What happens when "Dr. Dolittle" meets "The Island of Dr. Moreau"?
"Buddy" This is the true story of an eccentric socialite who, in my
opinion, should have been committed, but instead is lionized
(apeized? chimpized?) as an animal advocate. And what possessed Rene
Russo, who is so hot coming off of "Ransom", "Get Shorty" and "Tin
Cup", to take on this loony role? Maybe good female roles are really
harder to find than we thought, or maybe it is all the thirties retro
clothes she gets to wear. According to Russo, "I wanted to make a
movie that my daughter Rose could see." It is still hard to take her
dressing up chimps like children. Trying to make a 'child' out of
the gorilla baby is really a demonstration of how out of touch with
reality Gertrude Lintz was. As her husband, a physician, the Scottish
actor Robbie Coltrane is supposed to find this endearing. Reuniting
with Coltrane from "Goldeneye", Alan Cummings as her assistant must
have had his screen time cut dramatically because he is reduced to
repeating "bad Maggie" at one outrageous chimp. Even Dallasite Irma
P. Hall, who stole the show in "A Family Thing", is lost as the
housekeeper in this nut-house. Ultimately it is the gorilla who
brings this poor woman to her senses by being a gorilla, not a doll
she can dress up and play with.
What I have to remember is that this is aimed at kids and I think
they will like it. Parents are always treating them like the chimps
and gorillas are treated, so they should relate well up to about age
nine. The cute chimp tricks, the racing dogs, the horses and the
geese will keep them entertained. There is danger, but it is never
realized. And the final message of finding a place in our world for
Buddy to live as he was meant to live is worth the effort. Kids
recognize quality too and will delight in the Jim Henson creations.
Director/writer Caroline Thompson has a good kid movie track record
with "Black Beauty", "Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey", and
"The Secret Garden" too. She is not to be faulted for her direction,
but perhaps more emphasis needed to be placed on how Lintz changed
people's perceptions of gorillas from savages to gentle beasts. With
this much talent abounding, I just expected more. Rated PG.
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