Friday, 19 May 2017

The Secret of NIMH (1982)

Mrs Brisby is a small mouse with a big problem.  In a few days, her home will be destroyed by the farmer's plough.  Normally she would just move her family until the danger has passed, but her youngest son is in bed with pneumonia and cannot be moved.  Her only hope for help is the mysterious clan of rats that live in the farmer's rosebush ...

As I've mentioned before, I'm not intrinsically opposed to movies making changes from the books on which they are based.  Unfortunately for The Secret of NIMH, all three of its big changes misfire.

The first change is one that in principle is a sound idea.  The novel that inspired the film pretty much entirely lacks an antagonist.  There are threats, for sure.  The farmer's plough, his vicious cat Dragon, and even the mysterious organisation known as NIMH are all out there, but they're environmental dangers, not a scheming adversary.  The film introduces one in the shape of Jenner, a malevolent member of the rats who schemes to murder the current leader and take over the rosebush.  Having an active villain is a solid concept, but Jenner's introduced too late and given too little to do to actually be an effective one.

The second change is again a sensible enough idea gone wrong.  Horribly wrong, frankly, since the idea is "let's have a comic relief character, since the original story is a pretty sombre one", and the execution is "let's have Dom DeLuise do his tiresome well-meaning buffoon schtick all over the place".  Ugh.

The third change, though.  Oh lordie, the third change.  That's the kicker, because it's simply a terrible idea to begin with.  The film invents a magic amulet that provides a supernatural solution to Mrs Brisby's problem, rendering much of what has gone before completely pointless.  It's a terrible, tonally discordant ending to the film.  So disappointing.

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