Friday, October 20, 2017

The Magic of Lassie (1978)

The last of several films written by brothers Richard and Robert Sherman, better known as the tunesmiths of such projects as Mary Poppins (1964), family adventure The Magic of Lassie bludgeons the enduring canine franchise with cutesy songs, manipulative plotting, and the sentimental casting of beloved actors from the past. Nearly every heart-tugging cliché you can imagine is represented here, from crying children to scenes of a beautiful dog in danger. And then there are the songs. Whereas good Sherman tunes are innocent fun, bad ones—the only type on display here—are like power drills to the cerebral cortex. The mawkish plot revolves around kind-hearted geezer Clovis (James Stewart), who runs a small winery while raising his grandchildren, Chris (Michael Sharrett) and Kelly (Stephanie Zimbalist). Lassie is their pet. One day, evil businessman Jamison (Pernell Roberts) asks to buy the vineyard. Clovis refuses. Yet something about Lassie seems familiar to Jamison. Turns out that Jamison breeds champion Collies, and that Lassie a runaway from a past litter. You get the idea—Jamison seizes Lassie, heartbroken Chris leaves home to look for the dog, and Lassie escapes Jamison’s grip, beginning a perilous journey home. It’s all a prelude to the inevitable tear-filled reunions. And the scenes featuring original Sherman songs are so sickly-sweet that some viewers might experience diabetic shock. Mickey Rooney, who appears in a dumb subplot about an aging wrestler and his manager, talk-sings a couple of numbers, as does Stewart. Worse, both Debby and Pat Boone warble tunes, though neither appears onscreen.

The Magic of Lassie: LAME

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The true shame is that in 1977 the geniuses at SCTV had already come up with a definitive tribute to a hero dog, far shorter and, by the sound of it, far more enjoyable ...