Down [2001]

No, this isn't a quickie, direct-to-video sequel, cashing in on the success of the 1977 animated hit about adventurous mice, but a full-blown theatrical effort. This time around, Bernard (voiced by Bob Newhart) is trying to pop the question to Bianca (Eva Gabor) when they're summoned to Australia, where a young boy has been kidnapped by a pallid, gray-faced poacher (who looks like and is voiced by George C. Scott). Wilbur, a chatterbox of an albatross (John Candy, replacing the late Jim Jordan's character Orville), and Jake (Tristan Rogers), a kangaroo mouse--Bernard is jealous of the dashing rodent--assist the Rescuers in saving the day and imparting a mild environmental message. The film opens with an absolutely breathtaking aerial sequence--this was made near the beginning of Disney's animation renaissance--so impressive it would seem the story, literally, has nowhere else to go but down, but some smart gags, excellent animation, and rollicking adventures ensue. So why isn't it better known? It had the bad luck to open, in 1990, opposite another kids' film--Home Alone. --David Kronke

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