Top 11 Underrated Nostalgic Classics
November 3rd, 2008
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. There are some things we forget about, some things we don't know about, and then some things we forget about. One of these things is films, and as much as I talk about Nostalgic Movies good and bad, there are still some movies out there overlooked. Either we forget about them or don't even know they exist. They're not totally overlooked or unheard of, they're just not looked at enough. So, I've compiled a list of the Top 11 Greatest Nostalgic American Children's Films That Many of Us Forget Even Existed. Why Top 11? Because I like to go one step beyond. So, sit back and enjoy the Top 11 Underrated Nostalgic Classics.
The scene of Indiana Jones commanding workers to open the pit where the Ark of the Covenant rests is the intro and title screen; Interlude
NC (voiceover): Number 11--The Rescuers Down Under. This is one of the Disney animated films that everyone forgets about. It didn't have any princesses, fairy tales, and it WAS a sequel to a very mediocre film, but they put a lot of effort into this, providing us with an all-around great adventure. Perhaps you remember the first Rescuers film and how exciting that was.
Bernard: She might catch us in her swamp mobile.
Penny: We'll swipe it! I've always wanted to drive it! (mimics the sound of the vehicle driving around)
NC: Riveting. Now take a look at the sequel!
Montage of intense, exciting scenes from The Rescuers Down Under.
NC (voiceover): This film is a serious upgrade, with some great animation, great suspense, and some great underrated voice work. That's Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor reprising their roles from the first film, but it also has some late greats like the always incredible John Candy...
Wilbur: And a couple of these... (does one pushup, back cracks) OH! Okay, one's enough.
NC (voiceover): ...and the always intense George C. Scott.
Percival C. McLeach: I didn't make it all the way through third grade for nothing!
NC (voiceover): On top of that, the eagle scenes are just phenomenal, one of the few on-screen moments that really simulates the illusion of flight. True it doesn't make sense how it takes place in Australia and only two of the characters have Australian accents, but then again, how come in Beauty and the Beast, only the candlestick has a French accent and no one else does? I don't know. Anyway, The Rescuers Down Under is fun, thrilling, and sometimes even beautiful. And considering Disney sequels recently, this is one that's actually a million times better than the original. Rescuers Down Under definitely comes out on top.
NC (voiceover): Number 10--Tiny Toons: How I Spent My Vacation. Even though it never got a theatrical release, How I Spent My Vacation was a fully animated, hour and a half movie, tying together a dozen hilarious storylines. One deals with Buster and Babs heading down the river, another is about Elmyra torturing a ton of innocent animals, but the best one involves Plucky as he travels with Hampton's family to the Disney World knockoff Happy World Land. What results is the road trip from Hell. Everybody's been on this car ride, where the family won't shut up, tension is rising, and the only escape is into your own insanity. They play great games like Spot the Car...
Hampton Family: There's a car, there's a car, there's a car, there's a car.
NC (voiceover): ...pick up hitchhikers who happen to be wanted psychotic killers...
Killer: I hate duck.
He whips out a chainsaw and threatens Plucky with it.
NC (voiceover): ...and eat classic meals like...
Hampton: Mayo and cream cheese on white, with the crusts cut off!
NC (voiceover): Delicious. I won't ruin the hilarious outcome of when they finally do get to Happy World Land, but trust me when I say it's beyond hilarious. And, of course, it has all the slapstick, imagination and clever in-jokes that Tiny Toons was known for in later years. This one is one of my favorites, satirizing the THX Sound System.
A scene of the theater playing a loud, high-pitched noise that tosses food and audience members across the room.
Announcer: The audience is now deaf.
NC (voiceover): And just look what they do to poor E.T.
Superman flies Buster and Babs through the air, and they collide with E.T. and Elliot on the bike
NC (voiceover): With great writing and top-notch animation, How I Spent My Vacation SHOULD'VE been released in cinemas, but, oh, well. We'll just have to settle for it on video. If you can find it, definitely check it out. It's a wonderful dose of comedy.
