This is one of the few Disney films I did not see as a child. I also never watched its sequel, The Rescuers Down Under. Although I liked children’s books like Stuart Little and The Mouse and the Motorcycle well enough, I generally didn’t (and still don’t) find anthropomorphized mice interesting. (Thus my general indifference to Mickey and Minnie Mouse when I’m at Disneyland.) I hoped that since this movie spawned Disney’s first sequel, it would be pretty good.
The Rescue Aid Society, an international organization of mice similar to the United Nations, receives a distress call from a little girl named Penny, who recently went missing from the orphanage where she lives. The R. A. S. decides to send two agents; the representative from Hungary, Miss Bianca, chooses the stammering janitor Bernard as her partner. They track Penny, with the assistance of the orphanage’s cat Rufus and an albatross named Orville, to Devil’s Bayou, an isolated swamp. She’s a prisoner of the evil pawnshop owner Medusa and her henchman, Mr. Snoops. They want her to retrieve The Devil’s Eye, a massive diamond worth a fortune, from a cave that can only be entered through a tiny, child-sized crack in the rock. Miss Bianca and Bernard must save Penny, with the help of Evinrude and other local animals.
When the idea of converting Margery Sharp’s books about rescue mice into Disney films first popped up, it was proposed that Cruella De Vil appear in the film version as the villain. Personally, I think this was a lost opportunity – it’d be great to see the crazy lady once again, and think of the story possibilities: why is she in America? Had the movie been made today, I’m certain that Cruella would have made her appearance, but in the 1970s Disney was resistant to the idea of creating sequels. (And yet The Rescuers spawned Disney’s first sequel. Funny how that happened.) So instead we have Medusa, a horrific vision of a former beauty rapidly heading south. Her breasts hang to her waist, the fat around her waist shifts with every step, and yet Medusa has stick-skinny arms and legs. On a younger woman, her make-up would be considered dramatic; on her aging face it’s too much, especially since the lavender clashes horribly with her orange hair. She’s a visual feast of trashy mid-life crisis.
I don’t actually remember too much about her, personality-wise. She’s so petty and small compared to the other Disney villains that she seems hardly worth noticing. Medusa isn’t a wealthy socialite obsessed with marrying her daughters to a prince or a dark fairy upset over missing a party invitation. She’s not a beautiful queen intent on destroying a young rival or a wicked sorcerer mad for power. She’s just a pawnshop owner who wants a particularly nice gemstone. How…pedestrian. I mean, Medusa can be extremely manipulative; she’s constantly telling Penny that she’s ugly and plain and no one will want to adopt her, EVER. She also has admirably crazy moments – the woman essentially water-skis around the bayou on the backs of her two pet alligators, Nero and Brutus. But the only time she truly rivals Cruella De Vil for awfulness is when she’s driving. And Mr. Snoops? Forget about him, he’s just a timid mouse of a man cowed by the crazy woman.
The second strike against the movie is that the protagonists are so incredibly dull. I guess some people found Bernard and Bianca to be endearing or cute, but I was dreadfully bored by them. They’re just so…bland. Bernard’s fear of anything related to the number 13 was a little funny, but his general twitchiness, while certainly mouse-like, wasn’t the sort of thing to capture my attention. Bianca…honestly, I’m struggling to say anything about her. I just watched the movie and I’ve already largely forgotten her as anything other than the romantic interest for Bernard.
So mice, being so tiny, can’t use regular human modes of transportation to get around. Instead of sneaking onto airplanes, they charter giant albatross birds to carry them through the skies. Sure, why not? But a random, distracting thought kept popping up as I watched the second half of the movie: why on earth would the albatross service have a regular daily flight to Devil’s Bayou, a godforsaken wasteland in the middle of nowhere? It seemed so contrived that I couldn’t quite forget it. No one wants to go to Devil’s Bayou; that’s why it’s the perfect place for Medusa to carry out her crimes. Yet the two R. A. S. mice don’t have to specially request the destination; it’s a normal daily operation. For some reason, that annoyed me.
I’m really struggling to think of things to say about this movie. It didn’t hold my interest, but it also didn’t outrage me enough to inspire vitriolic rants. Like The Fox and the Hound, the movie which followed The Rescuers, it’s just an average Disney animal movie. I have no idea why Disney chose this as the first movie to warrant a sequel; there’s just nothing in it that makes me think “Oh, yes, we should definitely revisit these characters.”
Good grief, that was boring. Not even naked breasts in the background could have saved it.