Hello, Spongey here…APRIL FOOL’S! I’m not actually Spongey. Okay, so that’s a pretty lame April Fool’s joke. In this case, however, the joke may be on me, as I’m apparently the only one foolish enough to review this film.
Our story begins with a man with a dream. A dream of entertaining the children of the world, and presumably making a few bucks on the side. No doubt there are many stories that start this way, but none so unusual as the story of Kenn Viselman, whose prior claim to fame was helping bring such now-famous British children’s franchises such as Thomas the Tank Engine and the Teletubbies to the United States.
Inspired by his desires to make a Teletubbies feature film (desires which were shot down by the series creator) and the audience reactions to a Tyler Perry film of the typical “don’t go in there” fashion, Viselman had an idea for a Rocky Horror Picture Show for preschoolers, a movie where young children would be able to sing and dance and be encouraged to act in public as they normally do but usually aren’t allowed to.
Viselman acquired the rights to a local Detroit kids show called My Bedbugs, chopped off the antennae of said bedbugs, raised $100 million or so through an independent investor for a film trilogy, and in 2009 filmed his would-be magnum opus on location in Michigan with the help of the state’s film tax incentive.
With a war chest of roughly $20 million in production costs and $40 million for marketing and publicity, in 2012 Viselman was somehow able to use the money he’d raised to forgo major studio distribution and sell the film directly to over 2,000 theaters under his own vanity label, Kenn Viselman Presents.
The results were presumably less than he expected. The film set a record for the lowest opening weekend box office gross for a wide release with a little bit over $100,000.
(There are films that have grossed even less, but they opened in only one or a handful of theaters. Keep in mind this movie opened in OVER TWO THOUSAND THEATERS. Popular movie statistics site Box Office Mojo estimated that based on the numbers, an average of “less than two” people attended each showing of the film, which seems to be proven by the fact that a number of reviewers pointed out that they were the only person there, much to the confusion of the theater staff).
Undeterred, Viselman took the adage “any publicity is good publicity” in stide, remarking that the failure gave his would-be franchise “the notoriety we were trying to get for weeks before the film opened” while reconfirming his plans for two additional films (one of which is a Christmas special) before creating a television series.
Keeping another adage in mind- “fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice, shame on you”- the state of Michigan refused to help fund any future installment. Only time will tell whether either movie theaters or the public at large will bite if Viselman goes through with his plans.
So, what is this unusual film that I’ve already wasted at least 7 paragraphs introducing (as if you haven’t read the title of this post already)? And is it really as bad as the press has made it out to be? There’s only one way to find out.
This, is The Oogieloves in the BIG Balloon Adventure
We open backstage…
“Welcome to our movie! I’m Goobie!”
Ah, there’s a name rarely heard outside of creepy Scottish teddy bears and companions of racist ducks.
“I like scientific things like physics and engineering…and pickles!”
Just stay calm, Frinkie, these babies’ll be in stores while he’s still grappling with the pickle matrix, glayvin.
“I’m Zoozie, and I’m fluent in every single language, even animal!”
What are you, some kind of speciesist?
“I’m Toofie, and I love to have as much fun as possible all the time!”
Toofie is apparently the “bad boy” of the Oogieloves. Although he looks more like what would happen if Bart Simpson and Grimace had a baby.
The Oogieloves themselves, as far as costumed characters go, don’t really look that bad. Other than the fact that they seem to have the same sort of arm problem Popeye has. At the same time, they aren’t really the sort of costumed characters you can set a movie around given as their mouths don’t really move that well, they aren’t really expressive in their movements, and Goobie’s head looks like it could fall off if he moved it too far in any one direction.
“This is the most amazing movie ever!”
I assume Zoozie is quoting David Manning of the Ridgefield Press.
The Oogieloves explain that we’ll be able to dance, sing, and jump up and down during this movie as the sound of audience applause and cheering plays on the soundtrack. Given the attendance of most showings of this movie, this is probably the only applause they ever got.
The Oogieloves then explain that whenever we see butterflies fly across the screen, we’re supposed to get up and dance, as long as we have the permission of the “big person” we came with.
