The first theatrical sequel in Disney animation history (if we ignore the package films SALUDOS AMIGOS and THE THREE CABALLEROS), THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER was, in retrospect, a mistimed misstep. Although it did decent box office (about 25 million dollars - much less than either previous two films), a sequel to a film that was already thirteen years in the past was obviously not what most people wanted to see from Disney after the jumping and jiving OLIVER & COMPANY and the instant classic THE LITTLE MERMAID. Although they all used computers in one way or the other, THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE, OLIVER and MERMAID were three prime examples of how attractive, beautiful and diverse hand drawn animation could be. THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER was the first Disney film almost completely dependent on computers for its look, and some of it is mighty impressive, but it is not backed up with a compelling story or interesting characters. THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER deserves its reputation as the forgotten film of the LITTLE MERMAID - LION KING era.
Although Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor are still perfect as the voices of the two lead mice, Bernard and Miss Bianca are not nearly on screen as much as they should be. Too much time is devoted to the young boy Cody trying to escape from the mean old poacher who kidnapped him, or to painfully unfunny business featuring an albatross and a sadistic mouse doctor treating his back. John Candy is highly amusing as the albatross, who is the best character in the film, but all of the back operation scenes should have been left on the cutting room floor.
Although after OLIVER and MERMAID, audiences were probably expecting another charming musical in THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER, I won't fault the film for its lack of production numbers. The original RESCUERS had very little music either, but it had a great adventure and mystery story. THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER ditches the mystery aspect, as the opening scenes show us exactly who kidnapped the boy and why. George C. Scott, playing the villain, is one of the few Disney voice actors who actually completely overpowers his animated character. The fun in McLeach the poacher is not in how he moves or looks, but in listening to Scott's gravely growl as he chews up his dialogue and spits it out in a million different ways. In a strange way, McLeach is not a great Disney villain, but Scott is. Along with Candy, Scott helps to infuse parts of the film with an energy and sense of fun not found elsewhere.
In the final five minutes of the film, as the villain is getting his proper comeuppance, there are a few bits of pure character animation - simple things like a hand wave or a finger push - that made me laugh out loud at their subtlety. These moments are exactly what the rest of the film needs.
THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER is still passable entertainment, but the Disney people could do much better, as they were about to prove with BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and the films that followed. ½ - JB