Warner Bros. // 1985 // 85 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Maurice Cobbs (Retired) // January 17th, 2005
When the universe grows dark, it's time for Rainbow Brite.
Well, now, here's a blast from the past.
If you're old enough to remember when music was really cool, you're probably old enough to remember Rainbow Brite. Originally conceived by Hallmark in the early '80s as a line of greeting cards, the character was soon groomed to capture the affections of millions of little girls enchanted by American Greetings' wildly successful Care Bears line of merchandise. Soon, there were Rainbow Brite dolls, toys, games, cartoons, and assorted mass-produced dross flooding toy stores everywhere -- with more to come. Arguably, the Rainbow Brite merchandising machine reached its peak on November 15, 1985, with the debut in theatres of this movie: Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer.
Rainbow Brite and her friends, the Color Kids, are preparing for the end of winter and the coming of spring on Earth. But a mysterious mechanical horse named Onix brings a dire message: The brilliant diamond planet Spectra, which reflects light and color all over the universe, has fallen into the hands of the spoiled, self-centered Dark Princess. Unless Spectra is freed, Earth (along with the rest of the galaxy) will fall into an eternal winter that could destroy all life -- and the only person who can stop the Dark Princess is Rainbow Brite. She heads to Spectra and finds allies in the form of the brave spaceboy Krys and the wise Sprite sage Orin, and together they must battle not only the Dark Princess and her towering, hypnotic Glitterbots, but also her old adversary Murky Dismal, who plans to use the crisis to further his own goal of draining all color from the galaxy.
You might be tempted to dismiss this movie as the natural result of a calculated media merchandising campaign -- which is to say, as a steaming pile of stoat droppings -- but I must confess that, silliness aside, I actually enjoyed it. It seems to have been created in the vein of an old Flash Gordon serial, what with its strange planets and weird alien creatures and robots and wildly improbable plot. The Dark Princess is as irrationally tyrannical as any serial villain; although she has been warned that her overreaching greed could doom the entire universe, she is bound and determined to have her own way. Is it a coincidence that she is also a teenager? Probably not. It's quite a hoot to see her dressed like an evil Pat Benatar, and Ming the Merciless himself would envy her magic crystal and legions of armored goons. Spaceboy Krys, with his flying robot horse and retro-futuristic spacesuit, could have been ripped right from the pages of the Buck Rogers comic strip, and the same goes for the bizarre giant lizard-men and hulking prison planet guards that menace the heroes. The movie displays a sort of prepubescent psychedelic flair; saturated with bright colors, rainbows, stars and glitter, and cute horses and fuzzy critters and what not, this is a mythical B-movie science fiction fantasy as filtered through the creative vision of Lisa Frank.
There's also a sort of mythological overtone to the entire premise. At the start of the movie, Rainbow Brite butts heads with Stormy; as Rainbow Brite is in charge of bringing spring about, Stormy is in charge of the wintry season. Reluctant to give up her hold over the Earth, Stormy challenges Rainbow Brite to a race, pitting our heroine's horse, Starlight, against the snow-and-ice-snorting Skydancer. The two race across the clouds, Starlight galloping along on a rainbow, Skydancer kicking rain and sleet in his wake. There is more than a little feeling of two elemental goddesses competing to work their will on nature. Unfortunately, this pseudomythological aspect isn't ever really developed in the rest of the movie, which is a shame, as it might have added an extra dimension to this shallow (but thoroughly enjoyable) feature.
The animation isn't terrible, but it's not anything to write home about, either. All in all, it's pretty standard for DiC in the '80s, who also brought us Inspector Gadget, The Real Ghostbusters, and M.A.S.K., among others. And the songs are mercifully limited to two: "Brand New Day," which opens the feature, and the improbably catchy "Rainbow Brite and Me." "Brand New Day" has been included as a sing-along in the Special Features, along with the "Find The Missing Color Belt" game, the sort of DVD time waster that studios seem to think kids just adore. As far as I can tell, they really don't, but what the heck do I know?
I suppose that this is the sort of thing that young girls just go bananas for (not ever having been a little girl, I can only speculate). Maybe I should say that I suppose it's the sort of thing young girls used to go bananas for; for all I know, they're more likely to idolize Paris Hilton than a pint-sized, pug-nosed blonde in moon boots whose superpower is the dissemination of color. However, if you're looking for a diverting little bit of '80s ephemera, Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer is definitely the ticket.
Review content copyright © 2005 Maurice Cobbs; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* "Brand New Day" Sing-Along Music Video
* "Find The Missing Color Belt" Challenge
* Rainbow Land