The Rescuers was a Disney film from the late 70s. Although they started development in the early 60s but it was considered too politically charged which led to it being canned and then picked up again later. I’m not sure what’s so political about it. Maybe the idea of a woman doing what was traditionally “men’s work.” Maybe the scene where Miss Bianca explains the merits of income redistribution due to a massive income disparity being unsustainable for a healthy nation. (Okay, I made that one up) or maybe it’s because the original script was completely different.
We open with a young girl throwing a bottle into the water. We follow the bottle through a series of really nice watercolour looking stills until it lands and gets found by a bunch of mice. Fortunately for the young girl, these are the helpful, nice variety of mice who chew through ropes to free lions among other things. We cut to a meeting of the Rescue Aid Society, a group of mice that take it upon themselves to help those in trouble. And they’ve called this meeting of global mice solely to assign one or two to save the girl. This organisation may have had some problems with efficiency before they formed their mobile Rescue Ranger units.
The Hungarian mouse, Miss Bianca, asks for the assignment. The chairman hesitates, since this is apparently the first time a female mouse has actually been given a rescue assignment, in spite of their being several female mice in the group. She’s given the assignment but told to take a partner. Naturally, all the male mice volunteer because Hungarian ladies, and lady mice apparently, are smexy. She picks Bernard, the janitor. Probably because he’s the only one who isn’t in a position to claim all the credit. And the two set off to find the girl who needs help and come to her rescue.
Narratively, the film does basically everything right. The pacing is well crafted. It knows when to have calmer, slower moments and when to go into more intense sequences involving cars, swamp mobiles alligators and other perils. Even the song placement is very nice. The writers do a great job of conveying just how difficult it is for two little mice to try and be heroes. The climax is superb.
About the only thing I can criticise is that the Rescue Aid Society has a bunch of representatives from various countries and then one from the entire continent of Africa. Maybe Africa’s continental branch was busy with rescue work and they thought the meeting was just to touch base so they picked one agent to represent them. And then she found out that they’d called everyone for one rescue operation and she went back to report that the other continental branches had way to much time on their hands before returning to Wakanda.
Miss Bianca is a great character. She clearly cares about helping others and doing her assignment, but she also gets as much joy out of things as she can. She’s taking the adventure seriously but also enjoying everything it has to offer. Which makes her a delight to watch. Bernard is kind of the opposite. He’s always worrying and scared but does what needs to be done any way. Which makes him a very courageous character but he’s also just a bit annoying. I also like Penny quite a bit. Her first response upon meeting the mice is just “did you bring the police?” which is very sensible. But then she wants to swipe Madame Medusa’s swamp mobile because she wants to drive it. And she taunts the cloying crony because he’s scared of the alligators. Which is great. The villains are pretty much your typical Disney antagonists. Nasty, trashy people who just want wealth even if it means sending a child into a hole to search for treasure. Although they do take it to another level by giving Medusa a shotgun to fire off indiscriminately. I actually love that scene, not gonna lie.
The side characters are a lot of fun. Whether it’s Zipper… I mean Evinrude or the muskrat couple. He gives people moonshine to perk them up and she goes to town with the rolling pin in the climax. Actually, the little swamp critters charging into action is one of the best parts in the film. Rufus & Orville are fun supporting characters too.
The film clearly didn’t have the most robust budget in the world. They take some short cuts in order to save on animation, including the stills at the opening and some slow scenes but it still looks quite nice and it is well animated.
For the sake of this review, I watched the English version for the first time. I have to say, the acting is really good. Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor make for strong leads. Michelle Stacy makes for a strong Penny. Geraldine Page, Joe Flynn, Jim Jordan and the others are all good. In terms of music, the Rescue Aid Society anthem is a great, upbeat tune. Tomorrow is Another Day is an excellent song to aid in the atmosphere during a calmer moment & Someone’s waiting for You is a beautiful but also sad melody. I will say, I liked Wenche Myhre’s versions better than Shelby Flint’s but Flint’s are great too.
The Rescuers may just be one of the five best Disney animated films of all time. And I’m not even joking. It’s a great adventure with a strong cast, strong characters, perfectly placed, well written songs a strong visual aesthetic and a lot of scenes that are memorable for all the right reasons. Its flaws, by comparison, are pretty minor. Ultimately, I give it a 9/10.