Reviews: Banjo The Woodpile Cat

Banjo's a film that is pretty good. It often succeeds where it should.

This is it. This is the seed that would sprout a great oak. Now granted, if we were to use snacks as a metaphor for films (And I don't see why we shouldn't since my contrived follow-up joke wouldn't have much of a leg to stand on otherwise. Not that it would anyway. If you disagree with this idea, please say absolutely nothing. Okay, thanks!), by definition, one little seed isn't going to keep you full or satisfy you all that much, and much of the same could be said of this movie. (It's probably better for you than that overpriced, oversalted movie theater popcorn but let's leave this already strained metaphor dead right now, 'kay?)

Like Don Bluth's best work, it's always got its heart in the right place and Banjo comes pretty damn close to capturing the magic of the truly classic Disney films when it comes to its unashamed pride in basking in some glorious sentimentality and atmospheric backgrounds; things Bluth felt late '70s Disney was losing sight of, and ofttimes rightly so. But I don't know... it's just much too short for its own good to have too much of an impact. I realize Mr. Bluth was apparently working on a shoestring budget here, allegedly working out of his garage with an intimate group of fellow lovers of the art form of animation, but its short form deprives it of ever reaching full flower. We kind of got that with An American Tail though, with an added smattering of historical education to add to it.

I will say this though, it's much more lush and expressive than the similarly budget-constrained, rough-lined Disney output of the '70s. A labor of love to be sure. And to my surprise, Bluth turns out to be a pretty fine songwriter on top of being an animation genius, having penned the beautiful primary leitmotif that works equally as a peppy main theme, and wistful, softly hummed melody of longing and regret that underscores the special's saddest and, indeed, best moments.

I really could do without the African-American characters having those big-ass lower lips, though. Bluth probably means nothing by it, but it's not an appealing character trait at all, to say nothing of the Unfortunate Implications. And they bring forth painful memories of a certain similar-looking alligator... THE HORROR.

It was a good try, Don. Not much to gain here if you've seen An American Tail, though.