Great, we’re not even two minutes in and the Oogieloves have already offended animals by implying they all speak the same language and parents by implying they’re all fat. If people actually saW this movie, they probably would have been outraged! Then again, you don’t really have to see something to be outraged by it. Just ask the Parents Television Council.
The cue to sit back down is a group of turtles with the caption “It’s Okay to Sit Down Now”, which sounds like it should be some sort of cheesy poster slogan like “Keep Calm and Carry On”.
The Oogieloves then cue the audience to get up and dance (with the help of the butterflies) and perform their theme song, which is pretty catchy, even if the lyrics leave something to be desired:
Oogie, oogie, Oogieloves
Say oogie, oogie, Oogieloves
Say oogie, oogie, Oogieloves
Yes, yes, Oogieloves
We’re the Oogieloves
Wait a minute…what were these guys called again?
After the song ends, we cut to a CGI landscape which is actually quite impressive for what it is, even if it looks a bit primitive by CGI standards. It’s probably the most impressive thing in the movie visually. I’m guessing this is where most of that $20 million production budget went.
The CGI landscape takes us to a small cottage where the Oogieloves lie asleep in their beds. Their window suddenly becomes Zordon’s wife and sings about waking up. The Oogieloves do so, then proceed to give a Nazi salute and goosestep in place.
At least that’s what it looks like. If I didn’t know any better, I’d assume by this point the filmmakers knew in advance no one would see this thing and tried to make the film as offensive as possible. As long as Jeff Bennet and Eva Longlora don’t show up, I’m golden.
The female Zordon , whose name is Windy Window and speaks with a Southern accent, says good morning to the Oogieloves and their fish, Ruffy. Ruffy grumbles to himself in an attempt to provide comic relief as the gruff, sarcastic antithesis of the cheery Oogieloves. Seeing as there’s no water in his fishbowl, I’m not sure how he’s still alive at this point.
The Oogieloves then say good morning to Schluffy, a pink pillow who for most of this movie does nothing else except sleep and babble in what sounds like a higher-pitched version of The Cheat from Homestar Runner’s voice.
The Oogieloves shout that it’s Schluffy’s birthday and they’re planning a surprise party- RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM- but he doesn’t seem to notice. Either Schluffy is a baby, has some sort of developmental problem, or actually IS speaking like The Cheat and is secretly babbling “Yeah, man, I’ll gnaw your face off” over and over while pretending not to care.
The Oogieloves then question the whereabouts of J. Edgar, who has a surprise for Schluffy. Windy explains that he’s on his way and that she can show the Oogieloves where he is if they (and the audience) chant: “One, two, one two three, Windy Window, what do you see?”
They do so (at least the Oogieloves do), and we see J. Edgar happily holding a bunch of balloons. J. Edgar is probably the best-looking puppet/costume in this film, and that’s saying something. Especially since he’s a vacuum cleaner. (Get it? J. Edgar Hoover? Ironically, that’s probably the sort of joke that would get you on his watchlist back in the ’60s.)
J. Edgar is startled by a group of puppet mice crossing the street and lets go of the balloons. They really weren’t doing anything that shocking, so I’m assuming he was just surprised at how lame the puppets were in comparison to himself. Either way, J. Edgar comes home and informs the Oogieloves that he lost the balloons that were meant for J. Edgar- the last five magical balloons in all of Lovelyloveville.
This is apparently enough of a disaster that the Oogieloves set out to find the missing balloons. This is our plot, folks. Are you excited yet? Is the audience…oh, wait, I keep forgetting. There isn’t an audience.
J. Edgar wishes to come along, but the Oogieloves suggest he stay home and spend some time with Windy. J. Edgar blushes at the sight of her.
J. EDGAR x WINDY OTP
All joking aside, the bits with J. Edgar and Windy are actually somehow the best parts of the film, in that they feel the most like what we might see on an actual preschool TV show- a setup for what the adventure of the day is going to be combined with simple, memorable catchphrases/rhymes the audience is to chant along with- besides the Windy Window chant, J. Edgar has one of his own to contact the Oogieloves on his walkie-talkie (“Testing, testing, wham bam pow, Goobielove, can you hear me now?”, which I’m pretty sure was also a rejected Verizon slogan).
We’re not even ten minutes into this thing and at this point the vacuum cleaner is the breakout performer. Again, I’m pretty sure that’s a sign.
