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Film review: Rescuers, The

Published: Monday, April 10 1989 12:00 a.m. MDT

"The Rescuers" has somehow escaped me all these years, despite a couple of previous theatrical releases. So this was my first viewing of what, in the context of the Disney animation canon, is certainly a lesser effort.

But let it be said up front that a lesser Disney effort is certainly miles above most animated films.

One of the last Disney films on which Don Bluth worked (as one of four animation directors) before striking out on his own with "The Secret of NIMH," "An American Tail" and "The Land Before Time," "The Rescuers" actually exhibits one of the things that drove Bluth away.

"The Rescuers" cuts animation corners, avoiding the classical style associated with the Disney name. Still, it's more intricate than the current Disney TV shows, with the characters flowing freely most of the time. But the backgrounds and many transition sequences are as static as any Saturday morning TV "slide-show."

Again, though, "The Rescuers" is better than any other family fare you're likely to find and, as such, is highly recommended.

The story, taken from the familiar children's books by Margery Sharp, has two mice, meek Bernard (Bob Newhart) and the more adventurous Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor), assigned to rescue a little girl who has been kidnapped by evil Madame Medusa (Geraldine Page).

So they embark on the adventure by enlisting the aid of a goofy albatross (Pat Buttram) and then a zany dragonfly (which may have somewhat inspired the cockroach in Bluth's "An American Tail") and ultimately the local population of a Southern swamp where Medusa is keeping the girl.

The action seems to lag a bit too often here, which is not helped by Bob Newhart's signature stammer, but he and Gabor otherwise provide perfect voices for the little mice that lead the cast of sprightly characters.

"The Rescuers" is no "Pinocchio" or "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," but kids will enjoy it. And parents should find enough amusement to make it worth their time and money as well.

And it should be mentioned that a sequel, "The Rescuers Down Under," is in the works for a 1990 Christmas release.

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