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11-year-old Lisa has no time for toys; she's too busy taking care of her siblings and cooking for her mother. During the Christmas Eve blizzard, Lisa travels to Toyland in Wizard of Oz-like fashion and arrives just in time for a wedding. Young Mary Contrary is about to marry mean, old Barnaby Barnacle, despite the fact that she loves Jack Be Nimble. Lisa tries to stop this terrible wedding and, together with her new friends, discovers that Barnaby wants to take over Toyland. Lisa, Mary, Jack, and Georgie Porgie ask the Toymaster for help, but he can't help them as long as Lisa doesn't truly believe in toys. Written by
Christine Sai-Halasz <email@example.com>
This third film version of Victor Herbert's beloved operetta is an illuminating example of the lengths TV executives will go to in manhandling a beloved work, just for the sake of manufacturing "family entertainment", and with no regard at all for the integrity of the work. To be fair,none of the three film versions have followed the 1903 operetta as closely as, say, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical films have followed their stage originals, and the original Glen MacDonough lyrics, full of "thee"s and "thou"s, are outdated even by the standards of the 1940's. But even in Laurel and Hardy's old version, one could still see respect for the material.Laurel and Hardy, of course, were hilariously allowed to do whatever they wanted, but in that version, five of the Victor Herbert songs, with their original lyrics, were kept in, and performed beautifully, and the fairy-tale atmosphere was magnificently retained. Disney's 1961 version rewrote all the lyrics and changed some of the tempos in the songs (including, most sacrilegously, "Toyland", changed from a slow ballad to a happy, upbeat march). However, it still featured a convincing enough fantasy atmosphere,and what were then state-of-the art effects for the toy soldiers (set to a nearly full-length and beautifully played "March of the Toys"), as well as more of Herbert's music than was included in the L&H version, so it was good enough.
But this third version is truly, truly amazing in its awfulness. It has no air of fantasy or magic whatsoever. It looks as if it had been filmed in a cheap theme park for very young children, rather than in a dazzling fantasy setting. The toy soldiers are simply men in costumes,not digitally animated,or stop-motion animated (as was done in the previous two versions). The acting is on the level of a kiddie school play, with Drew Barrymore at her most syrupy sweet. The Toyland story has been incongruously combined with a modern 1986 setting and turned into a dream (they don't even try to follow the original 1903 plot,but that really doesn't matter---the 1903 story was lousy to begin with).
But worst of all of the decisions, the one which belongs in the Hall of Infamy, is the decision to retain only the two best-known songs from the original score ("Toyland",and "March of the Toys") and replace them with new songs by Leslie Bricusse! This is the man who murdered the 1967 "Doctor Dolittle" and the 1969 "Goodbye,Mr. Chips" by providing them with perhaps the two worst scores written for a 1960's film musical. His songs (NOT the ones he wrote with his former partner,the late Anthony Newley) have become synonymous with bad movie musicals. The results in this film are truly excruciating-especially in comparison with the Victor Herbert-Glen MacDonough original score.
See this only if you're either curious or a movie-musical masochist.
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