Thursday, March 05, 2009

3/1/09: Napoleon and Samantha (1972)

Maybe I just hated to end my vacation, or maybe I'm just addicted to G-rated movies...because here I am again, crawling back to the Disney well for more family-oriented fun. I guess this will be Walt Disney Week Part 2.

Aside from the grade I gave it, this has numerous things in common with last week's A Tiger Walks. Aside from being a Disney-produced family-adventure-comedy, it features one of the stars of TV's Family Affair, as well as a large jungle cat. But instead of Brian "Uncle Bill" Keith and a tiger, this time it's a Johnny "Jodie" Whitaker and a lion. Whitaker is a 10-year-old orphan being raised by his grandpa (Will Geer), while Jodie Foster, in her first feature film, is being taken care of by her grandmother (Ellen Corby). The respective grandparents don't have any scenes together, although they would get very well acquainted on The Waltons the same year.

There are a couple of touching scenes early in the movie: first Geer must explain to little Johnny that grandpa's days are numbered, then the next day the boy comes home to find the old man dead in his bed. Pretty heavy stuff for a Disney film! After Geer kicks the bucket, Whitaker tries to avoid the orphanage by heading for the hills with his pet lion, and Foster goes along for the ride. They get lost, and experience various mishaps...but the lion is always there to help them out of a jam. A very young-looking Michael Douglas figures into the story as well. This is a movie that would have played well to young kids a couple of generations ago; by today's standards it's bland and often preposterous. As one viewer noted, the lion ambles around through most of the movie looking like it was drugged, which I'm sure it was. A further creepy note is that 9-year-old Jodie Foster was briefly mauled by one of the lions used in the film, and is said to still have scars from the incident. Overall, not especially compelling...I might have liked it more back in ’72. Rating: 2/5.

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