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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Candleshoe
Candleshoe
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // G // June 1, 2004
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted June 21, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

If I wear my comic book geek hat one more time in a DVD review, I'm pretty sure SeƱor Kleinman is going to send me nothing but Boxcar Willie retrospectives to review... but I'm gonna don it again anyhow, and prepare for the inevitable onslaught of hobo-themed musical extravaganzas.

Now then... back in the day, DC Comics used to have regular episodes of their Secret Origins line of comics, in which they would spend page after page detailing the origins and earliest adventures of their wonderful stable of four-color do-gooders and ne'er-do-wells. They still release these comics, but now they're called Secret Files or some such nonsense. My point (and it's coming) is that everything in life that we have come to know, love, and enjoy always has its genesis somewhere. In 1977, Star Wars cemented my lifelong love of movies. In 1983, a local screening of Seven Samurai made the films of Kurosawa religion to me.

And also in 1977, a simple viewing of Candleshoe initiated my lifelong crush on Jodie Foster... at the tender age of six! And this has continued upwards and onwards through 2004 and beyond. But with that seemingly self-indulgent admission in mind, let's backtrack for a bit.

For decades, when it came to live-action family films, Disney held a virtual monopoly. Oh sure, other studios released some classic family fare, but Disney pretty much cornered the market. Starting with 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea in 1954, Uncle Walt found that there was big money to be made in live-action feature films and slowly diverted his attention away from animated features into other, more lucrative ventures (such as live-action films, but also including his Disneyland theme park and weekly television show which, even the staunchest Disney defenders will concede, started off as little more than weekly informercials for the company's product). Sure, Disney released a lot of under-whelming feature films as a result: does anybody besides Leonard Maltin even remember Rob Roy The Highland Rogue, In Search of the Castaways, Miracle of the White Stallions, or a host of sub-par 1970s-era Disney films like $1,000,000 Duck, Unidentified Flying Oddball, or Superdad?

But for all of those turkeys, we ended up with a lot of enjoyable flicks: honestly, who could deny the charms of Pollyanna, Old Yeller, Swiss Family Robinson, The Absent Minded Professor, Mary Poppins, The Love Bug, The Apple Dumpling Gang, and Escape to Witch Mountain (among others, of course, but these are just a few favorites)? Only a true Grumpy Grumperstein, that's who! In the 1970s, it seemed that there was a new live-action Disney film released every other month or so, and I begged my parents to take me to every last one of them. It didn't hurt that they usually came double-billed with a classic Disney animated feature or short. I'm pretty sure I saw Candleshoe double-billed with the classic Three Caballeros (no doubt in its truncated form), and I had the time of my life at that show! To this day, Three Caballeros remains one of my favorite Disney animated feature films of all time, and Candleshoe... well, my six-year-old heart just melted for the pretty, tomboyish girl with the freckles, plucky attitude, and sparkling baby-blues. I think that this was responsible for cementing Candleshoe in my memory as a far better film than it actually is. That's not to say that it's a bad movie; it's not. Far from it. Actually, Candleshoe is a generally enjoyable family film which, if not a classic, mostly entertains as a good-natured family comedy. I remember loving it as a youth. As a thirty-something adult, I found Candleshoe to be a sweet little charmer.

The story begins with young Casey Brown (Jodie Foster), an orphan who entertains herself running around town and causing mischief, mayhem, and all sorts of no-good activities that, viewed within the context of a mid-70s Disney film, could probably be called "gang-bangin'" in the same regard that root beer leads to hardcore mescaline experimentation. She kind of runs around and tips over grease cans so other kids can slip and fall and get themselves all dirty, which of course means she spent a good few weeks in Juvie. You get the picture.

So anyway, one day portly Englishman Harry Bundage (Leo McKern) shows up at her foster home, willing to exploit the child in a ruse that will lead him to a treasure worth millions. You see, in the stately English manor of Candleshoe lies a pirate's booty worth a fortune. But in order to gain access to the grounds, they will have to convince Lady St. Edmund (Helen Hayes), the owner of the manor, that Casey is her long-lost granddaughter. Meanwhile, Lady St. Edmund is near broke and in danger of losing her family home; due to the tireless efforts of her caring butler Mr. Priory (David Niven), who takes on a variety of different guises to convince her that she has a much larger on-site staff than she does, and the gaggle of homeless children she has taken in, who care for her dearly, she remains unaware of her dire financial straits.

There are some nice lessons to be learned here, a variety of giggly moments, and just enough mystery and plot momentum to keep the story moving at a decent pace. Candleshoe might not be one of the more memorable Disney films, but it makes for decent family entertainment and a moderately enjoyable little movie. Plus it has one of the best Disney fight scenes ever.

The DVD

Video:

Candleshoe is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and has been anamorphically enhanced for your widescreen-viewing joy of joys. The transfer looks pretty good throughout, although not without a few faults. First off, there is some noticeable wear and nicks on the transfer. Some scenes display these artifacts quite prominently, although most of the film is rather clean. Colors are fairly impressive throughout most of the picture, especially for a minor catalog title from twenty-five years ago. A few scenes seemed slightly muted, with variable contrast levels that ranged from broad to flat, but generally the image had a nice amount of warmth. Image detail is a tad bit wobbly; although overall sharpness levels are decent, fine image detail is slightly weak. Overall, given the age of the film and the fact that Disney could have just slapped this title out with a fullscreen or non-anamorphic transfer, Candleshoe looks pretty smart.

Audio:

The audio is presented in monaural Dolby Digital, and is acceptable if not overly impressive. The soundtrack seems a little boxy and limited, but dialog comes across nicely enough with acceptable amounts of clarity. The orchestral score is limited by the nature of the soundtrack, and while it does not demonstrate anything resembling impressive dynamic range, it too sounds reasonably acceptable.

Extras:

Other than a short preview for other Disney live-action films of the era, there are no extras on this DVD.

Final Thoughts

It was a personal pleasure for me to revisit Candleshoe, as it was one of those seminal films from my youth. At least I now know where my love of freckle-faced women came from! Like the DC comics of yore, Candleshoe was a major issue of my Secret Origins! And I... you know... you know, why do so many of my reviews always seem to revolve around me ? Does anybody really care? Honestly. The ego on this kid. Sheesh.

OK, back to the film and the DVD. The film is sweet and light and frothy and with just enough story and pluckiness to entertain both kids and adults (surly teenagers who consider themselves above such childish nonsense would best steer clear, and what do they know anyhow?) The transfer has a few flaws, but looks much nicer than it had any right to. The clear lack of special features are disappointing, but as a straight-out release of the film, Candleshoe remains sweet and satisfying and not too overpriced, like the fudge at the Germany pavilion in Epcot. While not a must-buy, Candleshoe definitely merits a strong rental recommendation.

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