Either way, the Oogieloves discover that the first balloon is stuck at the top of a tall tree, but J. Edgar won’t let the Oogieloves leave without changing out of their pajamas and eating breakfast first. Toofie, rebel that it is, sticks it to the man…er, vacuum by refusing to wear a belt, which causes his pants to fall down immediately.
This gives us another chant: whenever this happens, we are to say “Goofy Toofie, pick up your pants!” Surprisingly, this doesn’t happen as often as the other chants. I’m guessing it’s like the F-word in a PG-13 rated film: you can only drop your pants so many times while keeping that G rating, so you have to be strategic about it. (Probably not, but since the MPAA will never actually tell us how their rating system works, it’s as good a guess as any.)
J. Edgar then prepares his breakfast specialty, pineapple upside-down flapjacks, which leads to a song about said flapjacks and the unusual preparation, which involves a pineapple-shaped grinder which creates pancakes that literally fly into the Oogieloves’s mouths. Oddly, this is also the last song where we hear fake audience laughter and cheering. I guess even the fake audience has lost interest by this point.
The Oogieloves, with Ruffy in tow, set out for the big tree on their bicycles. At the base of the tree, they meet a girl who resembles a young Britney Spears, only she, like, talks like a valley girl and has, like, square pigtails and squares all over her, like, clothes.
This is Jubilee, played by Kylie O’Brien, a relative newcomer with very few roles to her name other than this one. She’s cute and does a good job with what little she’s given. Her other schtick is that she uses the word “square” to mean “cool” (That’s, like, totally square). I know you’re obsessed with squares, but last time I checked, square was, like, the opposite of cool. Huey Lewis said it was hip to be square, but I don’t think he meant it literally.
After a little cheer with drum backing reminiscent of Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” (minus any shit being B-A-N-A-N-A-S, although it could be argued that it already is by this point) to convince a ladder to appear, Jubilee leads the Oogieloves into the teapot house that is in the tree, or “treepot” as it were. Which is actually a better pun than we get from the grounded Ruffy.
“Whatever, I’m a lover, not a climber!”
“Silly fish, trees are for kids!”
…those aren’t puns. You’re just taking well-known phrases and replacing words. Compared to that, “treepot” is an award-winning pun.
Either way, the Oogieloves meet Jubilee’s grandmother, Dottie Rounder, who is played by Cloris Leachman. One of the ways this film attempted to keep adults occupied is somehow getting a number of celebrities to appear as the folks the Oogieloves meet along their journey.
When asked why she chose to do this film, Leachman, winner of eight Emmys and an Oscar, responded, “for the money”.
at least she’s honest.
As her name implies, Dottie is obsessed with circles. Which is interesting, given as her granddaughter likes squares. It’s normal for kids to rebel against their elders as teenagers, and one would think the relationship between the two would be a tepid one, which would make for an interesting family struggle were this not a film intended for preschoolers about giant Technicolor not-Muppets and a talking vacuum cleaner.
But Dottie is acceptive of her granddaughter’s alternative shapestyle, which is not only refreshing, but surprising that it didn’t cause any controversy about this film trying to promote the square agenda. But again, that would have required someone to have actually seen it.
The group performs a catchy little boogie-woogie number that involves dancing in circles and repeating the words “polka dottie shake your body” over and over, though the Oogieloves keep sneaking “Oogieloves” into the lyrics. Gotta get that brand recognition somehow, I suppose.
After the song, Toofie attempts to climb to the top of the tree to get the balloon, which is the closest this film gets to any sort of drama or peril. I know Brad Jones (AKA The Cinema Snob) pointed this out in his review of the film, but this seems a little odd. I’m pretty sure this is what a network censor would call “imitable behavior” if they tried to get away with it in a real kids show.
The producers of this film intentionally set out to create a movie without any villains or scary situations, so the alternative to create drama is apparently an implication that there’s no potential risk in climbing the highest tree you see. Lots of potential risk there, I think…if, of course, anyone actually…well, you know.
It turns out that Toofie has put himself in some danger anyway, as he isn’t as good as climbing DOWN from trees as he is climbing UP them. The balloon magically comes to life and tells him he’ll help Toofie down, leading to this odd little exchange once he gets to the ground:
“This balloon can talk!”
