Disney's 1977 animated feature The Rescuers is as fine
a piece of One-World Government propaganda you'll find on this side of an Anti-Globalization
Rally, but don't let that pseudo-pithy observation keep this slightly cute if ultimately
mediocre movie away from your young ones. Then again, as an animated feature
film, The Rescuers cannot compete with Disney's top-tier or even
second-tier titles: it lacks the emotional wallop, endearing characters, and
memorable musical numbers from some of Disney's more renowned films.
It doesn't help that the film is a product of Disney's "Dark
Period", a twenty-two era period that began after the release of Jungle Book
and continued up to (but not including) The Little Mermaid in which
Disney's animated output can be summed up in two words: Spoogeworthy. This span
of time included some rather lackluster features, such as The Aristocats,
Robin Hood, The Fox and the Hound, and The Black Cauldron.
To be totally honest, it's not as if these movies were bad, or even mediocre.
The worst one could say about most of them is that they were unmemorable and
ultimately disposable. And this is coming from someone who genuinely liked The
So if The Rescuers is ultimately a product of its
time, then what does it have going for it? A few good things, actually. The plotline
is fairly solid and proactive, a welcome change from the rather episodic nature
of The Aristocats and Robin Hood, the two animated features that
preceded The Rescuers. To recap in a nutshell: young Penny, kidnapped by
the evil Madame Medusa, tosses a message in a bottle containing her pleas to be
rescued. The message is retrieved by a group of mice who operate out of the
United Nations. Two mice, Bianca and Bernard, set out to rescue the poor girl.
Hence the film's title.
The Rescuers also benefits from a host of great vocal
talent. Bernard is voiced by the king of deadpan comedic genius, Bob Newhart,
while the lovely Bianca's Hungarian lilt could only be provided by one Eva
Gabor. Both of their characters are warm and seem fully dimensional, even if
they both fall into the standard Disney heroic paradigm. There's even a
recurring theme that even the smallest of people with the biggest of hearts and
noblest of intentions can accomplish anything, a slightly mawkish but generally
positive message that provides a good example for your impressionable young ones.
The film disappoints in its inability to present a
compelling narrative and overall thrilling story out of its constituent
elements. There is so much potential that is never actualized. Remember the
ingenious "Twilight Bark" from 101 Dalmations or the inspired
anthropomorphisms of Lady and the Tramp? The Rescuers aspires to reach
those levels but quickly becomes mired in the realm of the conventional and
mundane. And truth to be told, as a villain Madame Medusa is little more than a
slightly warmed-over Cruella DeVille. The best Disney villains have always been
fairly relatable to the audience as well as intricately tied to the fate of the
main character. For instance, sure, Sleeping Beauty's Maleficient is one
heck of a surly, sour-pussed evil fairy, but King Stefan still should have
invited her to the party. And Snow White's Evil Queen was a solidly sexy
middle-aged woman who found her reign of superficiality threatened by a young
falsetto with an Erin Moran haircut. So what does Medusa want with Penny vis-à-vis
her villainous motivations? Someone tiny enough to find a hidden diamond? *snore*…
I don't think The Rescuers is a bad movie, or even a
disappointing one, but it is certainly an uninspired and unmemorable one. This
is as close to McDisney as the House of Mouse ever achieved. The flat,
unimaginative animation style doesn't really help either, and neither do the
sappy, 70s-esque E-Z Listening ballads that permeate the film. For seventy-six
odd minutes or so, The Rescuers will probably engage you on some
superficial level, but like Occidentalized Chinese food, half-and-hour later it
will be like you were never there.
Horror of horrors! The opening Disney logo on this DVD looks
so horrific that I thought I was in for the visual nightmare of my life!
