He then begins to wonder out loud about what will happen to those eggs. Marahute's eggs, who will surely die without their Mother. If only someone who knew where the eggs were was able to go out to keep them safe. Because Marahute is totally dead. And the eggs will be dead too without their mother. Oh well. 
Yeah, I think you all know what quote I'm gonna use here.

Why does everyone forget that Leia said this first? 

Cody runs off, and McLeach begins his pursuit in his giant Death Machine on wheels. 
It's in this part that McLeach delivers my favorite line in the whole movie.

MCLEACH: I didn't make it all the way through third grade for nothing!

You know, by all accounts, McLeach should not be this interesting a villain. His motivation is fairly flat, he's greedy and wants the bird for money and he never really has much personality beyond "jerkass poacher" but because George C. Scott plays him with such energy and enthusiasm he becomes far more entertaining a character than he has any right to be. Much like Ronan from Guardians of the Galaxy or Owen from Jurassic World sometimes a talented actor can make even what should be the blandest character become more than the sum of their parts.

After a brief action beat, B, B & J land on McLeach's truck and follow Cody. Cody arrives at Marahute's nest and is relieved to find the eggs are okay. He tries to cover them up, even using the feather Marahute gave him but it gets blown away in the breeze leaving him despondent. Despite the fact there are more of them right there. 
B, B and J find Cody and tell him that he's in grave danger. Unfortunately he's unable to heed their warning of "Danger Will Cody Robinson Whateverhislastnameis" because he's distracted by Marahute's call. He runs over to the edge and is ecstatic to see she's alive. Wait, so...McLeach LIED!?
But he looked so trustworthy!
McLeach snatches Marahute up with a net but Cody jumps on and tries to save her, which leads to Bianca and Jake jumping on to save him, which leads to all four of them being captured. Bang up job guys, no really, well done. Truly, you set an exemplary example for other heroes.
"We're not worthy!"
McLeach sends Joanna down to eat the eggs to make sure "that bird stays rare". You'd think that the eggs would be even more valuable than Marahute, seeing as how I'm sure there's some eccentric billionaire somewhere that would love a Great Golden Eagle omelet but whatever, I'm not a professional poacher.
At least not since the incident.
Joanna tries to eat the eggs but find them too tough for her and so she knocks them off the cliff. Of course, those weren't really Marahute's eggs, as Bernard had kept them safe and used rocks in their stead. How a small mouse was able to move three big eggs and three equally large rocks in that small amount of time I don't know but lets move on.

Wilbur shows up and Bernard is able to convince him to do some literal babysitting whilst he goes after his captured friends. Back with McLeach, he's gloating over his capture of the Great Golden Eagle, but some yelling from Cody reminds him that he has "loose ends to tie up". Damn, that's pretty dark! I think this the only film wherein the villain's final goal is the outright murder of a child. I mean, yeah, Scar from The Lion King has child murder as a part of his plan but it wasn't the final endgame. Cody becomes dejected and slumps down. Bianca tries to comfort him by saying that Bernard will save them. Jake assumes this is a bluff, but she asserts that she genuinely means it; she actually trusts Bernard to never give up and come after them, which is really, actually heartwarming. 

Bernard is hightailing it after McLeach but being a little mouse he isn't getting very far. Using Jake's example from earlier however, he is able to shame a Razorback Hog into acting as his mount. No small feat that, I mean Razorbacks are pretty nasty no matter where you're from but in Australia they can get HUGE!
So he "Hi-yo Silver"'s it after McLeach.
McLeach has strapped Cody up and plans to feed him to the Crocodiles. Man, that is really evil. Instead of just shooting him he feeds him to crocodiles? Damn, he even dips Cody in a bit before bringing him back up, just to tease the scaly beasts, that's cruel! Thankfully, just before he can drop Cody in completely, the power to his truck cuts out. 
Bernard grabs the keys from McLeach's truck and throws them up to Bianca and Jake who start to shimmy up the side of the cage with them. McLeach grabs out his gun and shoots the rope holding Cody up, causing it to fracture. Damn, not going for the instant kill, McLeach just wants to see this boy get ripped to pieces by Crocodiles.
"Wow, dude, like seriously, tone it down!"
Bernard is able to goad Joanna into knocking McLeach off the cliff into the water before he can completely shoot the rope free, but it comes undone anyway. 
Bernard jump in after Cody and is able to lift him up out of the water...somehow. McLeach meanwhile is able to avoid a horrible messy by having a horrible messy death via water fall.
Making him the 250000000007th Disney Villain to die by falling off of something tall.
Cody and Bernard almost suffer the same fate but are saved at the last minute by the waterfall's natural enemy, the Giant Golden Eagle.
So, all are main characters are reunited, Bernard, having trekked across Australia, mounted a Razorback, fought a Gonna and braved waterfalls finally finds the courage to propose to Bianca to which she says yes and they finally fly off into the sunmoonset. And then the film, just kind of stops. Not end really, we go back to Wilbur he yells out to where the main characters are, the eggs hatch and they bite him and then...credits roll. Okay!? We don't see Cody get back to his Mum, we don't see what becomes of Joanna and um...I think there were some other characters we left behind.
"Okay, I didn't wanna have to be the one to bring it up case they don't come back, who should be eaten first? I vote the Kangaroo."
The Rescuers Down Under was a MASSIVE financial bomb when it came out which is a real damn shame, because it really is a good film. It's not without its flaws to be sure, its got a bit of a pacing issue, it's surprisingly padded, some of the side characters can be annoying, Miss Bianca is given very little to actually do and the film doesn't so much end as, just kind of stop. But aside from those, the main characters are likable, it can be really damn funny when it wants to be, McLeach is an excellent villain, the animation on the characters is fluid and expressive and most of all it's just really damn GORGEOUS to look at. Despite some dated CGI I still stand by that this film has some of the most beautiful backgrounds I've ever seen.
From the perspective of an Australian the film gets lots of things wrong mainly due in terms of landscape and environment but otherwise I was just kidding around.
If you have kids, a younger sibling or just wanna watch a damn good film, then this one is a bloody legend, mate!
I give The Rescuers Down Under The Silver Medal for Certified Cinematic Superiority!

Next Review: 20/04/2015

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