“That’s scientastically impossible!”
“I’m telling you it talked!”
“Either way, you’re a hero!”
This is actual dialogue
Toofie gets a present for Schluffy from Jubilee (and his pants somehow fall down again when doing so), and the Oogieloves are on their way for the next balloon, which leads to the whole “one two three”/”testing testing” routine I mentioned earlier.
The next balloon turns out to be at Milky Marvin’s Milkshake Manor, which oddly has the only other humans in the film that aren’t the ones that help out the Oogieloves. The Manor, which is a ’50s diner with a cow motif, is run by Milky Marvin himself, played by Chazz Palmenteri.
He’s probably the sanest of the human companions, other than the fact that he has a tendency to punctuate his sentences with a “OH!”
The second balloon is the prize in a milkshake-drinking contest, which the Oogieloves decide to enter. Marvin tells them to moo for their milkshake, which leads to a ’50s rock number about marching and mooing as the Oogieloves order their milkshakes, which turn out to be weird flavors like chocolate pizza macaroni, because apparently every food in a children’s program has to be a weird flavor.
Also, Marvin’s diner has a cow and a bunch of raccoons on staff, which apparently isn’t a health code violation in Lovelyloveville. Ruffy turns out to win the milkshake contest, which leaves him bloated and gassy. Another great lesson for the kids!
“I could use some Fishto-Bismol right now…”
Again, that’s not really a pun.
The balloon winks at Ruffy, making him confused. Perhaps the magic balloon is secretly laughing at the fish destroying his body for his freedom. Marvin gives the Oogieloves another odd-flavored milkshake as a present for Schluffy, and the whole window/walkie-talkie routine begins again.
The next balloon is at Rosebud Airlines, according to J. Edgar. This despite the fact the plane says “Rosalie Airlines” on the side, and that J. Edgar refers to it as “Air Rosebud” not too soon after. I know airlines are being bought out a lot these days, but for one to change their name twice in the span of under two minutes seems a bit much.
The airplane is owned by Rosalie Rosebud, played by Toni Braxton. Braxton probably gives one of the best “straight” performances in the movie. She certainly seems to be giving it her all. And given that she’s millions of dollars in debt, anything that gives her a paycheck is a godsend. Speaking of godsends, Rosalie believes the balloon to be a “gift from the gods”, which seems to imply Lovelyloveville is a polytheistic society.
Rosalie’s schtick, as it were, is that she loves roses, but she’s also horribly allergic to them. This masochistic fetish is elaborated on in the song the Oogieloves get Rosalie to sing in order to prevent her from going off on her world tour with their balloon, “Scratchy Sneezy Cough Cough”.
Braxton probably gives one of the best celebrity performances in the film, but the song itself doesn’t seem like the sort of thing to get kids out of their seats. For one thing, it’s a slow ballad. Nothing against slow ballads, but they’re not the sort of thing to get kids dancing like the other songs. And instead of something like running around in circles or mooing really loud, the key movements in this song are pretending to be sick.
After the song, Toofie compliments Rosalie on her performance with a line that’s in the running for strangest one in the film: “I can’t wait to get the sniffles again!”
The Oogieloves: the movie that encourages children to get sick™
Playing into Rosalie’s ego is apparently enough to get her to change her mind and give them the balloon, but another stray sneeze causes the balloon to get stuck on the tail of her jet.
“Not even my rose-colored glasses are helping!”
Again, that barely classifies as a pun.
Goobie takes a pickle out of nowhere, apparently because it helps him think better. But Goobie gets a wonderfully awful idea (hey, they’re both green, aren’t they?): he decides to make a trampoline out of Rosalie’s boa in order to jump up to reach the tail of the jet. TRAMAMPOLINE! TRAMBAMPOLINE! Either way, this is another example of imitable behavior to create artificial peril.
“I need YOUR help in reaching the balloon! Cheer like this: higher, Goobie, higher! Higher, Goobie, higher!”
Through the power of positive reinforcement, Goobie is awkwardly bounced up to the top of a platform, allowing him to do his best “Smooth Criminal” impression to lean over to reach the balloon, which leads to another bizarre non-sequitur regarding their ability to talk:
“Very well done, Goobie. It’s an honor to join you.”
