Directed by Ken Kwapis
Written by Judy Freudberg & Tony Geiss
Starring Carroll Spinney, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Dave Thomas, & Joe Flaherty
Anamorphic: No; appears in Pan & Scan format.
My Advice: Wait for a better version.
Big Bird (Spinney), as we all know, is a six-year old, eight-foot tall, bright yellow bird who lives happily on Sesame Street. However, the meddling Feathered Friends Society decides that Big Bird should be living with his own kind--other birds. So one of its members, Miss Finch (Sally Kellerman), places him with a foster family—the Dodos in Oceanview, Illinois. Big Bird decides to leave, although everyone on Sesame Street is sad to see him go. However, the not-so-bright Dodos are not the idyllic bird family, and when Big Bird's best friend Snuffy is not allowed to visit because he's not a bird, Big Bird runs away, heading back to his nest on Sesame Street.
As word spreads about the runaway bird, his friends from Sesame Street decide to go and search for him. Miss Finch goes on her own quest to find Big Bird and send him back to the Dodos. Unbeknownst to them all, however, the Sleaze Brothers (Thomas and Flaherty) also hear about Big Bird and decide that he would be the perfect money-making addition to their circus. Who finds him first? Does Big Bird ever get back to his nest on Sesame Street? You'll just have to watch and find out.
This film is a must-see for any fan of the show that spawned it, and would be a very neat film for anyone with kids. Not only is it as craftily constructed as the television series, including all your favorite Muppets (well, almost--Elmo wasn't so popular back in 1985), but it also has cameos by Chevy Chase, Sandra Bernhardt, and John Candy to give a little more entertainment to the adults in the audience. The only weak parts of the film, in my opinion, were the songs. That is, other than the Grouch Anthem at the beginning. Oscar the Grouch opens the film in front of a Patton-sized flag singing about the rights of grouches ("Don't let the sunshine spoil your rain"). It's quite amusing. As for the other songs, I didn't find them very engaging. All but one, sung by Big Bird as a performance, pulled some focus from the plot, and didn't add a whole lot to the experience.
As both an avid Sesame Street fan, and a connoisseur of well-done DVDS, I was quite disappointed with this DVD. There was no widescreen version of the film available (which was annoying because it was clear that the director and cinematographer had made an effort to get a lot of wide shots in the film that would not be possible on a TV show). In addition, there were no extra features to speak of. If you want to watch the film in Spanish or Portuguese, there are some lovely dubbed versions. Aside from that, however, the only features were one okay trailer and a "skip to a song" feature (and from my opinion about most of the songs, you can imagine that this didn't impress me).
With as much intricacy that is necessary in maneuvering and filming Muppets and people in the same shots, I would assume there is more than enough material available to provide some semblance of a commentary, if not a featurette or documentary. I would love to know how they rigged cars so that it appeared that Muppets were driving. What happened to the blue Big Bird costume used in the film? Who designed the Dodos' house? Surely someone can answer these questions for me. Unfortunately, no one did on this DVD. I would hope that WB would have a higher standard of quality for their products, but then again, the other DVDs of theirs that I have seen (like Arthur and Heist, to name two off the top of my head) were equally lacking in features, so maybe I'm just expecting too much from them. But really--is it too much to ask for to have a ten-minute interview with Carroll Spinney. This would only make sense, seeing as how he was onscreen most of the film, not only as Big Bird, which is a feat in itself, but also as Oscar the Grouch? Quite disappointing.
If you love the film, or need to watch it in Spanish or Portuguese and you don't mind some pan-and-scan, then rent the DVD, but I'm crossing my fingers for another one. Perhaps one with some widescreen integrity and content.
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