Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Goofy Movie

This is one of those movies that I watched repeatedly as a kid. Be advised, despite what the title and mood of the poster may suggest, this movie is not all that goofy.

As a kid, I recall being a bit put off by the irascible nature of the characters. The incessant aura of boiling tension maintains a foreboding sense that yet another awkward argument is going to begin at any moment. Not unlike the feature-length debuts of many other cartoon icons, the script presents a story that less resembles a lighthearted comedy and more a tear-jerking drama.  When developing such film adaptations, a writer's overarching hurdle to overcome is determining how to prolong the insouciant 11-minute antics of a particular cartoon cast to a feature-length without boring the viewer.  Their solution, simply put, is to construct the story around a turbulent emotional arc. Doing this requires the writer to fabricate an enormous amount of emotional baggage for a usually unsophisticated character.

With this, we often times see these adaptations mutate a familiar fun-loving cast to aberrancy, presenting the viewer with an unfamiliar collection of erratic players who are offensively more contentious and discordant than they would ever appear in their respective shows.

There are at least three perplexingly detestable examples of a cartoon series being adapted for the screen through this mechanism which inevitably disrepute its franchise. Namely, the melodramatic catastrophes known as The Powerpuff Girls MovieThe Rugrats Movie, and Pok√©mon: The First Movie.  I'd like to note that The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is a shining counter-example, where emotional arcs are present but artfully shrouded in humor, allowing the audience the freedom to laugh at even heaviest moment.  A Goofy Movie, which is based on a television show I've never seen called Goof Troop, falls somewhere in the middle.

Can a cross-country buddy road trip movie succeed when the two heros are immersed in an almost immutable discord that doesn't resolve until the last fifteen minutes of the film?  The short answer is, yes.  Complete with stupendous animation, enough dry laughs to keep anyone with a decent sense of humor entertained, and fitted with songs that will get stuck in your head for days, the movie overall is actually quite good.

The film certainly is not intended to be a laugh out loud comedy with a joke at every turn, which is probably why when a gag hits, it hits hard.  Much of the humor in the film is wickedly dry, which is always a perk in a children's movie, since the parents are going to have to sit through it as well.  The grace with which the adult humor is inserted without furtively interpolating sexual innuendo intended to fly over the young viewers' heads is commendable.  The film's most amusing moments are not the punchlines thrown in your face (there really aren't that many), but rather in things like a character's demeanor, or the framing of a shot, or even the facial expression of a nonspeaking extra (e.g. Fat Elvis in the diner, or the hysterically lugubrious woman dropping off her kid at the portrait studio).  Watching the film again as an adult, I'd say the best gags emanate from a wonderfully meta viewpoint of overly jubilant Disney heritage. Goofy is allusively the embodiment of an oldschool Disney fan, while Max is your exemplar of angsty teen who wouldn't be caught dead enjoying a Disney flick, not to mention taking his photograph with a cartoonish mascot or singing along to a Country Bear Jamboree-style animatronic stage performance. Their clashing temperament serves as a hotbed for

It's impressive that a 1995 Disney film could be so blatantly self-referencial; although not nearly as impressive as a film like Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). Not unlike Roger Rabbit, albeit not as explicitly, we're immersed in a world where recognizable cartoon characters seem to exist both as tangible creatures and as the brain-children of animators. Evidence of this includes an emblem with the Disney "D" logo hanging from Goofy's keychain, and a 20-questions style guessing game between Max and Goofy concluding in the answer being Walt Disney.

In easily one of the most hysterical lines of the movie, Max makes mention to fact that Donald Duck is Goofy's best friend. And at one point .  Presumably, in this world, characters such as Micky Mouse and Donald Duck still exist as icons of popular children's movies and shows, as their image serves as the subject matter of toys and appliances (e.g. The Mickey Mouse telephone in Max's bedroom, and the stuffed animal of Bambi in the portrait studio).

 but that being said, nothing hateful or derogatory seemed to slip through the cracks.  All jabs at Disney come from a respectful place which feeds off of a common knowledge of well-known Disney characters, memorabelia, and attractions.