“Toofie was right! This balloon CAN talk! But that’s impossible! They don’t have the physiological makeup for verbal communication!”
“Wow! Now that was as impressive as my reflection in the mirror.”
Rosalie, are you talking about Goobie’s reaching over to get the balloon, the balloon talking, or both? And Goobie, you seem to be a mutant turtle (sadly lacking the teenager and ninja qualifiers). You’re one to judge what you would call the “scientastical” makeup of objects that don’t normally speak.
Rosalie gives the Oogieloves a bouquet of roses to give to Schluffy, and it’s back to J. Edgar and Windy, the sanity of whom the Oogieloves are concerned about. And indeed, as we cut back to the duo, J. Edgar is spinning around wildly, unsurely saying to himself “Spinning calms my nerves!” as Windy seems to be aroused by the whole situation, saying “Spin, J. Edgar! Spin, spin, spin!” Geez, and I thought Rosalie had her hangups.
Her sadistic fantasies fulfilled, Windy, for no other purpose than to set up a sight gag, wonders what Schluffy, somehow still asleep after all this time, is dreaming about. The answer? Schluffy dreams about himself, dreaming about himself. DREAMCEP- wait a minute, Inception was already about dreams in the first place. That joke doesn’t really work.
You know the routine. One, two, one, two, three; testing, testing, wham bam pow; lather, rinse, repeat. Either way, the fourth balloon is at Bobby Wobbly’s bubble truck at Trippy’s Trailer and Truck Stop. This is perhaps by far the most insane part of the film…and that’s saying something.
After a quick talk with a puffin who should most likely be dead by now, Bobby Wobbly makes his entrance. Played by Cary Elwes, he is a cowboy who wobbles everywhere, belches bubbles, and seems like the sort of person who could snap and murder the Oogieloves at any moment.
. The fact that he invites the Oogieloves, who are most likely supposed to be children, into a truck after asking them “Do you like bubbles?” doesn’t really help matters either.
The Oogieloves and Bobby have an insane little hoedown that involves wobbling around, Bobby riding a toy horse that he declares “too wild” for him, and repeated usage of the phrase “give your tush a smack”. Toofie’s pants fall down again (no comment), and then the Oogieloves get down to business: they have to get to the top of the truck to get the fourth balloon, but Bobby doesn’t want anyone climbing his bubble truck
. So Zoozie uses her poor woman’s Doctor Doolittle abilities to attempt to get the blind injured puffin to fly again. Apparently subscribing to the Tao of Dex Dogtective, she believes that the puffin can fly with just a little encouragement. For better or for worse, The Oogieloves at its most insane can most likely be summed up in this image:
The puffin flies (somehow without flapping her wings) and retrieves the balloon, despite all odds. Bobby gives the Oogieloves a box of bubbles to give to Schluffy. There’s only one balloon left and yet there’s still somehow thirty minutes left in this thing. Back at the cottage, J. Edgar flirts with Windy while combing her drapes. Um… Anyway, you know the routine: one, two, wham bam pow, and so on.
The final balloon is on top of a windmill. The scenery in this part of the film is surprisingly nice-looking. This portion was filmed in a town called Holland, Michigan, and with all the tulips and windmills, you can probably guess where it got its name. It’s certainly more charming than most of the scenery we’ve seen so far.
The Oogieloves attempt to get to the windmill, but are stopped by a llama who forbids them from running or riding their bikes on the lake. Zoozie attempts to bargain with the llama in its native tongue.
“I speaka de English. Most llama do.”
The llama explains that they must board El Sombrero in order to reach the top of the windmill. The Oogieloves sneak in their catchphrases by hoping that El Sombrero is scientastic, adventurific, and sparkleliciousness. At this point, you can probably guess which made-up word corresponds to each Oogielove.
A giant computer-generated sombrero makes its way to the Oogieloves, and inside are Lena and Lero Sombrero, played by Jaime Pressly and Christopher Lloyd, respectively.
Having had his “walk like a lunatic” schtick from Foodfight! stolen from him by Cary Elwes, Lloyd doesn’t do much in this movie (he has only three lines of dialogue, only two of which are intelligible). He spends most of his time communicating through bongos and looking like he has no idea what is going on here, which probably puts him on the same page as what little audience this movie had.
