The Rescuers (1977)

A young orphan girl named Penny is kidnapped from an orphanage by a psychotic woman, taken to live on a secluded houseboat in the middle of a Louisiana bayou, and forced to travel down into a dark, damp cave to search for a ridiculously oversized diamond.  Two mice are her only hope for escaping.

If any one ever doubts that the 70’s were a bizarre time, point them to this movie. Not simply because of the subject matter, but because it was actually considered a kid’s movie.

The premise behind the movie isn’t bad, per se. I liked the idea that such small animals were responsible for rescuing a little girl. It’s a cute concept, sure. What I take issue with is the way in which the story is told.  It’s pretty dark, even by today’s standards.

Penny is trapped in the middle of nowhere, being held captive by the crazed Medusa, her bumbling sidekick Mr. Snoops, and Medusa’s pet alligators (who inexplicably obey her every command instead of just eating her.)

Penny is lowered into a hole on a daily basis, forced to search a pitch black, cavernous void for a very specific diamond: the devil’s eye.  Having done this for three months with no luck, she sends a message in a bottle asking for help.  It’s found by mice (because of course), who just so happen to be part of the Rescue Aid Society, a group of rodents whose goal is to help those in need.  That help must be sent is quickly agreed upon; what surprised the group is that Ms. Bianca, a *gasp* woman, volunteers to go on the mission.  Bewildered and feeling that this is entirely inappropriate and far too dangerous, the Society insists she take a companion (aka chaperone).  She chooses Bernard, the superstitious janitor.

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

Absurdity aside, this at least has potential to be a good story.  I hated the whole “You can’t go, you’re a woman” scene, but I hoped that she would subvert those expectations and single-handedly save the day.

Not so.  Instead, Bernard winds up saving Ms. Bianca time and time again, while she provides very little help throughout the entirety of the movie.

The mouse duo winds up helping Penny escape (although truth be told I’m still a little fuzzy on just how they did this), and the story ends with her being adopted and living happily ever after.

Except for, you know, the serious nightmares and PTSD she will undoubtedly suffer from after being exploited and forced into slave labor for months on end, with the threat of death looming heavily over her.  No big deal.

Seriously. The climax of the movie involves little Penny grabbing a sword off of a skeleton and using it to pry open the mouth of a skull to retrieve the devil’s eye diamond.  What the actual heck. Nightmares, nightmares all around.

This movie is instead a weirdly dark tale interspersed with likeable side characters.  I never found Ms. Bianca or Bernard particularly fascinating. Instead, I was drawn to the less developed characters, such as Rufus, the kindly old cat from the orphanage, and Orville, the scatter-brained albatross who serves as transportation for the mice.

I found these characters more interesting and unique than the mice themselves, and wish they had been included in more than one scene each.

I remember watching this movie as a child, yet I had forgotten just how dark and strange it really is.  It has a distinctly un-Disney-like feel to it, and despite the happy ending wound up leaving me less than content with the outcome.

Also, what’s with the ending? Are we to believe that Medusa gets eaten by her alligators??

Not my favorite Disney film.  It’s just a little too bleak at times, nonsensical at others.  Perhaps it’s a product of its time, as it certainly doesn’t hold up as well as other movies.  I remember liking the sequel better than the original; hopefully I’m not wrong on that count, otherwise I’m in for another dark, fairly depressing Disney film.

-Jess

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