Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina
1994, G, 87 min. Directed by Don Bluth, Gary Goldman. Voices by Jodi Benson, Gilbert Gottfried, Carol Channing, John Hurt, Charo.
REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., April 8, 1994
A basic entertainment rule of thumb should be to never have an opening act better than the headliner. Don Bluth and Gary Goldman should have heeded this rule when it came to their Thumbelina. The Steven Speilberg-produced Animaniacs I'm Mad is a hilarious short driven by a breakneck-speed song with some of the funniest lyrics this weary mom's ever heard. Thumbelina, by contrast, seems long and slow. Bluth is doing his best to rival his previous employer, Disney, and, to his credit, has come close on a couple of occasions. The Secret of NIMH was full of dark, furtive movement and rich characterization. Land Before Time, likewise, was a treasure, with dinosaurs, lava flows and tar pits that fire and re-fire the imagination with each viewing. But his big hit All Dogs Go to Heaven and 1990's Rock-A-Doodle paled by comparison. As does Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina. It's a sweet enough story of the beautiful born-in-a-barley-flower little person and her yearning for friends her own size. It has all the requisite romance and villainy and songs, but it lacks enchantment, the very fiber of a fairy tale. Jodi Benson (Little Mermaid) gives a lovely, lilting voice to the title character and for once, Gilbert Gottfried's voice sort of makes sense when it belongs to Berkeley Beetle. But other bright spots are tarnished. Charo not only voices Mrs. Toad, she is Mrs. Toad, or more to the point, Mrs. Toad is Charo. She's sexy and funny and, contrary to appearances, nobody's dumb blonde. But her thick, hoochy-coochy accent is difficult to understand and kids sort of lose interest -- which may be a blessing considering the ethnic slant/slam of her lazily malevolent son. Only the freewheeling fairies' gilding of the autumn leaves and frosting of the fall pumpkins carry a sense of magic. But then, maybe I carried too much pre-weighted baggage into the theatre. Though he only writes the songs, I couldn't help perversely imagining an animated, jumpsuited Barry Manilow in Prince Cornelius' place as he croons the innocuous “Let Me Be Your Wings.” And as that happens fairly early in the picture….