Thursday, February 16, 2012

#23: Against all odds

(c) Disney
The Rescuers, 1977
watched February 5, 2012

  • Cute lonely orphan? Check.
  • Cute anthropomorphic mice? Check.
  • Crazy frightening villain? Check.

The Rescuers has all the right ingredients for a classic Disney animated film. Indeed, these elements make up for the premise of a compelling story. As we've seen in the past, underdogs often lie at the heart of these movies. And this one is teeming with them.

First, there's the sad but adorable gap-toothed orphan Penny, whose only friend is a mute teddy bear (that bears a striking resemblance to last week's Winnie the Pooh, come to think of it). Seriously, how could any adoptive parents pass this girl up for some redhead? (I seem to recall someone yelling, "I'll adopt you, Penny!" while we watched this two Sundays ago.) When she's kidnapped and forced into child slave labor, I was practically ready to jump into the screen myself to go find her. Needless to say, we're dealing again with a story about injustice, victims and villains.
But Penny's advocates don't include a big brave superhero, like Robin Hood, whose precision and wit make it seem almost easy for him to overcome the bad guys. There's no large community of "orphan helpers" either, like the network of dogs in 101 Dalmatians. Instead, there are two small mice, part of the Rescue Aid Society, who mean well but are in fact, well, mice. Miss Bianca, a seemingly delicate yet determined and compassionate mouse, makes a surprising choice for her case partner, Bernard, the janitor-turned-rescue agent. Not surprisingly, he's quite nervous about the whole situation (not to mention being paired with a lovely and slightly intimidating female mouse). Their only help is found in a clumsy albatross, a frazzled dragonfly and some swamp muskrats. It's easy to see why one might doubt their likelihood of success.

And let's not forget Medusa, the villain, who is as scary and threatening as they come. Anyone willing to enslave an innocent orphan must really be ruthless. She actually makes Cruella de Vil look like a bit of a pansy (they do share the same reckless driving, however). Also, she really needs a bra. Hmm...I seem to really have a thing about missing clothing.

So the odds are against our small heroes. And that is exactly why this movie is so moving (I'll even forgive the uber-70's music accompanied by pastel watercolor backgrounds). When the obstacles seem insurmountable, these brave rodents teach us that there's no room for passive sympathy. They show us that anyone can, and must, take action to protect the vulnerable. If it's something worth fighting for, then by golly, don't let anything stop you.

But what motivates such brave resolve to fight injustice? While the film's Disney-esque "just have a little faith" ideology is vague at best, fortunately, I know of a real kind of faith. It's not actually the faith itself that achieves us victory; it's the object of faith that matters. And mine is a Person, more powerful than any villain, Disney or otherwise. When I feel small and the world overwhelms, I remember this Person and I know I really can beat the odds.

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