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Oscar, Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster, and the rest of the Sesame Street residents join Big Bird on a cross country adventure. Miss Finch, a meddling social worker, sends him off to Ocean View, Illinois, for the comforts of family life with his "own kind," the Dodos. But he is a disaster as a Dodo and, lonely and homesick, he soon sets off on foot for Sesame Street. Can his old friends find him before he runs "afowl" of trouble en route? Written by
Robert Lynch <email@example.com>
It took me about 28 years before I finally got around to seeing Follow That Bird and I kind of feel guilty about it.
Like many kids, I watched Sesame Street in its prime circa. 1974-82, although I liked The Electric Company more. I grew up watching these actors and Muppets. By 1985, I was too old for Sesame Street and would only watch it while waiting for my younger brothers to finish watching it so I could change the channel to watch music videos. I had a chance to rent it on VHS in 1988 but never did. After awhile, I forgot about the film altogether.
Finally, I watched the film a few weeks ago and I realized I missed seeing a joyful movie that is free of the condescending tone and shilling that today's kids fare provides.
Big Bird (voiced by Caroll Spinney) is forced to leave Sesame Street by some social welfare group for birds led by Miss Finch (voiced by Sally Kellerman) because they feel children-aged birds would be better off having adult birds and a bird family raising him than the more-than-capable human adults he has for his neighbors. After leaving for Oceanview, Illinois and unhappy with the Dodo family, he decides naively to walk back to NYC and when his friends back home get the Amber alert on the news from Chevy Chase, they all form several groups to intercept him.
Unfortunately, the Sleaze Brothers (SCTV's Joe Flaherty and Dave Thomas) also hear the news and see Big Bird as their ticket to $$$. They are able to capture him and it's up to his old friends to free him.
What I loved about the movie is that there's no talking down or condescending treatment of the audience. It's just a great children's film that teaches the importance of friendship and devotion to said friends. The actors don't try to change their personas. Maria, Gordon, Bob, Cookie Monster, Grover, etc. are the same people we saw in the T.V. show.
The music, sadly, isn't very good but "I'm So Blue", sung when Big Bird is captured by the Sleaze Brothers is an exception. When a painted blue Big Bird sings his sad song, you feel empathy for the guy. I doubt if Barney was painted yellow, anybody would show him the same treatment. It would be seen as the greatest comedy scene in Hollywood instead.
While the movie is G-rated, adults will see some spoofs from various movies; subtle as they are. The opening song featuring Oscar The Grouch in front of a U.S. flag reminded me of Patton while the food fight featuring Sandra Bernhard (!) gave me flashbacks to Blazing Saddles.
It's too bad the film faired poorly in the box office despite critical acclaim. If you can find a way to see this film and your kids aren't Elmo fanatics (he was nothing in 1985) they will enjoy it immensely. You can only then hope we'll revert to more of Follow That Bird and less of, say, Twilight.
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