Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Reviews are a song that never ends... at least until I get a whole lot further into the Film Registry.
Interesting little factoid: according to my baby book, this is the first film I ever watched. Dramatic irony, since my mother chose this picture, and then died of cancer when I was only five. Guess it's better to be prepared. So as you can imagine, aside from its technical merits, I have some... mixed feelings about Bambi. I don't think it's a bad film, though it was a flop when it premiered (in part due to WWII cutting off European markets, and in part because a lot of people took exception to “Man” as the villain). It is certainly a beautiful film. The delicately animated forest animals are in definite contrast to the earlier comedic animals of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and the lush backdrops only improve on the earlier film. The whole film looks like you could just step into it and spend an afternoon – with the exception of the dogs that chase Faline. They look awful. And the early scene of forest fire could have been done better, but once it spreads, you have this terrible majesty of destruction and death. But I can cut them slack, since they were overbudget and overdue at the point they were animating these bits, apparently because they kept getting sidetracked.
And sidetracking is easy to do with this movie. It's not a particularly cohesive narrative. Bambi is born, he bumbles around, he loses his mother, he grows up, he mates, he escapes a hunter and a forest fire. He is far more defined by the actions happening to him than by any actions he takes. It's not necessarily wrong, since this is a story about survival. A basic survival story about a deer doesn't really need a lot of furbelows. The gags are fewer in this film than in a lot of the earlier Disney efforts, which is a strength, but Bambi isn't really a very strong character, because his dramatic motivation is “survival”, and the movie doesn't really want to go too far in showing that. Of course everyone remembers Bambi's Mom gets shot, but most people forget that right after he realizes that Mom is dead, the very next scene is the “Twitterpated” song and dance routine.
think that's what bothers me about this movie. It pulls its punches. Which I guess is good for a family picture, since Lord knows I still can't watch Land Before Time (which may be a superior film, but I don't remember. I haven't seen it since my own mother died – I would just start crying too hard to get any farther). But Don Bluth famously espoused that you can throw any amount of messed up into a kid's film as long as there was a happy ending, while Walt Disney was okay with some level of darkness, but overall liked to keep things on the lighter side.
Probably everyone has already seen this movie, and from an artistic standpoint, it's worth a rewatch as an adult. But from a dramatic standpoint, it's kind of dull.