Friday, January 6, 2012

Something Fishy (and non horrific)

I've watched and reviewed a lot of horror these past few days and so I think today I should do something a little different today.  First let me lament about the Internet situation here in the building today.  The Internet has been running slow and sluggish the whole week and today the technology department decided to run a full diagnostic over it which requires turning off several Internet ports...which makes the Internet not work in several places in the building.  This normally wouldn't bother me, as it comes back with enough frequency to allow me to take role and check things for starting class.  However, I am also giving my quarterly assessments today and we have to do them online...which is fairly difficult when the Internet keeps going in and out.  I literally almost pulled out my hair trying to deal with that this morning and assuring the students that everything would be fine eventually.  This afternoon is my last class where I need to do this and I am hopeful that everything will be much smoother.  Sometimes I wonder, despite my love for new technology, if I wouldn't be happier in a simpler time or place.  Animals don't have to deal with frustrations like these, they just have to deal with the survival of the fittest (which seems like a perfectly reasonable full time job).  The film I am looking at today looks at a man who wishes he could live a simpler life as an animal, and against all odds he gets his wish.  So let's get swimming and look at The Incredible Mr. Limpet.

The film opens in 1941 and focuses on Henry Limpet, a shy bookkeeper with an astigmatism and a fascination with fish.  He wants nothing more than to be able to join the Navy, but his vision and his small stature keep him from doing so.  His wife, Bessie, tries to love him and be supportive of him but she finds his interest in fishes and lectures to be aggravating.  His friend George Stickle often comes to visit and smugly rubs his Naval commission in Henry's face.  One afternoon, when the trio is visiting Coney Island, Henry goes out on the pier and while wishing he could become a fish, he accidentally falls in.  As he sinks, he slowly turns into a large spectacle-wearing fish while Bessie and George simply assume that Henry has drowned.  Enjoying his new body, Limpet swims off into the ocean where he meets a grumpy crab he names Crusty, and a lovely lavender porpoise he names Ladyfish.  He also discovers he can produce a powerful underwater "thrum" that can actually knock larger fish away from him through the water.  Realizing that his knowledge of boats can help the Navy, he gets in touch with them by helping them sink a U-boat.  George becomes Limpet's liaison to the Navy and they set off on a mission to invade Germany by sea.  However, the Nazi forces have begun developing a weapon to hunt and kill Limpet before he can destroy anymore of their ships.  It is now a race against time to see if Limpet will prevail against the Third Reich.

Like many family-oriented films in the 1960s, The Incredible Mr. Limpet looks kinda cheap and is just a little too precious for it's own good.  The story is largely implausible due to there being no explanation for Limpet's change in form nor his "thrum" ability.  However, the cast and director take the affair so seriously (comic moments notwithstanding) that it is hard to not get caught up in the fun of it.  Don Knotts plays Limpet very meekly in human form and then steadily bolder as he learns to live life as a fish.  It's hard to think of Knotts as a war hero, but his Limpet is courageous and genuine like some of film's classic heroes.  The other human players are good, but they can't really hold a candle to Knotts.  The music of Limpet is not the best you will ever hear nor the most memorable, in fact this is one musical where I think the songs really slow the plot down rather than help it along (which may be what the filmmakers intended, since the film's story is fairly straightforward).  The bright colors and stagy production design for the live action scenes, as well as the mixing of animation and live actors, make this another candidate for 'films most likely to be mistaken for a Disney production'.  It's palate and artificiality match much of what was coming out of the Mouse House in the same era, such as Mary Poppins, though the former has been given considerably more love and care than Warner's has done with Limpet.  Still, it's a charming (if flawed) picture that manages to entertain me consistantly each viewing.  If you have little ones, they will probably enjoy the animated fish while you laugh at the fun that is poked at World War II.  It certainly won't be dull.

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