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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 version of Babes in Toyland is not quite as bad as it has been cited to be, but it is not really a good film(personal opinion of course, admittedly I did actually like it somewhat as a child) and it is easy to see why it was panned. Babes in Toyland is not without its moments. March of the Toys is actually a good song and deserved a better film or a better version of Babes in Toyland, the song is also nicely staged if not as memorably and inventively as in the Disney film(a decent film if one of the lesser Disney live-action musicals). The incidental score is appropriately whimsical too. Richard Mulligan is a lot of fun as the villain Barnaby, he has great comic timing(but it has been put to better use elsewhere) and he is a convincing threat too. Pat Morita is warm and kindly as the toymaker, Gooey Gress is adorable and the one-eyed bird is well done and frightening. The songs on the whole are not great with some very gooey lyrics, most of them are forgettable and the Cincinnatti song is like nails on a blackboard. Most of the production values look as though they've been done on the cheap too, that's even for a television film, the sets on the most part are garish and of theme park or re-used quality. The costumes are outrageous and like stuffed animals, with Barnaby's black feathery costume making him look like a giant crow. The special effects were clever in the Disney film, here they were sub-par especially the race cars.
The acting apart from Mulligan and Morita doesn't work. Eileen Brennan does a decent job with what she has, the problem is that she doesn't have much to do, so no matter how much she puts into it it wasn't worth the bother if the film wasn't going to use her talents well. Drew Barrymore, a promising child actress and has done a lot of great stuff(Grey Gardens and Ever After: A Cinderella Story), has some moments of cute charm but others where she was too syrupy, so it was more an uneven performance than a bad one. Keanu Reeves in an early role is handsome but very wooden with line delivery that is suggestive of him reading from a cue card. The script is uninspired, and the story- admittedly one of the weaker points of the Disney film and the operetta- has very little charm or wonder, partly because of the mix of real life and Toyland(and the whole only a dream premise), themes that seem rather mean-spirited for a fantasy/holiday film and also the unimaginatively staged musical numbers. It also comes across as far too stagy in a theatrical way, is at times ploddingly paced and can be overly cutesy and corny. Clive Donner's direction throughout is unimaginative and bland, it's sad to see a director who did such a great job with one of the best versions of A Christmas Carol two years previously directs with seemingly little interest or enthusiasm. Babes in Toyland has its moments(one really good song and two good performances especially) and has some curiosity value for Barrymore and Reeves early in their careers but overall it doesn't have a whole lot going for it. Stick with the Laurel/Hardy and Disney films instead. 4/10 Bethany Cox
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