The Oogieloves stand confused and are clearly looped forwards and backwards about two or three times doing so as El Sombrero opens to welcome them inside.
Ruffy reluctantly follows Lola’s order to navigate as she and Lero operate El Sombrero through the power of dance. Lola and the Oogieloves begin to dance slowly. Nothing happens. They dance a little faster. Nothing happens.
“Great. At this rate, we’ll gonna be late for Schluffy’s retirement party!”
…was that a line from Ruffy that was almost funny? Well, I guess even a broken fishbowl is right twice a day. Or something like that.
Lola encourages Lero to join the dance. He gives a bizarre yodel of some sort (his first line) and does a bunch of sped-up dance moves in succession. The power of Christopher Lloyd is enough to get El Sombrero moving, and the whole gang joins in.
At the base of the windmill, Lero plays a snake-chanting song to make a tulip grow. The Oogieloves must ride the tulip to the top of the windmill.
“Okay, this is getting REALLY weird.”
getting? It’s been weird, man
The tulip isn’t large enough to reach the top of the windmill. Ruffy must save the day. Lola plucks him out of his fishbowl (which again raises the question of how he’s able to survive without water) and kisses him (on the lips, no less), for luck- at his request- which causes Lero to make a gesture towards Ruffy as if to say “I’ve got my eye on you, buddy.”
You do not mess with Christopher Lloyd- especially if you’re a fish.
Lola tosses Ruffy into Toofie’s hand, and after some more positive reinforcement chanting (and Christopher Lloyd’s second line), even the balloon itself believes in the fish and the deed is done. Toofie’s pants fall down yet again, and Lero gives his bongos to Schluffy as a present with his third and final heavily-accented line, the same line that all of the humans they’ve met have departed with: “Good luck on your big balloon adventure!”
Um…they got all the balloons. Doesn’t that mean the adventure is OVER? Also, TITLE DROP
On their way home, the wind picks up…
“It sure is windy, Windy!”
“It sure is, J. Edgar Edgar.”
…okay, once again, that joke doesn’t make sense.
The wind is so strong the balloons are whisked away back into the air. Hmm, perhaps Christopher Lloyd knew the adventure wasn’t over just yet. Or maybe he willed this to happen as revenge for his wife kissing a fish.
But the balloons come to life once again and inform the Oogieloves of a solution, in what is DEFINITELY the weirdest line in this entire movie…
“There’s only one force stronger than the wind…LOVE!”
The secret ingredient is…LOVE?! Who’s been screwing with this thing?
The balloons demand the audience and Oogieloves blow kisses to bring the balloons back to the ground. You know, if you had told us this in the first place, balloons, we could have saved an hour or so in getting you back.
Back at the cottage, Schluffy wakes up just as the Oogieloves make their way home. The Oogieloves, as well as all the animals they’ve met along the way, are outside waiting with the presents their new friends got them and those five magic balloons, who sing Schluffy a catchy little barbershop-quartet (or quintet, in this case) birthday song. Windy Window then shows Schluffy all the friends the Oogieloves have met on their journey, each of whom gives Schluffy a little decoration as a birthday present.
Perhaps it’s the fact I know this movie is almost over or Stockholm Syndrome is setting in after spending so much time with these characters, but this is actually pretty entertaining, at least compared to most of the movie. It feels like the sort of thing that a kids’ show would end with. It gives a sense of accomplishment or something, that we’ve had a long day and met a lot of friends and actually did something. Which is more than most of the movie seem to get across.
The Oogieloves sing one more catchy little song to say goodbye and sing that they hope the viewers enjoyed the movie. Well, did I?
Shortly after The Oogieloves set a box-office record based on the number of people who didn’t see it, Scott Stabile, who both wrote the film and the lyrics to the featured songs, wrote a defense of the film which read, in part:
“People have the right to hate our film. I just believe it’s not only possible but beneficial to criticize something constructively and respectfully, no matter how much you don’t like it. We’re talking about a kids’ film here, made with really good intentions, made to make young children smile. From some of the backlash our movie has provoked, you’d think we were trying to turn three-year-olds onto the crack pipe. I’ve never been a big fan of mean, and I honestly don’t see how we help anyone, and definitely not artists, by being hurtful and snide in the way we discuss their work. It’s not necessary, not in any way. I know we live in a hyper-judgmental twitterverse, where it can be addictive to be the most bitingly clever, but still, no one appreciates a bully.”
