Friday, April 3, 2015

The Rescuers Down Under


Starring (voices): Bob Newhart, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Tristan Rogers, George C. Scott, Adam Ryen

Rated G

There is something to be said for having too much of a good thing.  Too much food packs on the pounds.  Too much booze gets you a hangover.  And too many action scenes, as exciting as they may be, limit character development and emotional involvement.  Don’t get me wrong, the sequel to “The Rescuers,” which came out 13 years after the original, is a lot of fun and well worth seeing.  But it’s too busy; there’s so much going on that it dilutes the focus of the film.

Cody (Ryen) is an adventurous young boy living in the Australian outback.  He’s friends with all the animals, and one day, he is tasked with saving Marahute, a massive golden eagle.  That puts him in the sights of a vile poacher named McLeach (Scott), and his nasty lizard, Joanna (Frank Welker).  A mouse whose position as bait was the reason that McLeach captured Cody frantically contacts the Rescue Aid Society, who immediately sends Bernard (Newhart) and Miss Bianca (Gabor) to rescue him.  But they’re not there.  They’re having dinner at a posh restaurant, where Bernard is working up the courage to pop the question.  But before he can do so, they’re off to the continent down under.

The film gets off to a fantastic start.  After a few moments establishing the setting, the screen hurtles down the desert as the opening credits roll.  It’s not as gripping as the opening to “TheLion King,” but it’s strong enough to make me think of it.  The filmmakers waste no time with set-up; they assume that we’re familiar enough with the first film that nothing more than a bare bones background is necessary.

Bob Newhart and Zsa Zsa Gabor slide easily back into their roles; you’d never know that 13 years had passed since they last played the characters.  Unfortunately, they play second fiddle to the action scenes.  While the original most certainly had some action set-pieces, Bernard and Miss Bianca were always at the forefront.  That doesn't happen here, where they seem to be props of the story.

The film also has far too much going on.  You've got Cody’s adventures in captivity, the new albatross’s adventures in a military hospital, and Bernard dealing with a local mouse ranger named Jake (Rogers), who is competing for the affections of Miss Bianca.  It’s all very entertaining, but that’s exactly the problem.  It makes it hard to form an attachment to any of the characters.

To be fair, the action scenes are well staged and exciting.  McLeach is a terrific villain, although he may be a little too scary for the very little ones.  And it’s impossible not to love any character played by the late great John Candy.  But the script lacks some of the cleverness and the heart of the original.

As I said before, it’s still great fun and well worth your time.  I just wish they had remembered what made the original truly great.

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