The Rescuers (1977)

The Rescuers (1977)

The Rescuers (1977)

Remembered now more for the single-frame splice of a pornographic film into the background than for anything in the actual movie, The Rescuers is intermittently charming but mostly flavorless and limp. Originally attempted years earlier with The Jungle Book favorite Louis Prima in a prominent musical role (he’d also play a singing bear), it was put on hold after the singer discovered he had a brain tumor. Instead, two other Margery Sharp stories were adapted and combined to form The Rescuers. The idea of a pair of animal detectives attempting to solve a crime in the human world is an ingenious idea (the original poster promised “mystery,” “fun” and “intrigue”), and Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor are terrific performers, gamely suited for animation. (Just think about Newhart’s flawless cameo eulogizing Krusty on The Simpsons or Gabor’s superior performance in The Aristocats.) But the movie feels listless and the animation style (referred to as xerography due to the animator’s lines being copied onto cels), which is charming in other films, feels cheap and unfinished here. The hairiness of the lines adds a seedy quality to the entire enterprise (which was fully pulled into the mucky depths by that animator splicing a shot from an adult film into the background of one of the scenes). The most memorable aspect of the film is probably Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page), a blustery villainess that was originally supposed to be Cruella de Vil and was eventually modeled on legendary animator Milt Kahl’s ex-wife (seriously). The characters of Bernard and Bianca would be revisited years later in a superior (and still oddly overlooked) sequel, the first in the history of Walt Disney Animation Studios.

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