A BOY AND HIS GOURD
Posted on Jan 27 2009 by Greg
When my dad was a kid, he and his pals invented a nonsense language. It was something to the effect of "Get the vitchim in the gourd with the ooh-bawe-deh-de and the gupsnare in the go-zack-ee." Throughout his life, when he was feeling whimsical or couldn't think of better words, he would occasionally pepper his sentences with things like," You kids better get that vitchim in the gourd..." or "That's gonna need a vitchimized gourd over there..."
You can just imagine, then, how I would love to know what he would do with a movie named The Secret of The Magic Gourd.
Chances are he'd take the gupsnare out of the ooh-bawe-deh-de and play it on the vitchim.
Anyway, that's not why you clicked. The Secret of the Magic Gourd
is a very lovely film and deserves more notice in the U.S. than it is getting. The first of Disney's Chinese co-productions, the film did respectable business in China, where it is titled "Bao hu lu de mi mi."
In the interest of lip synchronization, the young boy's name is changed from "Bao" to "Raymond" and the Gourd's name is "Bailey," from the Chinese "Hu lu" (could it be that the website hulu gets its name from here?
The story, from a classic Chinese children's book, is a dreamlike, present day tale in which a boy learns to be careful what he wishes for -- a theme explored with horror in "The Monkey's Paw" and The Twilight Zone
and with humor on I Dream of Jeannie
. Some of the wacky antics caused by little Bailey in his earnest attempts to please his "master" reminded me very much of "Jeannie."
U.S. film and TV makers might take a closer look at Gourd
, with its traditional family, caring teacher and pleasant friends. No bumbling dysfunctional parents (or lack thereof), no caricatured authority figures or no snarky, hip-holding preteens here. The kids aren't always nice to Raymond but they do stick with in the end.
Speaking of hip-holding preteens, the presence of High School Musical
star Corbin Bleu
is very likely a device to allow youngsters the privilege of watching this movie without eye-rolls and loud sighs from older siblings. But don't underestimate him -- Bleu does a very creditable job. His natural likeability shines through his vocal performance. That's not easy when you've also got to act as well as focus on replacing dialogue recorded and animated for another language.
The film largely rises and falls on whether you like Raymond and especially Bailey, and it succeeds thanks to skillful work by the entire American cast, including Bleu and singer/actress Megan Hilty
, under the guidance of Disney veteran Rick Dempsey
, who also co-wrote the lyrics to the end title song, "Worlds of Wonder."
The English script also avoids an overabundance of pop culture references and slang. Bailey might say one or two Americanized things here and there, but he's not a boogie-ing gangsta gourd, as I'm sure the Chinese version of the Gourd is not either.
Speaking of music, the fine original score by Peter Kam
is one of the things I enjoyed most about The Secret of the Magic Gourd
, yet I've not seen it available either in an English or Chinese soundtrack album. I'd also like to see an English version of the book.
The bonus material is primarily Chinese promotional documentary footage with English subtitles. It would have been nice to see Bleu and the cast working on the dubbing, a very special kind of acting that takes special talent to carry off properly. All in all, though, the word "nice" is the best way to describe the film, and I look forward to the future co-productions.
ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN WITH THE AVENGERS
Posted on Jan 08 2009 by Greg
We've been watching Disney's first two "Witch Mountain" movies in anticipation of the new Race to Witch Mountain
coming to theaters in March. On the audio commentary for the Escape to Witch Mountain
Special Edition DVD, director John Hough
repeatedly references the cinematic techiques he brought to the film from his years on the British adventure/fantasy series The Avengers
. He says he was on the series for five years; the iMdb lists him for the Tara King years.
Hough identifies numerous scene compositions he used for the classic TV show that also appear in Witch Mountain
, like profiled actors against a fireplace, characters reflected in car mirrors and his technique of filming the heroic characters with standard angles and villains in odd and tilted angles. I never noticed it before, but it's true!Escape to Witch Mountain
may seem somewhat quaint over three decades after its release -- and is likely to pale technically with the new movie -- but it was groundbreaking in its day, especially for a Disney film, especially because 75% of it was filmed on location, avoiding matte shots whenever possible (but not completely) and because of Hough's direction.
The original stars, Ike Eisenmann
and Kim Richards
, both of whom have roles in the new movie. They even have official websites, click their names above to see.
As for me, I especially loved how the beloved Eddie Albert
vacillated between rustic crustiness ("I ain't no bus line!") and intense, brow-furrowed intellectualism ("I notice you two...are very smart for your yearrrrss") in the original movie. Must have had too many of Lisa's hots-cakes, I guess.
"Bedtime Stories:" Sandler & Bing?
Posted on Dec 28 2008 by Greg
Went to see the new Disney comedy epic Bedtime Stories
and liked it very much -- more than I even expected to. Without giving away the denouement, it occurred to me that the romantic disagreement between Adam Sandler
and Keri Russell
's characters was remarkably similar to that of Bing Crosby
and Rosemary Clooney
in White Christmas
Maybe it's me, or maybe I've seen this kind of "Oh! And I thought he was so thoughtful of others -- and you turned out to be as greedy as all the rest!" thing that is a movie plot staple.
Anyway, Bedtime Stories
is a fun family movie (with some reservations about poopy and booger humor so tantamount to many family films of today). One other question once you've seen the movie: Are zoning issues usually easy enough to resolve so quickly? Of course, it is a fantasy film.
<< Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 Next >>
BACK TO BLOG HOME