Join the shy but brave mouse Bernard and his glamorous partner Miss Bianca-two tiny heroes on a great big mission to save Penny, a young girl who has sent an urgent call for help! Taking off on the wings of the Albatross Orville, together they soar to the marshy swamp of Devil's Bayou. There, they find themselves on the riverboat hideout of the hilariously evil Madame Medusa, who wants to use Penny to steal the world's largest diamond!
John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman, Art Stevens
Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, Geraldine Page, Joe Flynn, Jeanette Nolan, Pat Buttram, Jim Jordan
Two tiny mice, one big adventure!
Nominated for Best Song-"Someone's Waiting For You".
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
English, French, Spanish
Runtime: 80 min.
Release Date: 5/20/2003
• “The Rescuers Scrapbook”
• “Under the Hat Villains”
• “Water Birds” Disney True-Life Adventure
• “The Ultimate Case” Set-Top Detective Game
• “Three Blind Mouseketeers” Silly Symphonies Animated Short
• “Someone’s Waiting For You” Sing Along Song
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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The Rescuers (1977)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 14, 2003)
Disney put out three films with animation in them during 1977: The Rescuers, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Pete’s Dragon. Only the first one provided a traditional single-narrative cartoon. Dragon was mostly live action and featured only one animated character. Pooh was fully animated, but it presented a loosely linked collection that mostly featured previously released shorts.
Logically, Rescuers should be the best of the bunch, as it represented the closest connection to the studio’s animated feature roots. The studio produced only three full-length cartoons in the Seventies: Rescuers plus 1973’s Robin Hood and 1970’s The Aristocats. Unfortunately, none of them even remotely compared to Disney’s classics.
Actually, the entire batch qualified as some of the studio’s worst-ever work, and The Rescuers arguably merited discussion as their crummiest release of all time. Adapted from Margery Sharp’s novel, Rescuers starts with a very quick introduction to a young girl we’ll later get to know as Penny (voiced by Michelle Stacy). Stuck out on a river in the middle of nowhere, she drops a bottle with a “help” note on it into the water.
Eventually this message ends up in New York City, where some mice obtain it. The film then relocates to the United Nations Building, where we discover the operations of the rodent-run Rescue Aid Society in that structure’s nether regions. We get to know two mice by name: mild-mannered and superstitious janitor Bernard (Bob Newhart) and glamorous Society agent Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor). Bianca requests the assignment to find Penny, and when Bernard voices concerns about her safety, she chooses him to accompany her.
Reluctantly he agrees, and the pair go to the Morningside Orphanage, which is where Penny used to live. They encounter a cat named Rufus (John McIntire) who relates that Penny apparently ran away from the place. He points some suspicions toward a local pawn shop run by Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page), however, and the pair observe her as she talks by phone to her assistant Mr. Snoops (Joe Flynn). He has Penny with him in a remote location called the Devil’s Bayou.
Due to her dissatisfaction with Snoops’ handling of Penny, Medusa heads down to the Bayou and the mice try to stow away in her suitcase. However, they fall out along the way, so they need to catch a flight on Albatross Air with pilot/vehicle Orville (Jim Jordan). When they arrive, they meet some local poor rodent trash, Medusa’s pet alligators Brutus and Nero, and a helpful mosquito named Evinrude (James MacDonald), who acts as an outboard motor to transport the mice.
The investigators find out that Medusa’s using Penny to find an extremely valuable diamond called the Devil’s Eye. It’s located in a narrow cave, so Medusa needs someone tiny to retrieve it. The rest of the film follows their attempts to save Penny and deal with Medusa.
At its heart, The Rescuers had a lot of potential. The inherent story seems reasonably unusual and intriguing, and the focus on mice as secret agents appears fun and creative. With a talented actor like Newhart as the lead, the film should have been quite enjoyable.
Unfortunately, the Seventies doldrums experienced by the crew at Disney animation infected The Rescuers and turned it into one of the blandest flicks I’ve ever seen. The movie doesn’t come across as a total loss. Evinrude offers a witty and effective character, and the scene in which Medusa’s alligators try to blow the mice out of an organ shows some wit and inventiveness.
Unfortunately, those elements are few and far between in this dull and formulaic tale. The Rescuers rarely seems bad so much as it appears flat and uninspired. The animation generally is more awkward and stiff than I expect from Disney’s feature films; it never approaches the depth of their TV or direct-to-video fare, but it definitely doesn’t live up to their usual standards.
While most of the animation comes across as somewhat too restrained and without flair, the exception stems from Medusa. Apparently the artists devoted all their time to her, as she displays ridiculously exaggerated elements of activity. Medusa moves constantly and seems badly over-animated. The character is nothing more than a variation on Cruella DeVil, and these wild shenanigans do nothing to make her more vivid or interesting.
