I have no point of reference here. Not being a parent, the Oogieloves are a new experience for me, and at first glance they seem to be no more or less irritating then the stuff I pass by while flipping channels on my way to something else. My kneejerk reaction is to call their movie “harmless” yet something troubles me. At the very beginning of The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure the titular characters inform the kids in the audience that this movie requires an interactive response. When the movie signals you – by way of butterflies floating across the bottom of the screen – that you are to stand up and dance and sing. In other words, the movie is asking your kids to do the very thing that we have been taught all our lives not to do. It can only be hoped that this does not become a trend.
So, before we continue, let me address the elephant in the room. Why is a middle-aged man reviewing a movie made for toddlers? The answer comes from the fact that this movie has achieved a bit of cultural infamy. When it was released in 2,000 theaters across the country on August 29, 2012 it made history by becoming the worst selling movie of all time, earning just over a million dollars against a 20 million dollar budget. It made a prominent showing at the Razzies that year but lost all of those (dis)honors to Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2. Patrons were given magic wands at the door which, as far as I could tell, had nothing to do with the movie. The movie’s failure was probably due to the fact that it was a property no one had ever heard of, based on a show no one remembered and set against an ill-advised gimmick that goes against the rules we’ve been taught all our lives are a no-no – that being that you sit down in the theater, shut up, and watch the movie despite the fact that the movie is persistently demanding that you do just the opposite.
Not knowing what I was in for, I did a quick internet search and discovered that the movie is based on a TV series called “My Bedbugs” featuring the adventures of three colorful child characters called Gooby, Toofy, and Woozy. To be honest, I have no idea which one is Gooby, which one is Toofy or which one is Woozy and I only finished the movie 20 minutes ago – not that I was struggling to keep up. I have no idea how this movie ties in with the show, but having seen the movie, I’m not exactly killing myself to investigate further. I can see from an IMDb search that “My Bedbugs” was only on two seasons and ended its run in 2005 which means that the intended audience for this movie probably wasn’t even born when the show ended. Are the parents flying blind?
The story of the movie is basically a hanger on which to hang a bunch of musical numbers and songs and interactive bits for the kids in the audience. The journey follows the Oogies as they are preparing to celebrate the birthday of Schluufy, the pillow that sleeps on their couch. But the magic balloons they bought for Schluufy float away and we are told that they are the last magic balloons to be found. The rest of the movie is a song and dance journey to find the five balloons before Schluufy wakes up. The journey takes us through a malt shop, a travelling sombrero, a bubble truck etc. etc.
The world the kids live in is not a million miles removed from “Pee Wee’s Playhouse.” Their guardian is a vacuum cleaner named J. Edgar (who bears a nearly litigious resemblance to The Rug Doctor) and a window named Wendy who is their view of the entire world. The look of the movie seems to be a distant cousin of the Sid and Marty Krofft style of the 1970s most notably “The Banana Splits” only without the zaniness or the aura of the 70s groovy time capsule. The characters are adult-sized costumed actors with big eyes that move and mouths that barely move when they talk. They look like lesser versions of The Muppets and inspire you to wonder why this movie wasn’t animated.
Naturally my own reaction was kind of indifferent, though I was surprised by an incredible amount of celebrity cameos, some of whom looked game but many of whom looked baffled and confused. There’s Cloris Leachman, Toni Braxton, Christopher Lloyd, Jamie Pressley, Chazz Palminteri and Cary Elwes. Elwes is the most baffling, playing a guy named Bobby Wobbly who looks and acts like Jim Carrey. None of these actors appear as themselves, and none is on-screen for more than a minute or two. They are there to sing a song and move along.
Will the little ones enjoy it? Probably. It’s bright and it’s colorful and it has a lot of motion and music. But it’s not anything you would need to see in a theater. It’s a perfectly serviceable DVD where the kids can interact with it in their living room. Again, I’m not sure I am comfortable with the idea of a movie that requires children to sing and dance and act up in a movie theater. And again, I’m not a parent. I would be more comfortable putting a child in front of The Wizard of Oz or My Neighbor Totoro or Toy Story or Mary Poppins. Those movies will stay in your kid’s mind for the rest of their lives. Oogieloves will stay with them as long as the DVD is still running.