The Rescuers (1977)

(On DVD, June 2017) In the pantheon of Disney animated features, The Rescuers stands somewhere below the average—not terrible, but not a classic. It comes from the middle of the Disney Dark Ages, and shares with its contemporaries a number of not-so-encouraging issues: The animation is rougher (with plenty of in-between marks, and cheats such as a still-picture credit sequence in order to minimize nonessential animation) and the story is significantly darker than most other Disney movies. It’s dark enough, in fact, to be bothersome, what with an abandoned, perhaps abused kid in need of being rescued by our titular mice. There’s also a badly sexualized antagonist, and too many cute animal sidekicks in a story build around animal characters. Fortunately, there’s enough here and there to carry the movie: Despite some overlong self-indulgent moments, the lead characters of Bernard and Bianca are quite good, and the idea of an international rescue operation run by mice is cute enough to be cool. If you let go of the darkness and tension (perhaps by watching it a second time), some of the set-pieces work well enough, with enough danger and adventure to distinguish themselves. In the grand scheme of Disney movies, The Rescuers takes from The Aristocats’ style and gives to The Princess and the Frog’s bayou setting. It’s a bit less than solidly average, but it’s not bad … although it may be best for older kids.

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