The Rescuers Down Under – If you’re wondering why Disney never releases their sequels theatrically, the poor showing of this film is typically cited as the reason. In my own opinion, it’s not a bad movie, but it doesn’t live up to the original. It is kind of nice to see the characters again, though, and with their original voices. It was actually the last film role for Eva Gabor, who died a few years later. The plot involves an Australian boy named Cody, who doesn’t appear to have an Australian accent, running afoul of the poacher Percival McLeach when he frees an eagle from a trap. McLeach kidnaps Cody, and rather than reuse the message-in-a-bottle device from the first film, we have a local mouse contacting the Rescue Aid Society via telegraph. I’m not entirely sure how long after the first movie this one is supposed to take place, and I assume the actual lifespans of mice shouldn’t be a factor. We do see an old Apple keyboard at one point. Anyway, since the voice of Orville the albatross had died, the movie instead features his brother Wilbur, voiced by John Candy.
With his help, Bernard and Bianca travel to Australia and team up with a local mouse named Jake, who insists on flirting with Bianca.
Meanwhile, Wilbur is taken to a hospital, where a quack mouse doctor tries to operate on him with tools like a shotgun and a chainsaw, making for a rather disturbing sequence. Of course, there’s a happy ending, with McLeach falling to his death (okay, it’s not happy for everybody), the eagle being saved, and Bernard and Bianca getting engaged. There were some plot points that never got resolved, however, like what happened to all the other animals McLeach had captured. With him dead, there’s nothing to stop Cody from rescuing them, but I still think we should have seen or at least heard about this.
The villain is mostly just a typical nasty guy, but there are a few interesting things about him. One is that he keeps a pet goanna lizard named Joanna, who acts kind of like a dog.
The other is his vehicle, which struck me as some sort of post-apocalyptic Mad Max kind of construction, appropriately enough for a movie set in Australia. It’s technically a half-track, which means that it has wheels in the front and treads in the back, but it’s a lot crazier than the ones pictured in that Wikipedia entry. The trap McLeach uses on the eagle is pretty fancy, making me wonder if the poacher is an unsung mechanical genius despite not being too bright otherwise (he once mentions that he never made it past third grade). I did find it weird that McLeach was willing to let Joanna eat the unhatched eagle eggs. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to sell them for even more money?
My overall feeling about this movie is that, when compared to other Disney features of the same era, it comes across as rather low-key. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of action, because there is, but it’s just nowhere near as flashy as The Little Mermaid before it or Beauty and the Beast after. A large part of that is probably that there are no song-and-dance numbers; in fact, there were no original songs written for the film. I guess its main problem isn’t that it really does anything wrong, but that it’s just overshadowed by Disney’s other work, making it kind of forgettable.