The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 17 min.

Release Date: November 16th, 1990 MPAA Rating: G

Director: Hendel Butoy, Mike Gabriel Actors: Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, John Candy, Tristan Rogers, Adam Ryen, George C. Scott, Douglas Seale, Frank Welker, Peter Firth

 


 

A

lthough the film starts with a realistic setting and a human character, it’s unexpectedly jarring to hear a motherly kangaroo speak to a boy to alert him of an imprisoned eagle – a bird of such monstrous proportions that all remaining basis in reality is immediately shirked. The fact that certain other animal characters cannot converse is also a bit puzzling. Perhaps it’s to be expected that many mute creatures can understand English but not speak it. Inconsistencies with sizes of enclosures, heights, and masses of characters and vehicles add more visual confusion, while varying perspectives noticeably alter the dimensions of surrounding elements. The increase in computer animation and effects aids the remaining technical merits, but isn’t integrated smoothly enough not to be apparent. The picture is also suspiciously devoid of any musical numbers.

The villainous poacher Percival C. McLeach (voiced by George C. Scott and unavoidably modeled after his facial features and middle initial) and his faithful but fumbling pet goanna lizard, Joanna, are intent on catching the mighty golden eagle Marahute, a massive yellow eagle of the Australian Outback. Little boy Cody (Adam Ryen) accidentally falls into one of McLeach’s traps, shortly after rescuing Marahute from a net and being rewarded with a golden feather. The presence of the gift informs the hulking hunter of Cody’s knowledge of Marahute’s whereabouts – causing the youngster to be kidnapped. Thanks to a miniscule mouse originally in the snare, the Rescue Aid Society, an international group of heroic mice patrollers, are notified (through a communication service not unlike a technologically advanced Twilight Bark from “101 Dalmatians,” and with swooping animated arrows tracking the globetrotting, as seen in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”).

Bernard (Bob Newhart) and Bianca (Eva Gabor), two of the RAS’ top agents, are enjoying a romantic dinner in New York, where timid Bernard hopes to propose to the vivacious Bianca. They’re interrupted by the mission to rescue Cody (here, Bernard drops the engagement ring and desperately grapples for it on the floor while it’s kicked about, like the opening scene in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”), for which they embark upon immediately, calling up the services of Albatross Air, now run by Orville’s brother, Wilbur (John Candy). Once they reach Australia, they’re aided by a Crocodile Dundee-type kangaroo mouse named Jake (Tristan Rogers), who guides them to McLeach’s lair.

The overall story is less poignant than in the previous film, but the main characters still have charm and several new supporting roles are undeniably creative. There’s also an upgrade to the tone and amount of adventure, which is notably darker and more action-packed, respectively. Wilbur must defend himself against a Nazi-like mouse doctor who insists upon extreme surgery with an epidermal tissue disruptor (aka, a chainsaw); Cody is dangled in front of snapping crocodiles for sport; and Bernard must hypnotize a snarling razorback. Also, McLeach is a particularly dastardly, visually frightening villain with few humorous moments to lighten his touch; Jake presents a curious, occasionally infuriating love triangle; and a harebrained, talkative, purely comic relief frill-necked lizard named Frank (Wayne Robson) steals many scenes with his peculiar voice and frenzied antics (he’s a truly sublime cartoon character).

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10