I’ve been on a kick lately of making my kid watch the movies I grew up with to see if she likes them and if I still get any enjoyment out of them. We’ve done Return to Oz, Secret of NIMH, Jurassic Park, Labyrinth, and Flight of the Navigator so far. It’s been one heck of a trip for me, let me tell you. When I remembered this title, I couldn’t wait to pop it in.
Watching it now, it is certainly darker than I remember. When Olivia’s father is kidnapped, it’s scary, Rattigan orders one of his henchmen eaten alive by a cat, that henchman is shown drinking and is quite obviously drunk off his ass, Basil smokes AND drinks beer and there’s this part that I TOTALLY forgot about:
She does a frikkin strip tease. That’s what it is. No sugar coating.
I am not saying these are bad things by any means but none of this would fly in a kid’s movie today. However, this sadly overlooked Disney film is so much fun and it’s a shame it’s not mentioned more often. There’s just something about older kid’s movies (some of them anyway) that seemed to expect more from the kids in the audience. Basil’s flagrant use of science, math, and SAT level vocabulary are offset by his huge ego and selfishness. Rattigan is genuinely frightening but he’s voiced by Vincent Price. He HAS to be scary then. Dawson is the perfect foil for Basil and Olivia isn’t just an annoying kid; she tries her best for just a child. The animation is beautiful, the story has layers I didn’t see before as a kid, and man I could SO see a spin-off TV series with this.
All in all, great movie that is just fun, heartwarming, and well done. It even got me talking about Sherlock Holmes, which now my kid wants to read. And hey, if a movie is good enough to inspire a 9 year old to read classic literature, I’m all for it.