'Rescuers Down Under' delights

November 16, 1990|By Tom Kavanagh

'The Rescuers Down Under'

Directed by Hendel Butoy and Mike Gabriel.

Walt Disney Pictures.

Rated G. A helpful hint for those sorting through the "Down Under" movies unspooling these days: "Quigley Down Under" stars Tom Selleck and Laura San Giacomo; "The Rescuers Down Under" features Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor. The former look like themselves (if Selleck sporting a Vandyke beard doesn't confuse the issue);the later look like mice.

Oh, and a more distinguishing characteristic: The mice are more entertaining to watch.

Newhart and Gabor provide the lead voices in the latest animated feature from Disney, a Crocodile Dundee/Indiana Jones hybrid that recycles the animals-are-more-humane-than-humans theme with aplomb.

What's more, the animation sets a new standard in children's films: The "camera" moves through and around these scenes with an agility more common to live-action cinematography; the images themselves have a vividness that's almost super-real. (Having yawned through "The Jetsons" with my 6-year-old daughter, I've come to appreciate such cinematic values in my cartoon fare.)

The story line itself is routine, albeit with an Australian flavor: A poacher (George C. Scott, in his most caustic growl) kidnaps a small boy in hopes of tracking down an eagle the child has befriended; the animal kingdom puts out an All Points Bulletin; the timid though brave-hearted Bernard (Newhart) and Miss Bianca (Gabor) -- who first teamed up in 1977's "The Rescuers" -- answer the call; all is saved.

Younger children may find some of the predicaments frightening -- and the poacher particularly menacing -- but parents will recognize the perils as formulaic and no more intense than those in many a classic.

(Speaking of which, Disney is offering "The Rescuers" with a new Mickey Mouse version of "The Prince and the Pauper." Before applauding the 2-for-1 value, be forewarned that after sitting through all 23 minutes of the opening "featurette," there's a 10-minute intermission before the main attraction begins. You may get more bang for your buck on the screen, but the concession stand gets an extra chance to mug passersby.)

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