Movie Review By Andrea Chase
Nothing is as desperate as it seems. So reads the motto on Mole's mantelpiece as Terry Jones's classic-to-be musical version of "The Wind in the Willows" begins. It's a premise that Mole and his pals, Ratty, Badger, and Toad will soon be called upon to prove as they test their mettle and their friendship against a remorseless enemy bent on destroying their homes and picnic-taking way of life.
Those enemies are the weasels who have, well, weaseled their way into ownership of Toad's meadow and are plotting to reduce his estate and the surrounding parkland into an industrial wasteland unless Mole and company can save the day.
The rendering is clever. The actors, Jones as Toad, Eric Idle as Ratty, Nicol Williamson as Badger, Steve Coogan as mole and Anthony Sher as the head weasel inhabit an Edwardian fantasy world of swallowtail coats and straw boaters. Instead of being encased in layers of makeup, animal natures are suggested with brilliant touches. Prehensile whiskers and a tail for Ratty, green coloring and body language for Toad, thick spectacles and oversize coat for Mole. My favorite was Sher and company sporting sinister pompadours, vicious prosthetic teeth, and red gloves.
There are some gags aimed more at grown-ups, particularly during Toad's trial with Stephen Fry as a hanging judge and John Cleese as a less than supportive defense attorney. And will kids pick up on the fact that the weasel's flags have a decidedly Nazi look? No. Will it matter? Double no!!!
For some reason, which your humble correspondent cannot fathom, Sony, which owns the U.S. distribution of this film is doing as little as possible to bring it to a theater near you. Here is an entirely charming rendition of a children's classic, done with sly wit and enormous respect for the source material and the chance of it being seen in theaters is virtually nil. Which brings me back to the motto on Mole's mantle. Things are never as desperate as they seem. You can make your voice heard. E-mail Sony at email@example.com or contact them through their website at www.spe.sony.com and let them know that you'd like to see "The Wind in the Willows" on the big screen.
© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 2/4/98
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