Confession: It’s been months now since I watched this. I took so long to sit down and write this review, that I can’t really remember exactly what happened in the movie or what most of my notes are trying to tell me. I suppose I could do a re-re-watch, but…I don’t wanna. There’s a reason I wasn’t really enthusiastic about writing up this review in the first place, after all. This is one of those weird times when I actually prefer the sequel. Anyway, I’m just gonna jump in and hopefully, this review will make some kind of coherent sense.
The weird thing about this movie is that it seems to go between two extremes: either it’s on Sentimental Mode, with sad music and sad orphans, or it’s on Sinister Mode, with SCARY, OMINOUS MUSIC and creepy fake eyelashes. (If you don’t remember the eyelash scene, I’m assuming you haven’t seen this movie. The sight of Medusa pulling off her fake eyelashes is one of those things that sticks with you no matter how old you get.) Once we get to the bayou where Penny is being held prisoner, the lighting becomes really dark and gloomy, like at the beginning of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland when there’s just the crickets chirping and the creepy old guy sitting outside his cabin with his banjo. It’s just an overall spooky atmosphere. And props to the animation and lighting teams for making that atmosphere so effective, but after a while, you start to wonder if you’ll ever see the light of day again.
Anyway, let’s talk about Bob Newhart! He voices Bernard, one of our Rescue Aid Society mice, and he’s wonderful. Bernard is superstitious and maybe a little overly cautious. I love overly cautious protagonists, because they validate my lifestyle. To balance him out, though, is the very stylish Bianca, voiced by Eva, my favorite Gabor. I want to talk about how much I love their little romance, but I think it’s best to leave that for the sequel, when their relationship becomes more central. Also, I could have sworn that John Candy is the voice of Orville the albatross, but no! That’s only in the sequel where he voices Orville’s brother, Wilbur. Rounding up our voice actors is Geraldine Page as the villain Medusa, and the thing that ALWAYS bugs me while I’m watching this movie is how familiar her voice sounds even though I’ve never seen anything she’s been in…and she’s been in a lot of stuff! And she’s won an Oscar! But I’ve never seen ANY of her work, so WHY does she sound so familiar? It drives me crazy.
Perhaps the reason Medusa sounds so familiar to mine ears is because she reminds me of cross between Cruella DeVil and Ursula the sea witch. All that makeup (and the fake eyelashes!), the terrible driving, and that vaguely aristocratic sounding voice. She’s not one of more well-known Disney villains, but she scares the crap out of me, so they did something right. It’s the crazy eyes (and the eyelashes! I’ll never forget the eyelashes), I think. And just…she’s so mean. Yeah, all Disney villains are somewhat mean and they try to kill people and take over the world, but Medusa isn’t trying to take over the world, she’s…crushing the hopes and dreams of a little orphan girl in a somewhat realistic way. Okay, trying to find giantic diamonds in pirate wells isn’t quite realistic, but I’m thinking more of…well…the fake eyelash scene (it always comes back to the fake eyelash scene) where Medusa tells Penny that no one will ever want to adopt her. That’s just mean! It kind of bugs me, though, that Medusa doesn’t get arrested for kidnapping or endangering small children or anything. Is there no justice system down in the bayou? Also, fun fact: Medusa’s appearance is based on the animator’s ex-wife. I wonder if she wore false eyelashes.
On the overly sentimental side of things, may I just take a moment to bitch about the music in this movie? Some of the songs are pretty, I suppose, especially “Someone’s Waiting for You,” but for the most part, the songs sound so sappy and kind of out of place with the gloominess. Also, they do that Tarzan thing where the songs are played over the action and not sung by the characters themselves. This might just be a personal pet peeve, but I’m not a big fan of that in Disney movies. If you’re going to have a musical, shouldn’t the characters be the ones singing? You know a Medusa villain song would have been kickass and terrifying.
All right, that’s all I got. Let this be a lesson to me next time not to wait so long between watching the movie and writing the review.
Favorite moment: Diamonds and creepy pirate caves
Because this is a very tense and worrying scene. The water’s coming in! There’s a scary skull! Young girls with big swords! Mice going down a whirpool! I knew everything was going to be okay, but I was still kind of worried.
The Fake Eyelash Scene
You know you want to look.
Next time: The Fox and the Hound!