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Though its story is second-rate, The Rescuers Down Under redeems itself with some remarkable production values -- particularly its flight scenes.
All Critics (25)
| Top Critics (6)
| Fresh (17)
| Rotten (8)
| DVD (3)
This sort-of sequel to the 1977 hit The Rescuers boasts reasonably solid production values and fine character voices. Too bad they're set against such a mediocre story that adults may duck.
As for the animation, computer technology invests contemporary features with sometimes breathtaking dynamism, but outback flora being what it is, this isn't the most colourful Disney movie.
The film's direction, by Hendel Butoy and Mike Gabriel, is spectacularly inventive even when not fully appropriate to either the film's subject or the very young viewers it can be expected to attract.
The flight sequence and many of the other action scenes in this new Disney animated feature create an exhilaration and freedom that are liberating. And the rest of the story is fun, too.
A gorgeously drawn myth made for plucky children and very brave mice.
Carries its ambitions with an easy grace, expanding the art of animation to fresh ground without losing sight of the silly fun we love cartoons for.
Better than its predecessor.
Tweaks the formula with a brisker pace, and development of leading characters...and action sequences... [Blu-ray]
A rare sequel that improves on the original.
There's only the one thing it does flat-out wrong: this otherwise delightful adventure-comedy has a completely meandering, aimless story.
The villain is far too malignant, the young vigilante hero seems to be a kiddie Rambo, and some of the action is quite violent, if not tasteless.
The Rescuers' identification/memorableness factor remains second division.
I've gone on about how this is probably one of Disney's most underrated films, I think that mainly has to do with how poorly advertised it was, which is a shame because this film is just amazing. Not only is it a major improvement over the first film, it is a major improvement in every respect. The villain is one of the best villains I think in Disney history. Mcleech just adds so much to this film mainly due to how incredible George C. Scott does the voice. also this film has a world record for being the first digitally animated hand drawn film and it looks amazing, especially the scenes involving the eagle flying.
A barely passable sequel that is not that much better than the detestable first film, off to a good start and with amusing moments (especially in the flight scenes) up until halfway through when it starts to become aimless and forgettable like most pre-Disney Renaissance productions.
The words 'Disney sequel' are usually accompanied by 'straight-to-video', 'sub-par' or other such pejorative terms. Disney has done itself no favours in this regard, churning out sequels to most of its best-loved offerings, the vast majority of which either tarnish the original or bring nothing new to the table. But there is one sequel whose reputation continues to grow; in fact, it is the only sequel considered an official member of the Disney canon. That sequel is The Rescuers Down Under, and even after 22 years, it is severely underrated.
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.
Decent sequel to the Rescuers, however it lacks the thrills that made the first one so exciting. What made The Rescuers such an entertaining film was that there was always something exciting happening, but with this one, instead of delivering a great sequel to a good film, this is a good film but it lacks something to really make it special. Overall it's decent, mindless fun, but compared to the first, it just doesn't stand out. Nonetheless even if it's just a decent film, if you enjoy Disney flicks, then you'll probably like this one. Though not as great as the first, there are still elements in the film to really make it entertaining viewing for the entire family. I just think for this one, the filmmakers could have put a bit more effort into the film because there were some good ideas on-screen. Despite its flaws, this film is lots of fun, but it does lack compared to the first film. For what it is though, this sequel is fun, even if it lacks anything truly special. If you're a fan of the first you're going to like this one, but you'll still feel there's something missing to make it very good. As far as Disney sequels are concerned, this is one of the better ones, as sequels in the Disney catalogue tend to be very bad. However this one is decent and entertaining despite all its imperfections. Not a great film, but still charming for what it is, this sequel is fun and in the end that's what matters.
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