Making the Grades
Thirteen years after the début of The Rescuers (in 1977), Disney Studios resurrected the movie’s main characters in a new adventure,The Rescuers Down Under (1990). Perhaps only the superstitious Mr. Bernard (voice of Bob Newhart) would consider that a bad omen.
This time the timid member of the Rescue Aid Society and his lovely partner Miss Bianca (voice of Eva Gabor) are sent to Australia to find Cody (voice of Adam Ryen), a youngster nabbed by a notorious poacher (voice of George C. Scott) named McLeach.
The two little mice encounter plenty of problems on their voyage from New York City to the outback town of Mugwomp Flats, including the bumbling albatross Wilbur (voice of John Candy) who provides the couple with air transportation. Yet their harrowing flight and the ensuing slapstick antics are nothing compared to the peril faced by the kidnapped boy.
Smart enough to recognize McLeach is involved in illegal hunting activities, but not wise enough to keep that observation to himself, Cody soon ends up being held captive in a cage, along with several other creatures that have fallen prey to the gunman’s traps. But the greatest danger to Cody’s wellbeing is his knowledge of the whereabouts of a giant Golden Eagle and her nest of eggs. The bird is worth a great deal of money to the villain who traffics in prohibited animal products. And he is not afraid to use death threats and emotional blackmail to get the tyke to talk. (This includes tying the child up and throwing knives at him or dangling him over a river full of hungry crocodiles.)
For little ones watching the action of this animation, even the comfort of the family couch might not be enough to make them feel secure. Depictions of weapons use, a lizard-like sidekick that hounds would-be escapers, hostile critters and falls from heights are all reasons for kids to squirm.
While this content may not be as frightening for older viewers, more mature audiences might still have trouble engaging in the very simplistic plot that doesn’t even offer a memorable musical score. Despite improvements in the artistic elements of the production, these flaws (plus the unlucky connection tothe number 13?) are likely contributors to the lesser box office returns this sequel experienced than its predecessor. Unlike Bernard and Bianca’s ability to rescue the hapless boy, sentimental feeling developed for these mousy characters during the first movie can’t quite save this second script.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Rescuers Down Under.
Why is it so hard to get the right balance of adventure versus danger in a script aimed at children? How well do you feel this movie does at capturing that excitement? Do you think it is too scary for its intended audience? What titles do you think get the mix just right?