Stabile then goes on to discuss the fact that too many “family” films contain violence, sexual innuendo, and peril that parents of the youngest of children may find inappropriate:
“As all of us adults know, we live in a tense and troubled world. Young kids will be exposed to plenty of real-life scares and violence on TV, in video games, on the computer and in daily life. Why do we have to expose preschoolers to anything but innocence and love in a 90-minute movie? Why isn’t it enough to show a gentle world where people are kind and help one another, in hopes that young kids mimic those sentiments over fighting and jealousy and revenge? There is something valuable in love for love’s sake, and in overcoming innocent obstacles that wouldn’t otherwise result in misery or death.”
After having seen The Oogieloves for myself, I agree with Stabile in some of his arguments and disagree with him in others. There is nothing wrong with a little bit of innocence here and there, but in some places it’s more difficult to insert it than others. The movie theater is one of those.
Even the youngest child might be frightened by the concept of the theater itself, as it’s large and dark compared to a television screen (I myself was as a child, and didn’t go see a movie in a theater until I was nine years old).
Even then, the difficulty of taking even the most innocent of characters and putting them in a 90-minute epic is a difficult one, both for established characters and new ones like the Oogieloves. (The two feature films based on Sesame Street, arguably the most recognizable and beloved preschool franchise in history, both made only under $15 million, but that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from planning a third as I write this.)
I don’t know if I went as in-depth as Spongey does in his recaps, but in a film like this, it’s kind of hard to. It’s pretty repetitive in its form, like most preschool-oriented TV shows are. J. Edgar talks to Windy Window, they find out where the balloon is, J. Edgar contacts the Oogieloves by walkie-talkie, they meet someone, they sing a song, they get the balloon. Part of the problem with this movie is this routine would be fine for a half-hour episode of a TV show. This routine is repeated five times in 90 minutes.
There’s nothing wrong with repetition if you’re dealing with very young audiences, especially since I assume young children enjoy it once they figure out the order in which things will happen and it probably teaches them the concept of doing things in a certain routine, but if you repeat the process too many times, it probably becomes tedious for the child (and ESPECIALLY the adult).
Other than the J. Edgar/Windy bits, as I mentioned before, the last two musical numbers and the reappearance of the friends the Oogieloves met weren’t too bad either. It really feels like how most preschool shows wrap up with a celebration of the accomplishments the characters (and viewer) have done that day, followed by a final song of celebration and/or saying goodbye until next time.
Most of the songs are pretty catchy (even if the lyrics leave something to be desired), so the package as a whole seems to show SOME sort of potential trying to break through the bizarre makeup.
Is the Oogieloves a weird film? Yes. Is it a horrible film? Yes. Is it as weird and as horrible as say, Foodfight! (which is the sort of film that Stabile discusses in terms of inappropriateness turned up to 11, with its wall-to-wall sexual innuendo and Nazi Germany/Holocaust allegories)? Heavens no.
The Oogieloves’s biggest crime is that it is too long and too dull. It’s the sort of thing that might not be too bad when it comes to a five-days-a-week TV show on Nick Jr. or what have you, but as a 90-minute feature-length adventure overstays its welcome long before the film is half over. With some exceptions such as Cary Elwes’s performance, it doesn’t really have much in it that leaps it over into “so bad it’s good” territory, and Stabile is probably correct in that most of the brutal receptions to the film (hilarious as they may be) are unwarranted.
I am by no means an Oogieloves apologist, at least when it comes to them in their current form. The Oogieloves are by no means the crime against humanity some are making them out to be.
Don’t get me wrong, this a bad film, but as I said, it’s bad in the sense that it’s too dull perhaps even for its target audience. There is overall a place for innocence, just as there may be a place for the Oogieloves. As we have learned- and perhaps audiences have inherently by choosing not to see their BIG balloon adventure- the movie theater is not that place.
See ya. We now return you to your regularly scheduled Spongey…