Monday, January 22, 2007

WEEKLY DOUBLE FEATURE: Pinocchio & The Incredible Mr. Limpet

A whopper of a fish story and a whale of a tale, The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964) and Pinocchio (1940) are two fascinating morality plays dealing with issues of honesty, wish fulfillment and bravery.

In The Incredible Mr. Limpet, Henry Limpet (Don Knotts), a scrawny man-boy accountant, is rejected by the Navy during WWII. Depressed, he takes a walk on the Coney Island pier with his wife, Bessie (Carole Cook) and falls into the water. Underwater, he is transformed into a cartoon fish and falls in love with the beautiful Ladyfish (Elizabeth MacRae). Mr. Limpet overcomes his fears and summons the courage to help a team of Navy Admirals track down Nazi U-boats.

Yes. It is as silly as it sounds.

In Walt Disney’s Pinocchio, Pinocchio (Dick Jones, voice), a scrawny puppet-boy created by lonely woodcarver Gepetto (Christian Rub), is promised the gift of humanity by Blue Fairy (Evelyn Venable)--if he proves himself worthy. Pinocchio is shanghaied by con-men (actually con-fox and con-cat), indentured as an entertainer to the nefarious Stromboli, rescued by the Blue Fairy and Jiminy Cricket, shanghaied yet again, and befriended by fellow truants on Pleasure Island. On Pleasure Island, Pinocchio is transformed into a donkey and rescued, once again, by Jiminy Cricket. Learning that Geppeto was swallowed by Monstro the Whale, Pinocchio overcomes his fears and summons the courage to rescue Geppeto from the belly of the beast. Proving himself worthy, the puppet becomes a real boy.

Yes. It is as harrowing as it sounds.

And both films are truly family fare: movies you will enjoy along with the kids. The Incredible Mr. Limpet is sappy but laugh-filled--what else would expect from the rubber-faced, bug-eyed Don Knotts? Pinocchio is a crowning achievement in Disney storytelling--painstaking artwork, Oscar-winning score, spine-tingling adventure. As a matter of fact, I would go out on a limb and, in the face of AFI’s Top 100, proclaim Pinocchio a better film than both Snow White and Fantasia.

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