The Rescuers Down Under Reviews
There are several reasons why The Rescuers Down Under is relatively little-known. The Rescuers was hardly a work of great prestige, epitomising the company's decline and increasingly conservative attitude towards filmmaking. Certainly it's not the kind of film that instinctively demanded a sequel, even considering its reasonable box office. For this reason, the film commercially underperformed on opening weekend, after which all its advertising was quickly pulled. It eventually found an audience on VHS and subsequently DVD; if it were any less conventional in its storytelling, you might call it a cult classic.
Living in a time where Hollywood is more reliant on franchises and reboots than ever before, it is very easy to be cynical about any kind of sequel or prequel. As with most things in film, we have to take things on a case-by-case basis, resisting the urge to brand the makers as mercenaries until we have judged their work creatively. If we can justify a remake on the basis of fixing problems with the original or bringing something new to the story, then a sequel with more money and better animation behind it may result in the film that the original always should have been. And on this occasion, that is exactly what we get.
For starters, The Rescuers Down Under has beautiful animation. It's a vast improvement on the pale, Xerox look of the original, but it also lacks the off-putting, plastic quality of The Little Mermaid. Not only is the animation better, but the film is more ambitious as to what it used for. While the original had a title sequence made up of matte paintings, this has a fast-moving track shot through millions of flowers. The flying sequences are more elaborate, and moments of the opening sequence are downright breath-taking.
The opening section helps to shed light on the changing ethos of Disney. Both The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under are steeped in Disney convention; they do not attempt any ground-breaking departures in terms of story, characters or tone. The difference between them, and the key to the latter's success, is an underlying sense of purpose. The Rescuers feels tired and forgettable because it was made to get by; the company was drawing on its past as an admission that it could no longer innovate.
The Rescuers Down Under finds the same company actively celebrating its past, so that while we may not be seeing anything radically new, it is delivered with such endearing energy that we probably won't care. When Cody is skating along the river with the birds flying all around him, it is like we are seeing the scenes of animals and humans interacting from Snow White, but kicked up a notch and given a modern sheen. There is still the odd moment of blatant recycling (Frank is a dead ringer for Bill the lizard from Alice in Wonderland), but this happens so infrequently that it is easy enough to overlook.
Some critics commented that the Australian setting for the film is quite superfluous, on the grounds that the story could have been set anywhere else and still made about as much sense. They have a point, insofar as the actual plot of The Rescuers Down Under is pretty standard adventure fare. We have a young boy as our damsel-in-distress, the mice as the unlikely protagonists or underdogs, and a poacher as our dragon, big bad wolf, evil witch or whatever takes your fancy. But the pacing of the film is so much better, so if we do see something coming, then we're looking forward to it rather than dreading the arrival of a cliché.
Aside from better pacing and animation, the film improves on the original in a number of other ways. Firstly, it sets out the boundaries for interaction between humans and animals very early, so that we don't spend any time scratching our heads when Cody and the mice finally meet. The film also sets up the mouse world in greater detail with the message relay and scene in the restaurant near the beginning. We have a much stronger picture of a parallel world, and there are enough familiar features to make it easy to suspend our disbelief.
Secondly, the villain is a lot scarier. Even in her best scenes, Madame Medusa was essentially a second-rate version of Cruella de Vil, being every bit at pantomime but nowhere near as intimidating. McLeach's motivation and modus operandi are almost exactly the same - using children to find riches that are out of reach - but he's a lot more threatening and playfully cruel. George C. Scott is in its element, using his unique voice to build unease even in the moments of light relief. At times he's having so much fun, you'd swear that General Buck Turgidson had turned up on set.
The other performances in the film are just as good. Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor both reprise their roles, with the former being more lovably downtrodden and the latter (in her final role) being glamorous but not distant. The running gag about Bernard trying to propose to Bianca is played out very well, with sufficient pauses being left each time so that the gag doesn't run out of steam before the punch-line. Elsewhere John Candy is well-cast as Wilbur, Tristan Rogers does very nicely as Jake, and Adam Ryen is capable enough as Cody.
Thirdly, the set-pieces in The Rescuers Down Under are very well-executed. Even if the film doesn't entirely justify its Australian setting on a plot level, it does use the wild variety of animals on offer for a few pretty good action scenes. The animals' attempts to break out of their cages, Jake facing down a snake, or Bernard and Bianca surviving the caterpillar tracks all stick to Alfred Hitchcock's maxim of making the best possible use of the props and settings you have. The medical scenes where Wilbur is treated for a bad back are also pretty funny, though very young viewers may be freaked out once the chainsaw appears.
There are a couple of problems with the film which prevent it from reaching the heights subsequently achieved by Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King. The story is incredibly conventional, with the lines between good and evil being very clear-cut and the film not devoting an awful lot of time to the villain's motivation. And like many later efforts in the renaissance, the film has too many sidekicks. Joanna justifies her place by actually advancing the plot, but Frank can be annoying and the other caged animals don't leave enough of an impression to warrant their extended presence. The film isn't as bad as Pocahontas in this regard, but it's still an annoying little detail.
