Badger, Rat and Mole are trying to save Toad Hall and its owner, their rich irresponsible airhead playboy friend Toad, from himself, as well as financial ruin, the court and a gang of conspiratorial weasels who have their eye on the place.
Arthur Rankin Jr.
Charles Nelson Reilly,
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A wonderfully light and fun version of the story with a great cast and a genuine sense of fun throughout
Venturing out from his underground home, Mole joins Ratty for a river trip. They come across the rich Mr Toad, who has taken up caravanning as a new hobby. However this hobby is replaced by a new one when he is run off the road by a motorcar sparking a new passion in his life. While Badger, Mole and Ratty try to cure Toad of his car obsession, the weasels use it against him in order to get the deeds to Toad Hall.
After making this film, Terry Jones had a public falling out with Disney resulting in them pulling it from a theatrical release, giving it a stupid title and dumping it out direct to video a fate it certainly didn't deserve. It is Disney that now looks stupid though as this is a wonderfully fun film that is pure simple fun to watch, it is the sort of kid's film that adults love because they can easily enjoy it just as much as their children.
The plot is a good adaptation of Grahame's classic book with only the factory bit towards the end being the biggest change to the source material.
In honesty, this thinly veiled attack on the ethics of big business is not only what most likely annoyed Disney but also is the bit of the film that doesn't work that well it is cluttered, overly busy, noisy and lacking in the clean, fresh wit of the majority of the film. However this is a minor complaint as the rest of the film is a real joy.
The film has a constant spring in it's step and is fresh and funny. For my money the best scene to demonstrate this humour is the wonderful courtroom scene where absurd wit runs amuck (Cleese's 'defence of Toad had me rolling!). I'm sorry for gushing about this but it is an underseen film due to Disney's shoddy treatment of it and, expecting it to be bad like all video releases, I was really surprised to find just how enjoyable it was. As director, Jones does a great job on the film it looks great and only the odd bit of special effect work let it down: the land is an idyllic, colourful place full of leisure time and a kind, friendly sun that always shines!
What really raises the film up is an amazing cast who are pretty much all used well rather than just being cameos for cameos' sake. Idle is really good as Ratty, as is Coogan in a nicely played role as Mole they both play the characters as I imagined them. Jones has the film's most fun role and he really does it very well, keeping the audience on Toad's side by playing up his childish side rather than an arrogant side. Sher is great as the chief weasel and has great fun, Williamson is well cast but has less fun with his role than the others. The support cast is great not only most of the Python team but good little roles from Fry, Hill, Planner, Wood and others are all used well and rarely is a bum note hit.
Overall this is a big, lively, colourful film that will please children no end. For adults it is never silly enough to be just for kids and there are plenty of famous faces to keep them entertained. However more than that, adults will enjoy the film's constant absurd wit in the script and direction that only really flags when the film pulls itself into a straight finish with a cluttered finale that is good but not as fresh and free as what had gone before. Despite Disney's best efforts this remains a really good film and one that is worth hunting out if you want a good bit of fun for family viewing.
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