Still, G-rated options for this past week were slim, so I picked up The Secret of NIMH at the local library and hoped for the best.
• Widowed mother mouse Mrs. Brisby (Elizabeth Hartman) lives on a farmer’s land, when she realizes that Moving Day is approaching (translation: her family must find a new home because the farmer will be plowing the land the mice inhabit). Problem is, her youngest son Timmy (Ian Fried) has pneumonia; if she tries to move him, he’ll die.
• After risking her life to speak with the wise Great Owl, Mrs. Brisby is told by the owl to seek help from the mysterious (and mystical) rats in the nearby underworld – led by Nicodemus (Derek Jacobi) – to get help moving her entire home, with Timmy safe inside.
• Among the rats, Mrs. Brisby meets dashing charmer Justin (Peter Strauss), who helps her in her quest, as well as the evil Jenner (Paul Shenar), who has plans to kill Nicodemus and take his place as leader.
• Much like Bluth’s other films (The Land Before Time, An American Tail), The Secret of NIMH carries a dark tone throughout its story. The settings are dreary, flat, and gloomily lit, with backdrops and scenery that look like elaborate, detailed paintings rather than integral parts of the animation.
• Speaking of NIMH’s story, it’s an odd mix of mystical lore based on a scientific mishap (NIMH stands for National Institute of Mental Health). It plays like Lord of the Rings meets Watership Down, but much less effectively than either of those films.
• Justin’s appearance adds some life into the second half, but not enough to keep the viewer’s interest. And God bless him, but Dom DeLuise is largely unfunny as a wacky crow who tries to help Mrs. Brisby with her plight.
In my opinion, there’s an inherent problem with Bluth’s films: They’re too mature for small kids to enjoy, and too childlike to engage adults. I know there are many fans of Bluth’s work, and how he supposedly brings realism to children’s films. All apologies to those people, but after The Secret of NIMH, I’m taking Bluth’s films out of our rotation.
To be blunt, Dash deserves better.
Rating: 1.5 stars (out of 5)
The Secret of NIMH with Dash took a lot of explaining and multiple hits of the pause button to do so. And just like Scooby-Doo and the Samurai Sword, he fell asleep before the ending.
Will your kids want to watch it?The Secret of NIMH is a textbook example of what used to pass as G-rated fare; it would easily be rated PG if it was released today. Some examples of why:
• The ominous glowing eyes of the Great Owl and Nicodemus
• Sad, frightening shots of lab animals in cages and being given injections
• Justin mutters “Damn!” when a plan goes wrong
• Mrs. Brisby cuts herself trying to escape a cage
• A major character is crushed to death
• Jenner strikes Mrs. Brisby
• Several rats literally die by the sword in the film’s climax
In short, there’s too much peril and scariness to make The Secret of NIMH enjoyable for little kids. Keep it away from the pre-K crowd, and show it to kindergartners and early gradeschoolers with caution.
Will your FilmMother like it?Don’t waste her time. There are so many better animated films you could share with her.
The Secret of NIMH
• Director: Don Bluth
• Screenwriters: Don Bluth, Will Finn, Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy
• Stars: Elizabeth Hartman, Derek Jacobi, Dom DeLuise, Hermione Baddeley, Shannon Doherty, Wil Wheaton, John Carradine, Peter Strauss, Paul Shenar, Ian Fried
• MPAA Rating: G (but easily would have been PG if released today)
• Buy this movie for less at Half.com >>