He's fat. He's got flippers. He sticks his tongue out a lot. He's Andre, and he's got a whole lotta love to share!
Kids love animals. There ain't nothin' cuter than seeing a wolf, dog, parrot, or cockroach finding a best friend in a human child with a big heart. It's even more fun if the animal then turns around and eats the child. Oh wait, I'm thinking of Cujo. My bad.
In 1994, kids all over the world were enchanted with the "seal with a heart of gold" children's movie Andre. This was apparently based on a true story, though I think someone in the screenwriting department took a lot of creative liberty with Andre's script. Starring one of those nutty Carradine brothers (Keith? David? Robert? Take your pick), and the cute-as-a-button Tina Majorino (who later starred with another seal, Kevin Costner, in his big budget action flick Waterworld), Andre comes swimming up to DVD care of Paramount Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
The Whitneys are a strange family indeed. living in a sprawling house in the greater area of Maine, this family is busting at the seams with not only children, but also every animal under the sun. They have frogs, cats, birds, dogs…it's like the east coast version of the Brookfield Zoo. Harry Whitney (Keith Carradine, Trouble In Mind) is the local harbor master, but he's not very good at his job. He seems to be preoccupied with all the animals that are running around his house. One day he brings in Andre (played by Christopher Walken…err, I mean a trained animal), a seal that's lost its mother and now seems to be lost at sea (pun intended). Sadly, Andre seems to be sick and won't even drink milk from a bottle. Of course, Dad's youngest daughter Toni (Majorino) takes an instant liking to Andre.
Nursing Andre back to health is the easy part—the hard part is getting Andre back to the ocean. You see, Andre sort of likes it at the Whitney's house. However, a local drunken fisherman named Billy (Keith Szarabajka) thinks that the seal is to blame for tearing up his net (this character is played with so much evil zeal that I was actually waiting for him to shed his skin so we could see his true form: Beelzebub). As the seasons pass, Andre sticks around and is soon part of the Whitney family. He does all sorts of wacky things: water painting, watches TV, and spits his tongue out at people who don't tickle his fancy. Yes, Andre is the Stephen Hawking of seals. But before his stay is through, Andre will teach everyone that a little love can go a long way!
I'm not the world's fanciest connoisseur of children's films. Whenever I have my own kids, I am sure that I will be forced to watch every kiddie flick under the sun. For now, I am in training with the likes Andre. Kids are just gonna eat this movie up like it was a peanut butter and chocolate sandwich (okay, so I had strange parents. Sue me). Kids will be able to relate with wanting a friend like Andre the seal: he's funny, he swims a lot, and he loves to hug everyone in sight.
Adults, however, are a different beast altogether. Andre lacks the charm and wit that makes for a great family film. You see, I have a theory that if you have bright colors, talking animals, or lots of bouncy music (in no particular order), you will produce a movie that will entertain any child, no questions asked. It is a special movie that can entertain not only the kids but also their parents. A great example of this is Dreamworks' Shrek, Disney's The Emperor's New Groove, and one of my personal favorites, Babe. Those movies had one level of humor for the kids, and another more sophisticated level for their parental units.
Andre's message is one of love and tolerance. I guess that Andre could be seen as any person of difference, race, color, creed, or disability. The idea that I pulled from this story is that everyone should be loved for who they are, even if they eat herring heads and smell like my butt. This is a very good lesson for youngsters everywhere; in a world as fractured and uncertain as ours, kids need to walk away from movies with these seeds in their mind.
But Andre is not all smiles and bubbles. The movie lags in areas, and the script often feels like it was padded with a lot of filler story and characters. The parents, as played by Carradine and Chelsea Field (Masters of the Universe), are about as bland as vanilla ice cream. In fact, almost every character in this movie seems to be some east coast stock character without a personality of his or her own. The diminutive Tina Majorino is cute as a button, though in all honesty that's all the story really asks of her—her character's depth reaches as far as crying when Andre gets hurt/sick/lost/made fun of and smiling and giggling when Andre is funny/goofy/swimming/sticking his tongue out at people. For those of you who like to spot pre-Hollywood stars in their earlier efforts there's Joshua Jackson (Dawson's Creek, Urban Legend) as one of the Whitney children's love interests.
I recommend Andre because it has a solid message and a cute seal. Beyond that it's not a bad movie, just a really, really placid one.
Andre is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Paramount has done a fair job of cleaning up this print, though there are a few noticeable flaws in the image. A small amount of edge enhancement was spotted during a few scenes, and dirt and grain penetrated the image on minor occasions. Otherwise, this transfer boasts strong colors and dark black levels.
The audio is presented in a newly remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track in English, as well as Dolby 2.0 Surround in English and Dolby Stereo in French. This new 5.1 soundtrack is mixed well, though the film doesn't include many scenes that utilize strong directional effects (which begs the question: why did this movie even need a 5.1 remix?). The bulk of the dialogue, music, and effects are all free and clear of any excessive distortion. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
Hey, did you just see that seal slip by here a minute ago? I think he ran off with this movie's extra features, 'cause I sure don't see any on this disc…
Andre is a slow moving tale that should captivate kid's attentions, though the adults will want to take an hour and a half nap through most of this flick. Paramount's work on this disc is only half-hearted—the exclusion of even a theatrical trailer on any DVD is inexcusable (not that I needed more Andre for my buck).
Andre is sentenced to help clean up that whole Exxon oil spill thing for one week! Case dismissed!
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