The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

8 Jun

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Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

It’s a bit odd that of the Disney animated features to spawn a theatrical sequel from, 1977’s “The Rescuers” would be followed with a follow-up, about thirteen years after the original. But nevertheless, Disney’s “The Rescuers Down Under” was released in between two of their biggest hits at the time, “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast.” While those two are well-known, “The Rescuers Down Under” is somewhat often forgotten by most people. Oddly enough, they remember the original “Rescuers” movie, which is ironic because that one seems a bit mediocre to me. This sequel, however, is something I see as a true upgrade in comparison. It’s a nicely-done, well-animated family-adventure that would delight children and even impress some adults as well…if only they would just check it out.

The original “Rescuers” was about two brave little mice—Bernard and Bianca—who are part of some sort of secret tiny rescue squad (I don’t know; it’s for kids, mainly) as they go and rescue a little girl from nasty villains. “The Rescuers Down Under” brings them back, as they travel to Australia to rescue a kidnapped little boy. While the original didn’t exactly have as much energy as “terminal cuteness,” this sequel is all over the place. There’s a great deal of drive and spirit put into this production from the animation to the story. Granted, the story is nothing special, but the aspects involving the main adventure, and the way they’re executed, truly are.

The story begins in Australia (where, by the way, only a couple side characters have Australian accents) as the little boy, named Cody, comes across a rare species of gigantic eagle. The eagle is caught in a trap and Cody frees it. However, he is found by a poacher named McLeach (voiced by a delightfully-game George C. Scott) whose goal is to capture endangered species and sell them off. The eagle is his latest target and he learns that the kid knows where its nest is, so he kidnaps him to gain some answers. The news gets to America, as Bernard and Bianca (voiced again by Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor) are called upon to rescue Cody. With the help of Wilbur the albatross (John Candy), they make their way Down Under and set out to rescue the boy.

I’m surprised by how much I cared about what was going on in “The Rescuers Down Under,” even now that I’m an adult watching this. I think a lot had to do with the energetic animation, but I’ll get to that later. There are little things with the characters that did a great deal of assistance in that area as well—for example, all throughout the movie, Bernard is trying to propose to Bianca, but is constantly interrupted by something each time. I felt bad for this guy (er, mouse)—all he wants to do is pop the question, and every time he does, either something tries to kill them or he’s interrupted by their guide, an adventurous kangaroo mouse named Jake (Tristan Rogers).

But now, let’s get into the action. And you can’t necessarily talk about the action without talking about the animation of this film. Animation always allows freedom to create something inventive, exhilarating, and never seen before. Nowhere is that even clearer than in the opening scene in which Cody frees the eagle. Cody falls off the cliff that the eagle was on right after he frees it, and the eagle rescues him and then lets him ride for flight. This is a truly great-looking sequence—as the boy is clinging to the back of this soaring giant bird, the animation is alive and fully realized. And it gives a great sense of flight, as well as when Bernard and Bianca are riding on the back of Wilbur (who, in comedic fashion, is not the best flier). The flight scenes are a lot of fun, and there are some other well-done action scenes such as chases and races against time that are also fun, particularly in the final climax.

All in all, “The Rescuers Down Under” is a fun little movie. When you hear the story here, you don’t hear anything special—just an adventure with little mice, much like the original “Rescuers.” But the animators put their all into this production with spectacular animation and a good sense of fun.

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