(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from Don't Look Under the Bed)
Doug (vo): I don't think I've ever seen a Disney Channel movie I was more ready to like than Don't Look Under the Bed. From its Sam Raimi-style POV shots, from its cool shadow work, to the fact that the main character is named Frances Bacon...Good Lord, I am gonna fall in love with this! But the more the movie continued, the more bizarre it got, and kind of the more awkward it got. That's not to say there isn't a lot of cool stuff about it, but there's also a lot of dumb stuff about it. And in the end, it's kind of a mess.
Doug (vo): A teenage girl named Frances Bacon...God, I feel so weird to say...is skipped ahead a grade at school, and the only reason I bring it up is because the movie brought it up. It actually doesn't play much into anything. But what does is all sorts of weird things are happening around the area. Clocks are being set forward, cars are being egged, and even people are stopping directly in their tracks in silence. It's actually kind of the most eerie part of the movie, 'cause there's no goofy music, no silly acting, it's just quiet. For a Disney Channel movie, that's pretty eerie. Things get even stranger when Frances starts to see a boy named Larry Houdini, but nobody else seems to. Nobody knows what seems to be going on in town, but Frances is instantly being blamed, mostly because graffiti of the letter "B" is everywhere except on her locker. That is, it's on the inside of her locker, where only she could get to it. Other things like the swimming pool being filled with jello...I love that...and all the jello from her house being gone start to add up and start to get people pointing fingers at her. The more and more she gets blamed for, the more and more she sees that Larry Houdini kid, so she finally confronts him and he admits he's an imaginary friend. Well, not her imaginary friend, just an imaginary friend in general. Kids can apparently see him, but grown-ups can't. His theory is that all these pranks are being caused by the Boogieman, somebody who used to be an imaginary friend, but when somebody stops believing, they turn into an evil force. So it's up to Frances and Larry to figure out if the Boogieman is real, how they stop him, and more important, how to get her kid brother back, who's kidnapped in the third act...by a giant sock...that he can't get out of and she can't get him out of. Oh, he also uses a spider web net that looks like the easiest thing to get out of, and yet, she can't get out of that either. Oh, and the little brother had leukemia, and he got better because the other brother gave him some of his bone marrow.
Doug (vo): If that sounds like an afterthought, it's because the film kind of treats it that way, too. Leukemia? Really? I mean, you can tackle this if you want, but you never see the kid in the hospital, you never hear the kid talk about it. Every once in a while, someone just brings it up as if that's why the kid doesn't see imaginary friends anymore. Well...okay, if you're gonna just name-drop leukemia like that, you don't really have that as a side thing, you have it as a little bit more of a focus. I mean, it's friggin' leukemia in a Disney Channel movie!
(Scenes focusing on Francis and Larry are shown)
Doug (vo): But sadly, a lot of it is just Larry trying to convince Frances that he's real and the Boogieman is real and imaginary friends are real, and for whatever reason, she never believes it. Even though he proves it over and over and over, she still doesn't catch on, and it's so infuriating! On top of that, their acting is kind of one-note. At first, they seem okay. Frances is obsessed with logic and proving things, so it makes sense that she wouldn't believe there's an imaginary friend. But even at the end, when her brother is about to be thrown off a cliff, she still keeps that cynical delivery. Come on! Show a little bit more emotion! Larry gets pretty annoying, too. At first, I kind of dug the fact that he was kind of wild and weird, because nobody saw him except kids, so he would kind of be this way. But a little of him goes really far, and after a while, it doesn't feel like he's being very natural like this is just what this character is like, it feels like he's always trying to get a laugh, and it's usually not working. The times I like him best is when he has to talk serious, because his delivery is still so strange, but it's still kind of unique, I actually kind of dug it. And if I was a kid, yeah, maybe I'd get more into his goofy stuff. There's kind of a young Jim Carrey wannabe style in there. But as an adult, it gets really old really quick, and it would have been nicer if they had something that both kids and adults could have a lot of fun with.
(Several other characters are shown)
Doug (vo): All the other characters are a little off, too, and not really in a charming way, just kind of a weird way. The father, for example, I don't know what his deal is. He always kind of seems angry or maybe not, maybe he's just kind of weird, I can't really figure him out.
(Scenes focusing on the film's visual style are shown)
Doug (vo): So, okay. It seems like I'm crapping on this movie a lot, but to its credit, there is a lot of cool stuff as well. Visually, it's a lot of fun. The angles in this are just so cool. A lot of them are kind of slanted and moving around and warped and weird. Some scenes in this, I think would be legitimately scary to little kids. It even got a little bit of a creep factor out of me. When Larry gets angry, his eyes suddenly go purple and green, and his voice changes, and it comes right out of nowhere. I was actually kind of hoping maybe he was gonna be the villain, but it doesn't go that angle. The angle it does go is kind of clever, with a twist behind who the actual Boogieman is, but even then, I don't entirely follow it. So there's just other Boogiemens that come from other imaginary friends? I mean, a lot of people don't believe in imaginary friends after a while, in fact, most people, and...what? Those are all the pranks that happened in the world? Maybe? Why is it just this one imaginary friend that turns into a Boogieman that's wreaking havoc in the town? Shouldn't there be, like, a ton of these Boogiemen? But like I said, every time it doesn't make sense or gets really boring, trying to convince her that Boogiemen are real and everything, they do something kind of cool.
(Footage focusing on the world under the bed is shown, before resuming showing various clips)
Doug (vo): For example, when they do finally go under the bed, there's this giant weird kingdom, and just look at this set, look at these designs. These are really neat. I also love the idea of how she gets to this world. Look, it seems like she's climbing under the bed, but suddenly, she's climbing up a mountain in the exact same shot. That's really clever. But unfortunately, you got to wait a long time for scenes like that, and you got to sit through a lot of uncomfortable, awkward moments to get to them. I guess as a kid, I would probably like it, though I feel like I would get bored pretty quickly of all the talking, and would want to see a lot of the stuff they're talking about. Like I said, every time they bring up that leukemia thing, it's really uncomfortable and odd. It would've gotten the point across so much more if they actually showed a little bit. Maybe you could have opened with that, like the kid in the hospital and the sister feeling bad, and then, like, you see in that moment she had to grow up and he had to grow up, just a little something. But we get none of that here. The only bits we do get is an occasional smart line. For example, I like when they're in the garage, and Frances said, "If the brother didn't believe in the imaginary friend anymore, why did he stay?", to which Larry said, "He still needed me." That's actually kind of interesting and can be taken a lot of ways. One of the final lines is also kind of brilliant.
Darwin: I guess it takes a lot of imagination to become a grown-up.
Doug (vo): Again, in a story like this, that's surprisingly profound, and you didn't need much, just a line or two.
Final thought Edit
Doug (vo): But like I said, everything is either over-talked or not talked about enough. It's like the focus is always in the wrong place. If I was a kid, I would probably like chunks of it, the darker stuff, I'm sure Larry will probably get a laugh out of me, too. But I don't know if I would watch it a lot, as, again, I'd have to wait for quite a bit to get to those moments. If you grew up loving it, fair enough. I can see why, I guess. But for me, this clutter under the bed is just a little too messy.
(A scene showing Frances and Larry traveling through the world under the bed is shown)