Thankfully, the rest of the film wasn't as massively ridden with debris, noise,
and artifacts. The Rescuers is presented in an anamorphically enhanced
1.77:1 widescreen transfer. The results are generally acceptable but not
without issues. There is a slight shakiness to the entire picture, as well as
some speckling and other minor wear on the print. Edge enhancement was
noticeable throughout the film. Colors are solid and rich, but the entire
picture is slightly soft throughout and the picture looks occasionally murky. I
would like to have seen a sharper, more detailed image, but unfortunately The
Rescuers has two things going against it: 1) The film is a fairly minor
title in Disney's animation library, and 2) As a product of Disney's "Dark
Period" it is saddled with many of the limitations inherent in other animated
films of the time (The Aristocats, Robin Hood, and even some of Jungle
Book) in that it sports looser pencils and static backgrounds that like the
fluidity of earlier (and later) films. I was not impressed with the video on The
Aristocats, but there wasn't anything terribly wrong with it either. It's
pleasing, it's satisfying, it gets the job done, but little else.
The audio presentation has been remixed into Dolby Digital
5.1, and also includes 5.1 remixes of the French and Spanish language tracks. The
result is satisfying if not overly memorable. Surrounds are put into effective
use in highlighting the orchestral score as well as aggressively enhancing
background and ambient noise. Dialog is well rendered and finely delivered. There
is a very limited degree of separation in the front soundstage, with little
directionality or spaciousness to the array.
The DVD opens with several Sneak Peeks, including
previews for The Lion King: Special Edition, Air Bud Spikes Back,
Stitch! The Movie, Piglet's Big Movie, Jungle Book 2, and Sleeping
Beauty: Special Edition. These previews are avoidable by quickly tapping the
"Menu" button on your remote.
"The Ultimate Case" Game is a pointless exercise in
futility in which you can join the Rescue Aid Society buy collecting hidden
items through four different scenes. And what do you get when you win? Why, how
about a jovial trip back to the Special Features menu. Wow.
Keeping with the mouse-themed nature of The Rescuers,
a Disney animated short entitled Three Blind Musketeers has been
included for your viewing pleasure. Running slightly over eight minutes, this
1936 "Silly Symphony" offers more verve, style, and imagination than
seventy-six minutes of the main feature film.
Also included is Water Birds: A Walt Disney True Life
Adventure, a thirty-minute episode of Disney's "True Life Adventure"
series. The episode is in pretty spotty shape, which features an excessive
amount of wear and noise. There's also an annoyingly condescending attitude to
the episode as well. That having been said, if you enjoy these types of "nature
reality" features you'll probably enjoy this extra.
Under The Hat Villains is a two minute, "One To Grow
On"-styled information tidbit from the Toon Disney channel. It features a
smarmy little puke named Beau who provides a brief rundown on the types of
villains you might find in, oh say I don't know, a Disney animated movie? What
a shock. Thankfully, Beau never wears out his welcome, as the feature ends
rather quickly. Actually, one day I would enjoy seeing a documentary that
analyzes and examines all of the major Disney villains. Just keep Beau and his
twerpy Billy Idol-wannabe haircut out of it.
The Rescuers Scrapbook contains fifteen pages of artwork
detailing Visual Development, Character Development, storyboards, photographs,
and other memorabilia collected during the creation of The Rescuers.
Finally, if you ever wanted to sound like Karen Carpenter on her worst day, you
are cordially invited to participate in the Someone's Waiting For You
Sing-Along Song, a karaoke-styled hootenanny that will make you yearn for
the days of Poco and The Little River Band.
The Rescuers won't go down as one of the paragons of
Disney animation. I'd like to say that the film is an under-appreciated but
well-worth-your-time little movie, but even that would be stretching veritas
past its breaking point. The Rescuers is what it is: a slight but
perfunctory exercise in children's entertainment that neither pushes any
boundaries nor strives to become anything beyond the mundane. Its workmanlike
delivery will please those with indiscriminate tastes in animation, and might
even capture the attention of your impressionable young ones for a scant 78 minutes.
Disney's DVD release of the film is slightly disappointing
in light of the mediocre audio and visual presentation. The extras are somewhat
notable given the less-than-sterling reputation of the film. Fans of the movie
will probably enjoy the content, but I find it far from value-adding. This disc
is for fans and Disney completists only. Those of you who haven't seen the
movie should perhaps give The Rescuers a rental before purchasing.