The Rescuers is, visually, the moodiest piece ever released by Walt Disney Animation Studios. Almost the entire film takes place at night in dingy buildings and murky swamps. The flashes of color all feel like subdued flickers, with no individual moment capable of escaping the thick, gloomy mood. Even the character designs feel a bit faded and smudgy. It’s simply not very fun. This aesthetic the reason I hated this movie as a kid, though it’s grown on me as an adult as I have more of an appetite for less expressive, feel-good moods.
Thankfully, the animation itself is busy and compelling, particularly the character animation for the villain Madame Medusa, who is a genuine marvel. Even beyond her, there’s a lot of personality on the fringes of The Rescuer that prevent it from getting too dour.
Alas, the script doesn’t do enough to prop up the visuals. Bernard and Bianca are likeable enough, but not particularly deep or interesting, and Medusa feels like a Cruella de Vil knockoff. Penny is a bit of naked emotional manipulation, the cruelty against her borderline exploitative to the audience.
And the story is pretty misshapen, too. After a worldbuilding prologue, the movie shifts into a detective mystery, then quickly abandons that for a straight-up caper in the swamp (which is the portion of the story that probably comes to mind when you think of this film though it only makes up half the runtime).
It all adds up to an interesting but not quite good entry in the Disney canon. I’m glad to have revisited it but probably won’t again for awhile.
One last minor complaint: The New York City segment doesn’t feel very New Yorky to me — and not just because of Bianca’s accent. It feels too dusty and cozy, more London than Manhattan.
Nearly Good (4/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.