Two tiny legends are together for the first time for one giant adventure.
When I was growing up, Walt Disney Studios was the unparalleled king of animation. I remember sitting in a theater absolutely wide-eyed as the evil stepmother fell off a cliff in a driving rain storm in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. I remember the wild chaos of the forest fire in Bambi. These were good times. And while I was watching the latest Disney direct-to-video offering, The Adventures of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina, the only thing I could think of was, "My, how the mighty have fallen."
Facts of the Case
When they were infants, two tiny, tiny children were taken from their village by a man who was determined to put them in his traveling circus. One of them, the boy, somehow escaped (despite the fact that he was a "toddler" and was able to run into the arms of his savior) and they went on to grow up in very different environments. Thumbelina (Jennifer Love Hewitt, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Tuxedo), for example, was raised by an evil French dude named Roman who looked like the result of crossed DNA of Danny DeVito's rendition of the Penguin from Batman Returns and any random French guy. He sneers, insults his patrons and talent (he constantly refers to them as "rejects"), mispronounces big words in a manner matched only by Mike "I'm gonna fade away to Bolivian" Tyson, and forces his talent to work sweatshop hours for his traveling show. Thumbelina, after 16 years of servitude and randomly breaking into song, finally decides that she's had enough and escapes in a location that's coincidentally near where she was found by Roman. Roman doesn't even notice her escape and wanders off into the countryside, where he probably surrendered.
Tom (Elijah Wood, The Faculty, some other movie about Hobbits or something), on the other hand, was raised by a kindly old showman who runs a cavalcade of singing dogs. Ben (Robert Guillaume, TV's Benson) is a large man with two lazy eyes who is going to die soon, so he brings Tom back to where he was found. Note: he doesn't actually say he's going to die soon, but he implies it as his eyes randomly roll around; it's eerie.
In a coincidence you probably saw coming at least three paragraphs ago, Tom and Thumbelina run across each other and are amazed that there are other people out there who are only six inches tall. Of course, they don't exactly get along right off the bat. Thumbelina is a mistrustful wench thanks to her years of servitude, and Tom is a helpless, incompetent goof who comes across as a big sissy. This is about when Thumbelina runs afoul of two moles in search of a queen for the Mole King, and I feel the need to point out that one of these two moles is voiced by Jon Stewart (The Faculty) and a guy who sounds a lot like Gilbert Gottfried though it isn't him. Despite the fact that Tom tries to help, Thumbelina manages her own escape (she's a liberated, confident woman) and manages to reunite with Tom in a scene that was so utterly sickly sweet that I had to pause the DVD so I could throw up. (Unfortunately, it would get worse.)
I won't spoil the rest of the movie, but suffice to say that the Mole King tries once again to kidnap Thumbelina and the movie gets even sicklier and sweeter. The ending has one of the biggest coincidental occurrences I think I've ever seen (even in a children's' movie) that made me lose my lunch yet again.
The Adventures of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina manages to get only one thing right during the entire 75 minute run time, and that's to adhere to the one great immutable truth of life which is (be sure to write this down):
Everything's funnier with monkeys.
Part of Thumbelina's sideshow act involves a reenactment of the climax of King Kong with a trained monkey and a trained mouse. Hilarity ensues, and it was the only point in the movie I was actually amused. Bonus points are given because the monkey can talk.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
So what was wrong with The Adventures of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina? Where to begin? I already pretty much pointed out all of the problems with the story itself during the plot synopsis. I imagine that some children will be amused by this story, but I've also seen children that get amused for hours by empty cardboard boxes. This story is so sugar-coated, sappy, and sickly sweet that I contracted diabetes while watching it.
So what else can we expect out of a Disney film? How about excellent songwriting for the film score? To be honest, I was never all that fond of the Disney musical formula, and neither, apparently, were the songwriters for The Adventures of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina. The songs are ludicrously bad and get borderline high ratings on the Unintentional Comedy Scale. The first song is called "I Am So All Alone," and that should tell you everything there is to know about this movie. Another song, a duet with Tom and Thumbelina, is called "1-2-Cha-Cha-Cha" and its lyrics are as follows:
The only song I've heard with simpler lyrics that I can think of off the top of my head is "Land of 1000 Dances" by Cannibal and the Headhunters, which went:
I say a-naaaaa
Now, to get technical, the animation really wasn't very good. Backgrounds were often non-existent (cutaway shots featured close-ups of characters with one-color backgrounds), there were several noticeable jumps in the animation, and the scale of the characters changed throughout the story. These are problems a five-year-old probably won't notice, but a discerning adult probably will. I should also mention that a lot of the animation, in an attempt to look more complicated, suffers from too much motion. As I mentioned earlier, Ben's eyes roll around as he talks like he's expecting Freddy Krueger to jump out from behind a tree at any second, and cutaway shots are needless and poorly portray glimpses of emotion. In short, this is not something that I'd have expected from any animation studio affiliated with Disney.
Additionally, the vocal talent is sub-par. Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jon Stewart manage to escape unscathed (Hewitt's singing voice is actually decent), but Elijah Wood should never be placed in a position where he needs to sing again. Ever.
The Adventures of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina is presented in a made-for-home Full Screen version, but since this is the original aspect ratio I'll let this go unpunished. The sound is a flat and completely unremarkable 2.0 channel stereo mix. The "Special Features" listed consist of a "Select-a-Song" feature, which means you can jump to your favorite song, which you can also coincidentally do by choosing the Scene Selections "Special Feature."
Maybe children will enjoy The Adventures of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina. Then again, maybe not. Even if I was in a blind, drunken stupor I could name at least fifty children's movies far more entertaining than this. If you have any interest in this DVD, I strongly urge you to rent it first.
Walt Disney is being held in contempt of this court for The Adventures of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina. This is simply not up to the usual standards of the Mouse House.
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