Film Scouts Reviews


by Leslie Rigoulot

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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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