The Austin Chronicle

Barney's Great Adventure: The Movie

Rated G, 75 min. Directed by Steve Gomer. Starring Shirley Douglas, Trevor Morgan, Diana Rice, Kyla Pratt.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 3, 1998

Well, Barney and I didn't quite have an “I Love You, You Love Me” lovefest during his Great Adventure in feature filmmaking, but neither did I come away from the experience agreeing with the backlash perception of the character as something of a modern antichrist. The Purple One is just a big flannel dinosaur with a goofy laugh, who imparts wholesome messages about indulging your imagination and respecting others. Given the target audience of two-to-five-year-olds, the subtext seems more or less appropriate and the packaging is… well, who am I to question such a marketing juggernaut? Storywise, there ain't a whole lot here, but its 75-minute-long story -- in which Barney and his three human playmates chase after a magic egg -- moves steadily enough that grown-up chaperones won't find themselves clawing the walls in exasperated boredom. I'm not arguing that the scenes move fluidly or cogently from one development to the next; in fact, it's all rather clumsy and routine. And just because it's possible to pass off such wobbly material on unsophisticated children who don't know any better, does not mean that such cynical filmmaking practices should be condoned. Nevertheless, there's a huge amount of pleasure here to be derived from hearing the spontaneous swell of tiny three-year-old voices joining Barney for a chorus of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” Isn't this really a rudimentary demonstration of what each of us comes seeking in the darkened theatre: that shared sense of total involvement -- we come to laugh or weep, and maybe even sing (or clap for Tinkerbell, or whatever the circumstances require)? By and large, Barney's Great Adventure will most probably find its greatest audience through home video (this may explain the elaborate nomenclature of Barney's Great Adventure: The Movie). Released only in a limited number of theatres nationwide, the producers clearly seem poised to position the dinosaur to meet market demands. The greatest market demand may be for stuffed versions of the new character introduced in the movie: the adorable Twinken.

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