Judge Dylan Charles once went over Niagara Falls. Since he wasn't made of wood, it hurt.
I am Paddle to the Sea.
Paddle to the Sea is a short following the titular toy American Indian as he rides his canoe all the way from Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean. Based on the children's book by Holling C. Holling, director Bill Mason's movie takes the audience on a ride along the rivers and lakes of northern North America.
Through Paddle to the Sea's eyes, the audience is given a chance to view familiar sights with new eyes. From swimming snakes to Niagara Falls, everything looks a bit different when you're three inches tall and carved from a block of wood. To be sure, you just haven't experienced Niagara Falls until you've actually gone over them as Paddle to the Sea has.
Mason—and Paddle to the Sea—do take the audience on a varied journey. Whether the toy is battling vicious children and boat-eating sea gulls on Lake Superior or dealing with the gushing fountains of sewage pouring out of Detroit, Paddle to the Sea manages to make a statement about the environment without being too blunt about it. Mason shows us the way it is, journeying between pristine environments virtually untouched by man and the murky brown waters surrounding our cities.
Paddle to the Sea is, for the most part, as silent as its wooden protagonist. However, the occasional narration can make the film sound more like one of those educational films about family or "duck and cover" from the 1950s. Paddle to the Sea works best when it's silent and lets the often stunning visuals speak for itself.
Paddle to the Sea manages not to overstay his welcome in the 28-minute movie, although in this day and age when the kinetic antics of Pikachu induce seizures in children, I wonder if any of them would sit still for languid ride of Paddle to the Sea.
Criterion let me down. Not so much in presentation, but with the extras. No commentaries by historians? No featurettes or documentaries? Come on, there must be something out there. Shame on you, Criterion.
Paddle to the Sea is of a rare nature these days. When other films tend to go for the effects and flash of CGI, Paddle to the Sea is a boat ride through some of the more beautiful scenery our country (and that other country up there in the north, the land of Sam McGee and all that) has to offer. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Janus Films
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