Greetings. This week, let's try something different: one of the handful of "package films" from the 40's. Time for some...

Fun and Fancy Free (1947)

Soundtrack/Score/Music: 3.5

Story/Screenplay/Narrative: 2.5

Characters/Characterization + Voice Acting: 4.5

Art Direction/Design: 5

Themes, Archetypes and Artistic Interpretation: .5

From Wiry:

You know things are bad when you have to bring in four ready-made characters to bolster what is a horrifyingly flatlined package film notion. Further, the forcible ret-con(science) of Jiminy Cricket from a conscience to an amoral, "worry free" entity who disregards newspapers proclaiming doom is downright irresponsible. Okay, I'll go ahead and say it. I think the attitude that went into this movie can be blamed for the boring and repressive decade we all know affectionaly as the 50's. The best thing that can be said of the music in this flick is that it's soporific... okay okay. I'll back up. Some background: Fun and Fancy Free is a package flick composed of two stories: "Bongo" (narrated by Dinah Shore, her voice and personality smooth as formica) and "Mickey and the Beanstalk." They're joined oh-so-haphazardly by Jiminy Cricket, who jaunts around an eerily empty house and thinks these tales will bring us joy.

"Bongo" is the story of a circus bear who escapes into the wild, finds love, loses love due to a cultural misunderstanding regarding domestic abuse, then finds love again. I actually stopped watching during parts of this, I was so bored, and looked up information about The Jungle Book on Wikipedia. There's little bits of silly physical comedy, but there's really no cleverness or danger. The animation seems at the service of Dinah's voice: let's give masturbatory little sequences that fail to move the plot forward just to give her a chance to sing. In what world is two bears floating through pink heart-shaped clouds for four minutes even remotely of interest?

With "Bongo" done, and a once-unhappy doll and bear pair reunited in bestiality-laced bliss (I'm also reminded of the forced smiles on the Joker's victims from the first Batman movie...), Jiminy crashes a party that seems composed strictly of a little girl and an older man who is definitely not a relative. Oh, and he has unsettling puppets he tries to pass off as cute. So, puppet time becomes story time, and we're cursed with FOUR obnoxious characters babbling through another story.

At least someone piped in with "Mickey and the Beanstalk" and insisted they bring in bankable characters, with an adequate-enough addition in the form of the dopey giant. Yet, in an effort to keep things "fun and fancy free," they've drained the story of Jack of all its darkness. They're not thieves, they're just reclaiming the magic (singing... ugh...) harp from the thieving giant. And the giant doesn't die, since he returns to "menace" the pedophile puppet party. Whee ha. There's some fun bits with the giant food, and Donald's always a pleasure to watch (especially when he's quite justifiably trying to slaughter cows), but overall it's pretty much what you'd expect. Rather than expanding on the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, they sap it of its interesting bits and force it down our gullets.

And, at the end of all this, we're treated to more obnoxious singing. Really. This film should never have been made. I'm not against package films per se, nor am I against package films that have no unifying theme. But when the unifying theme is that the next hour is going to be as exciting as celery post-Bunnicula, I'm ready to tap out.

From RM:

I had relatively pleasant memories of this film walking in, but they were sorely dashed. I had remembered songs from both "Bongo" and "Mickey and the Beanstalk" with great fondness, but upon revisiting them, found them flat, drab, uninteresting, and dated.

There were times during the first short in the film, "Bongo", the story of a circus bear who runs away to the wild, that I genuinely could not pay attention. I began staring out the window. "Mickey and the Beanstalk" is slightly better, in that someone had the good sense to send in their cash cows (Mickey, Donald, and Goofy) to try to save this awful piece of tripe, and the trio do their best, which is commendable. But the fact that their story is told by Edgar Bergen, then popular ventriloquist, and two of his puppets, Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd, makes the film even harder to embrace. At one point, when Bergen tells one of his wise-cracking (I assume) puppets to be quiet so they could all listen, I was ecstatic, and prayed that this lasted for the entire story.

It also bears noting that in the opening credits, which look to have been put together by Mrs. Niefbaum's Second Grade art class, Dinah, Edgar, Charlie and Mortimer get higher billing than Mickey, Donald and Goofy. That's right, Disney gave top billing to the HIRED HELP! It becomes clear in that moment that they decided this would be a Disney vehicle for those 4 (or 2 plus dolls), and however it turned out would be fine. But it was not fine. Not at all. I'd also like to take a moment to say that I enjoyed R.L. Stine's opus Night of The Living Dummy as much as the next man, but HOW STARVED WERE WE to consider a ventriloquist an A-Level talent in the late 30s/40s? And if Charlie McCarthy was as "edgy" as Hollywood got back then, then maybe clearing the reds out of that town was a good thing.

Final Grade: F

Final Rank:
1.) Snow White
2.) Fun and Fancy Free


But tell us how you REALLY feel.

July 1, 2008 at 5:50 PM  

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