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DISNEY PIXAR DVDs
Starring Rene Russo, Robbie Coltrane,
a book by Gertrude Lintz
IN SHORT: Rene Russo and an ape. Aimed at the kids, but amazingly adult and enjoyable.
It is a story which is so preposterous that only a loon could pitch it to a Hollywood Armani suit crowd: Buddy is a story of a rich, eccentric woman who raises apes as if they were her children. She is the first to raise a baby gorilla and then must have the strength to let go. "If you love someone sit it free" and all that. It is the kind of story that is so outlandish and ridiculous that it could only be true, and that it is. Buddy is a surprisingly endearing and touching story of Gertrude Lintz (Rene Russo), a Brooklyn socialite (back in the 1920s and 30s when Brooklyn still had such things) who moved on from 5 time champion of the Westminster Kennel Club to raise apes as human. They ate at her table. They wore clothes. They slept in beds, believed in the boogy-man and responded to their own given names. And those are just the chimps.
Her husband the rich doctor (Robbie Coltrane), is incredibly indulgent of his wife's hobby, until the day she gets a frantic call from a Philadelphia zoo and brings a sickly baby gorilla into the house. They both know that no baby gorilla has ever been raised domestically without its mother, but "Buddah," as the ape is named, responds to Trudy's care and the Doctor's heat lamp. From there we move on into a fascinating story.
Rene Russo, ignores the age-old adage that actors should not work with children or animals does not get upstaged by her animal pals. That's a great feat, since she has dogs, horses and the assorted parrots, raccoons, turtles and porcupines to deal with in addition to two starring chimpanzees (with two more in supporting roles) and the animatronic ape who gets the title. Produced at Jim Henson's Creature Shop, the baby gorilla is an obvious model but, strangely enough, the "adult" Buddy delivers a remarkably "human" performance. For this credit actor Peter Elliot, principal puppeteer Mak Wilson, and the voice talents of the continually astonishing Frank Welker, with Gary Hecker and Hector C. Gika.
Here's the bottom line, folks. The theater was crowded with parents and their kids, and all the adults sat in dread of another animal movie. By the time it was over, the adults were bigger fans than the kids. That unpleasant "depression" thing that happened back in the 1930s never intrudes into the story, which treads the fine line between believable and not. "Buddy" is a touching and moving story. Rene Russo's performance is rock solid fine. And so is that of the team running the animatronic, and most human-like ape.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Buddy, he would have paid...
That's a solid rating for a film that is perfect for families and kids too small for the dinos of The Lost World. And I'll say it again, the adults in the room with me walked out as very happy campers. Buddy may be the biggest surprise of the summer. (So far). See it.
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