He's finally on screen, but 'Goofy' is a silly mess

April 07, 1995|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

Most teen-agers accept as a given that their fathers are a little goofy, but poor Max: His Dad isn't just goofy, he's Goofy!

Long of bone and snout, short of dignity and grace, animated by a laugh that sounds like a cow hiccupping after too many marshmallows, and borne ever onward by the hope of love, Goofy is an Everyman for the ages. OK, so he's a dog.

With his faintly tragic dimension and his aching niceness and that unlimited wardrobe of four-fingered white gloves, he's deserved his own movie for a long time. Too bad he got this one.

The Disney studio has done better. The film, as a whole, reminds me of one of those wretched examples of what happens when a generally successful conservative institution (oh, a newspaper, for example, but I'm just picking that one out of my hat, folks) tries to "get, like, hip" to reach the younger audience with all those dollars in its jeans. It almost routinely fails, alienating both the old audience, which is offended by the pandering, and the young audience to whom it panders.

Thus "A Goofy Movie" is filled with rock sequences that aren't hard enough to please real teen-agers but are too hard to attract any grown-ups. The music sounds like it was composed by Marie Osmond on PCP. A neat trick: The movie has been cleverly designed to appeal to absolutely no one. I love it when they do that.

The film opens with its most provocative moment: a horrible nightmare in which the boy dreams that, like Franz Kafka's Gregor Samsa, he's transformed into a grotesque creature -- his father. What is this, a Mr. Oed show? Anyhow, Max survives and sets off to school where he's planned a big feat: He will imitate the well-known rocker Powerline at a school assembly and therefore impress upon his classmates his utter coolness.

Of course, it's a catastrophe and he's humiliated. Thus he promises that he's going west, where he'll be on stage with Powerline in a televised big rock concert. All the cats think that's really hep, except, by the laws of Disney biology, they're really dogs. Weird science, yes, I know.

The problem: Dad, in a pathetic quest for dad-son bonding, has planned a fishin' trip out west. So the movie ambles slowly westward, fueled by Max's increasing despair at humiliating himself by not appearing on TV (I know it's a cartoon, but that's hardly a realistic or worthwhile goal anyhow) while Dad keeps trying to get buddy-buddy.

Throughout, the film is weighted down by completely arbitrary sequences that have nothing to do with the theme or the characters but represent some grown-up's idea of "fun" or "funny." In one, Goofy and Max are beset by Big Foot. In another, Max and Dad drive off a cliff and ride their car down a rapids. (Cars can float? In cartoons they can but, please, kids, don't try this at home.)

Underneath it all, the values in "A Goofy Movie" truly stink. Max tells lie after lie, and at one point swindles his dad into going where he wants -- all in search of a goal that has no meaning except the most bogus kind of shallow fame: to be on stage during a rock concert with a jerk.

Bad music, stupid plot gambits, ugly values and boring dialogue: "A Goofy Movie" has it all!

"A Goofy Movie"

(animated feature)

Directed by Kevin Lima

Released by Walt Disney Pictures

Rated PG

**

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