Add to that a blandly executed story and possibly the wimpiest score and songs ever attached to a Disney animated flick and The Rescuers falls flat. I can’t honestly say I hated the movie, for it simply doesn’t merit that level of passion. As a fan of Disney animation, I wanted to like The Rescuers, but this boring and timid story leaves me almost totally cold.
The DVD Grades: Picture C / Audio C / Bonus C-
The Rescuers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though Disney usually do great work with their animated titles, The Rescuers presented an erratic picture.
Sharpness usually came across as reasonably concise and distinctive. However, a fair number of scenes looked strangely fuzzy and blurry. Those didn’t dominate the movie, but they caused occasional distractions. No signs of jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, and I also saw no problems with edge enhancement. Print flaws created concerns, however. Grain looked moderately heavy at times, and the image displayed a mix of specks, spots, marks, streaks and blotches. The speckles caused the most notable problems, as they popped up with excessive frequency.
For the most part, colors came across as reasonably lively and precise. Most of the hues were vibrant and dynamic. However, some tones appeared bland and murky, and colored lighting tended to be thick and overly dense. Black levels were nicely deep and rich, but shadows seemed somewhat muddy and excessively heavy. Much of The Rescuers offered a nice image, but enough problems occurred for me to knock my grade down to a disappointing “C”.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Rescuers seemed similarly mediocre. Despite the extension of the extra channels, the mix largely remained monaural. Music demonstrated the greatest expansion, as the score offered general spread to the sides and the rear. However, stereo imaging seemed somewhat weak and blobby, as the musical delineation lacked definition. The same went for effects. On the few occasions when elements popped up outside of the center, they sounded vague and artificial.
Audio quality was acceptable but erratic. Speech appeared acceptably distinct but lacked much warmth, as the dialogue was somewhat thin and brittle. Music was too bright and could sound a bit shrill, though the score demonstrated decent bass response much of the time. Unfortunately, problems related to the low-end, specifically in regard to effects. The bass boomed and thumped sporadically and often didn’t seem well connected to the material. At times it felt like the low-end was attached to a separate soundtrack, as those bits popped in the background oddly. At best the bass was somewhat boomy and muddy. I also noticed a moderate amount of hiss during much of the film. The audio seemed decent for its age, but it showed a moderate number of problems that made it less than successful.
While not packed with extras, The Rescuers does include a few components. First we find Water Birds, a “Walt Disney True Life Adventure” from 1952 that lasts 30 minutes and 38 seconds. An Oscar winner for Best Short Subject, Birds offers a nature documentary that features lots of shots of the title subjects. It comes with narration and music but no attempts to force a plot or anything like that. Birds is a fairly entertaining program and a nice addition to the DVD.
Next we find a “Silly Symphonies” short called Three Blind Mousketeers. The eight-minute and 43-second cartoon follows the titular heroes and the attempts of a fat cat who desires to slay the rodents. Fairly cute and charming, Mousketeers provides a pretty good short that seems more compelling than the feature film on this DVD.
The folks who make Disney DVDs love their games, so we get one called The Ultimate Case. It forces you to find six different objects in four various locales before you then need to discover Penny’s teddy bear. It includes no reward for completion and seems pretty pointless.
Under the Hat Villains offers a 91-second featurette from Toon Disney. Hosted by some kid named “Beau”, it does little more than show a bunch of villains and toss out a few remarks. In addition to Beau’s narration, we get a couple of quick soundbites from animators Andreas Deja and Randy Haycock. It’s eminently skippable.
In addition to a Sing-Along Song for “Someone’s Waiting For You”, the DVD provides a Rescuers Scrapbook. This offers thumbnailed stillframe materials spread across 15 screens. The 49 images depict elements of visual and character development plus behind the scenes photos and publicity elements like posters. It’s a nice little collection of art and snapshots.
As the DVD starts, we encounter a mix of ads. We find trailers for The Lion King, Air Bud Strikes Back, Piglet’s Big Movie, The Jungle Book 2, Stitch! The Movie, and Sleeping Beauty.In addition, you’ll see these clips in the DVD’s Sneak Peeks domain.
One of the weakest animated feature films ever created by the Disney studios, The Rescuers lacks much charm or energy. Instead, it seems eminently forgettable due to its blandness. The DVD provides acceptable but erratic picture and sound plus a minor roster of moderately interesting supplements. The Rescuers is a dud best left for the collections of Disney diehards.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0975 Stars
| Number of Votes: 41