NC (voiceover): Number 9--The Rocketeer. This is kinda like a Disney version of Indiana Jones, only not as watered down as you may think. It's got great action, great characters, and great hot steaming Jennifer Connellys. It's about a guy who finds a rocket pack that can propel him into the air and save people. How do the flames not burn his ass? I don't know, maybe it's a special kind of underwear. But it's still fun to watch. The villain is played by Timothy Dalton, who plays an Errol Flynn type-celebrity who's working for a pretty risqué organization.
Jennifer Connelly's character is holding up a small book with the Swastika on it.
NC: I always knew Hollywood was run by Nazis, but...wow.
NC (voiceover): He's out to get the rocket so the Nazis can partake in the most unpractical takeover plan of all time. "Who needs planes when we can fly our own non-bulletproof bodies!" It's also got some stars before they made it really big, like Alan Arkin, Terry O'Quinn, Pauly Sorvino, and, of course, J-J-J-Jenny!
NC: Oh, you can roam my Labyrinth any day!
NC (voiceover): Actually, the ironic thing is that the only guy who didn't go anywhere was the Rocketeer himself. It's a shame, 'cause he's really not that bad an actor. He's like if Brendan Frasier was a LIKEABLE action star. It also has the best Howard Hughes ever. That Scorsese movie, where Leonardo DiCaprio dressed up like Halloween? Yeah, I don't buy that. This is the guy who should've played him. I can totally see him wearing tissue boxes in the future. Overall, Rocketeer was a great adventure. This guy was the real Rocket Man.
NC (voiceover): Number 8--The Prince of Egypt. Even though I love this movie, I put it pretty low on the list because the film actually was a hit when it first came out. But since then, nobody ever talks about it or acknowledges it. And to be honest, it's a very impressive piece. Some of this is because a lot of people compare it to the Cecil B. Demille film, The Ten Commandments. But the two are totally different styles. In this film, Moses and Rameses don't just declare that they're enemies, they're brothers first, who are forced by pride and destiny to battle each other, even though they want nothing more than to just be a family again. Some people are thrown off by the songs and the use of celebrities like Steve Martin and Martin Short. Does that make a Steve Martin Short? But the truth is, they're not in it for very long, and the songs themselves actually aren't half bad, especially considering they're done by the same guy who did Wicked. But most of all, this film is epic. Everything it does is huge, from big songs to big emotions to big eye-pleasing visuals. Even the acting is pretty damn good, especially from Ralph Fiennes who plays a chilling Rameses. Even though it did well, it's never regarded as anything great, but it truly is. It really tries to capture the human emotion of the story and combine it with the sheer scope of its biblical size. It's not Ten Commandments, but it's not supposed to be. It's something different, fresh, and friggin' huge. Prince of Egypt should not only be acknowledged as its own creation, but certainly as a great one.
NC (voiceover): Number 7--Explorers. This film really targets the imagination of young sci-fi. It's about three kids, River Phoenix, Ethan Hawke, and...some kid who never went anywhere, who get signs in their dreams about a spaceship that's trying to communicate with them. So what do they do? Build a spaceship in their backyard, of course!
NC (voiceover): Okay, while that IS a little bit out there, Explorers does know how to take a relatively silly idea and actually make it pretty plausible to kids. Most of the movie is just showing them making the ship, including how it'll fly, how they'll breathe, and all sorts of other details. And when they actually do get to the actual spaceship, it's a pretty damn cool spaceship, with all sorts of monsters and strange gadgets that they come across. The actual aliens themselves are kinda gay, which I guess is part of the joke, all they know about humans is what they've seen on TV. But that's a lot of buildup for a pretty silly punchline. There is a clever twist having to deal with a quote-unquote "space pirate" that comes aboard, but again, it seems like kind of a weird turn for something that was being taken so seriously before. Then again, it's not as much about the payoff as it is about the journey, and in the end, Explorers was most definitely a very, very fun journey. The film, needless to say, is definitely worth a gander.
