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Monday, May 26, 2008

MR TOAD’S WILD RIDE (1996)

A labor of love from Terry Jones (writer/director/star) who brought most of the Python crew (Eric Idle is superb as Rat) to this remarkably straightforward & effective adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s enchanting book. Alas, Disney couldn’t come up with a marketing plan and it tanked. (The title comes from the famous old "C" ticket ride at Disneyland based on their own memorable animated abridgement which featured Eric Blore bringing just the right Falstaffian joy & vigor to his memorable Toad in a manner beyond Jones’s vocal powers.) Still, even with an unnecessary, tricked up suspense finale, the pleasing look (more live-action WALLACE & GROMIT than Tim Burton grotesque) and classy cast (Pythons + Nicol Williamson, Anthony Sher & Stephen Fry) put this film far ahead of the recent spate of over-produced kid-lit fare. (i.e. those ghastly Dr. Seuss monstrosities)

NOTE: No Family Friendly label on this one since the film, and for that matter the original book, seems to have far more appeal to nostalgic grown-ups than to kids. They find it all a bit twee. But try them on the Disney animated version, THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD/'49, and maybe they'll catch the Grahame bug all on their own.

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