The Rescuers Down Under improves upon the original film in every conceivable way. The animation is brighter and more engaging, the storytelling is brisker, the characters are more involving and the whole project has an underlying sense of energy and passion almost completely absent in the first film. Its highly conventional story and little niggles prevent it from being truly first-rate Disney, but is still comes with the highest recommendation as a truly good Disney sequel.
"The Rescuers Down Under" is one of the best Disney movies ever made in my opinion. But for some reason it hasn't ever got the credit it deserves. But no matter how underrated it is, it's still one of the best ever made. For the time, "The Rescuers Down Under" had some good visuals and effects. All the characters in the movie are intersting from the adventurous Bernard and Miss Bianca, the hilarious Wilbur the albatross whose voice is done by John Candy, and even the fearsome enemies, McLeach and his pet salamander.
I recommend "The Rescuers Down Under" to anybody who likes animated or Disney movies. It's especially good for kids because they will grow up watching it and they'll probably remember it the rest of their life as one of their favorites. NOTE: That was my Amazon review from the year 2000. Yep, I've always loved and always will love and treasure this one, much better than the more famous "The Rescuers." This one's much too overlooked and deserves legions more fame than it gets.
The films animation is simply amazing to say the least, being the first Disney feature to use the CAPS process for it's animation. Everything has so much great color to it as well as detail. The most amazing though are the flight sequences, there's a reason why so many praise it, they are simply amazing more so then most flight sequences in film history.
The film has no songs like the first film, but it does have a nice score to it that works.
The characters are great especially the two leads who are voiced once again by their previous actors. There are actually more characters that are interesting here in comparison to the original. The film's villain, Percival C. McLeach is portrayed well by the late great George C. Scott, always fun as he is sadistic.
The story has a good pacing with not much story problems. Moving fast and always feeling as adventurous as it should it leaves the original in the dust. It's only major fault being it just does not stay in mind as much as it should in most because of the fact of it being a sequel that was legitimately from Disney and not just the straight to video shlock.
While not as memorable as the previous film from the era "The Rescuers Down Under" is still able to best it's previous installment.
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The film is a different experience from the moment it starts. Whereas The Rescuers took time to introduce it's kidnapped child and show how she got in her predicament, Down Under introduces its captive, Cody, immediately. It shows the viewer his character, personality, and exactly how he got to the point where he needed to be rescued. I'm not sure it's a good trade-off, as some of the mystery is lost. Cody loves animals and does his best to protect them, he accidentally ends up in a poachers trap, the poacher realizes Cody knows where a rare eagle is and kidnaps him so he'll tell him. It's straightforward, and quite frankly a little boring. Then there's the villain, McLeach, who just isn't that great of a villain, especially when compared to the superb Madame Medusa from the first film. The whole "evil poacher" concept isn't that interesting, and I also found his character to just be far too blatantly evil to the point that it wasn't believable anymore. Whereas Madame Medusa was sort of a passive aggressive type of evil, McLeach is obnoxiously obvious about his ill intentions, and the lengths he'll go to just to kill any endangered species (without spoiling anything, let's just say he goes farther than I for one was willing to believe to be realistic). He is still a pretty fun villain at times, with a wonderful sort of energy and great voice-work by George C. Scott, but he still doesn't rank anywhere near the same level as other great cartoon villains.
Moving on though, we are also reintroduced to the two heroes from the first film, Bernard and Bianca, who take the mission to rescue Cody. They are just as fun and loveable as they were in the first film. Nothing about their characters has been changed, but nothing needed to be changed. The two most significant additions to the non-human cast members are Jake the kangaroo rat, who serves as a romantic foil to Bernard as he vies for Biancas affection, and Wilbur the albatross brother of Orville from the first film. Wilbur, voiced by John Candy, is a spectacular addition to the cast proving to be a loveable form of comic relief. I liked Orville well enough in the first film, but Wilbur is just freakin' hilarious. It's odd to see the melodrama of The Rescuers replaced with the comical antics of a giant bird in Down Under, but it still works in its own way.
I've barely talked about the best part of Down Under, which is the adventure and beauty of it. The first film was filled with melodrama and a wonderful sort of ugliness, and it worked. Down Under is filled with adventure and beauty, and this works as well. The outback settings are nice to look at, the animation captures them perfectly, and the adventurous nature is at times awe-inspiring. The scenes involving flight atop of the colossal golden eagle Marahute deserve special mention for their ability to capture the glorious feeling of flight. These scenes aren't something you watch, they are something you experience. So is Down Under better than it's predecessor? No, but it's not any poorer either. Both films have their pros and cons, and serve to provide a different experience.