NC (voiceover): Number 6--The Iron Giant. This film is picking up in popularity, but it's still not a household name like a lot of the Disney films, which is ironic because the film's director went on to direct The Incredibles and Ratatouille. But this film has a ton of creativity, comedy, and heart. It's about a kid who befriends a gigantic robot alien and how he, of course, wants to keep it a secret. Unlike E.T., though, the alien can't quite fit in his room, which leads to a lot of funny and clever moments. The best thing about this movie is the subtle relationships everybody has. Not just the kid and the alien, but the kid with his mother, the kid with the agent, the agent with the commander, the mother with the artist...all these relationships are present, but they're not shoved in your face. They play out very naturally. Of course, the Giant himself is pretty damn cool, too. He's made of metal, eats junkyards, and is voiced by Vin Diesel.
NC: BUY ME THAT!
NC (voiceover): More and more people are discovering this film, and with good reason. It's a good film, ranging from subtle and kind to outrageous and action-packed. Much like the Giant himself, it's a load of fun and very well constructed.
NC (voiceover): Number 5--Flight of the Navigator. This movie has some of the best build-up you'll ever see in a film. It's gripping, curious, and knows how to keep your attention. It's about a kid in 1978 who trips and falls and somehow wakes up in the year 1986. Everything has aged, except him. Scientists are baffled, but even more baffled by the arrival of a spaceship that looks like a metal walnut. They believe that somehow, the boy and the ship are connected and that somehow, the boy is the only way to figure out how to get inside. The mystery and build-up in the first half is the best part of the movie. But much like Explorers, it succumbs to kid movie syndrome and has a typical kids movie second half. But even the second half isn't bad. Watching a kid fly around in his own personal spaceship is pretty cool. And on top of that, it has Paul Reubens of Pee-Wee Herman fame who does the voice of the computer.
Computer: You have the information I require to complete my mission.
NC: That doesn't sound like Pee-Wee.
They show a brief clip where the Pee-Wee voice is heard.
NC: There he is!
NC (voiceover): Actually, I'm glad he doesn't do the Pee-Wee voice that much in this movie. I mean, can you imagine how awkward that would be?
They dub over the "This is crack" line for one of the scenes.
NC (voiceover): The one downside to the movie is that the kid's a bit of a wimp. I think it was written with a younger boy in mind, but instead, they went with this older kid. So the crying scenes are...well, kind of weird.
David: (crying) Please...where's my mom and dad?
NC: Dude, just plug in your Xbox and you'll forget about all your problems like everyone else your age!
NC (voiceover): With great build-up, great story and great effects, Flight of the Navigator is definitely worth a rent sometime soon.
NC (voiceover): Number 4--Return to Oz.
NC: Oh, you mean the sequel to The Wizard of Oz, that charming colorful musical? Oh, what a delight, I can't wait to visit that magical wonderland again to see all that whimsical enchantment-
Cut to many of the more horrifying scenes from Return to Oz.
NC: ...holy shit.
NC (voiceover): I mean, talk about not being in Kansas anymore. Return to Oz was nothing like the original 1939 musical. This sequel was DARK, with severed heads, shock therapy, and these creepy little demon monsters known as Wheelers. This was one HELL of a creepy, creepy movie.
NC: And it was so damn cool!
NC (voiceover): I mean, for as creepy as it was, it was still pretty imaginative, still keeping a lot of the charm and surreal nature that Oz had to offer. Just don't expect any cute little Munchkins singing. Unless they're decapitated. The film also has new characters, like Tick Tock, Pumpkinhead, and a couch named Gump. Like I said before, I think a lot of kids like being scared, because it pulls them much more into the action. If they didn't like being scared, they wouldn't go out for Halloween or watch High School Musical. As dark and creepy as it is, Return to Oz was fun and creative, knowing exactly how to scare the enchanted shit out of us.
Gump: That was an odd experience, wasn't it?
NC (voiceover): Number 3--Babe: Pig in the City. This movie is just incredible. When you're not being sucked in by all the imagination, visuals, and surprisingly interesting characters, you're sucked in by the technical wizardry that makes this movie work. But it's weird because not once do you question how they got the animals to be trained so well or how they did so many of the effects. How can you when you have so much creativity just exploding around you? The characters are entertaining, the story is fun, and its tone ranges from light and fluffy to dark and brooding. Everything is extreme and odd, the exact opposite of the first Babe movie, which I guess threw a lot of people off. Nobody knew how to feel watching this film, whether to sit and cry or laugh uncomfortably. But to me, that's the sign of a great film, making you feel and combine all sorts of emotions to give you a new and bizarre feeling.
NC: Like feeling happily sad.
His face changes from smiling to sobbing, as he is unsure how to express it.
NC (voiceover): This film is literally a roller coaster ride, combining big emotion with big visuals. Not to mention one of the most fun climaxes you'll ever see. Yeah, it's a bit dark, but your kids could use a little tougher material sometimes. As long as it ultimately results in a happy ending, I think most kids will be cool with it. If you get a chance, go to the local video store and bring home the bacon.
NC (voiceover): Number 2--Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Fresh off the animated series, Batman actually DID have one cartoon film that was released in theaters. This film came out around the same time as Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever, and many of us were surprised to find that the animated film actually treated us more like grown-ups than the grown-up film did. The film dives into Bruce's past as we discover that he actually almost had a normal life before becoming Batman. And as the cartoon usually did, it pulled us into the tough choices and Gothic storyline that Batman was best known for. On top of that, we got a new villain called the Phantasm, who could appear and disappear with a puff of smoke. That's pretty cool. And they were also nice enough to give us the Joker, who plays a part in a murder mystery that's actually pretty detailed and interesting. As always, the animated Batman was dark and epic, mixing the dreams of a hopeful life with the darkness of reality. It's funny because everyone who sees this movie always asks "Why didn't this film do well in theaters?" To which I always reply "Well, did you see it?" The truth is the film was a big bomb at the box office, but hopefully, its life on DVD is growing, because it actually is a very slick and well constructed thriller. It's intense, adventurous, and dripping in that brooding gloom that we all love from Batman. If you missed it on the big screen, then don't miss your chance to see it on the small one.
NC (voiceover): And the Number 1 Underrated Nostalgic Classic is--The Secret of NIMH. Here's an animated film that really treated us like adults, and is actually more clever than it looks. While it WAS about cute little mice who were having big adventures, The Secret of NIMH had a sophistication to it that very few animated films had, especially considering the subject matter. Its hero, Mrs. Brisby, is not a wise-cracking heroic warrior, but rather a worried mother, who braves her way through certain danger to save the life of her son. Her fear is our fear, but her bravery gives us the courage to stay with her and face the danger. On top of that, The Secret of NIMH is a three-way battle between the evolution of nature, science, and the unknown. All three are in constant battle in this movie, resulting in extreme ideas and uncertain decisions. The rats of NIMH have been altered through medical experiments and have evolved into creatures that may even be smarter than mankind, creating electricity, light, and even some mystical elements that can't be explained. Because of this, the rats have a responsibility to their gifts, and decide what choices must be made to survive and continue to grow. Ultimately, it's all three, science, nature and the unknown, that are needed to move on to a stronger future. And it is the heart of our main character that shows them the way. Its settings are harsh and uninviting, but it's Mrs. Brisby who pulls us through with her warmth and courage. Its ideas are complex, but not so much that kids can't follow it and understand it. The Secret of NIMH is powerful and intense, creating a world of nature, technology and magic. And it's, in my opinion, director Don Bluth's strongest work. The Secret of NIMH: my pick for the best Underrated Nostalgic Classic.
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to.