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‘Rumpelstiltskin’ (G)By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 16, 1987
"Rumpelstiltskin" is as bad a children's movie as has been made in the last 20 years, but in the canon of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus' Cannon films, it's about average -- badly written, badly directed, badly acted and badly made. As the title character says about something else entirely, "It's tragic, there's no magic."
The horror is that Cannon has plans to desecrate 13 to 15 more children's stories before it's through. "Rumpelstiltskin" kicks off "Movie Tales," a series of feature-length musical fairy tales, but all Cannon has done, here anyway, is to make a short story long. And long and longer. You sense trouble the moment Billy Barty appears as the naughty gnome; Barty's one of the classic short people in Hollywood history, but he not only grossly overplays his character, he looks and sounds like an overweight Daffy Duck.
John Moulder-Brown as the prince and Amy Irving as the miller's daughter look like a Hollywood hairdresser and hairdressee, respectively, and Irving, who also sings more than she should, is totally wrong for the part, sort of a Valley princess in Sherwood Forest (most of the accents are British, with the exception of the evil Count Flax, whose bearing and accent are vaguely Teutonic).
At least Amy Irving isn't alone: Her brother David Irving wrote the script and directed the film, mother Priscilla Pointer plays Queen Grizelda, and stepfather Robert Symonds plays Victor. There's much to be said for the family that plays together, but the Barrymores the Irvings ain't. Almost as bad is the fine British character actor Clive Revill as the greedy king. All these actors must have had greedy agents.
The story of "Rumpelstiltskin," which has withstood the passage of centuries and will undoubtedly survive its encounter with Golan and Globus, is told straightforwardly, but it sounds as if it were scripted for 5-year-olds -- everything is spelled out in Big Block Acting and further underlined by a lousy score by Max Robert. It's like a reverse spin -- gold into straw.
Stephen Lawrence's half-dozen songs are about what you'd expect from a man who wrote 60 songs for "Sesame Street." And, to give discredit where discredit is due, David Gurfinkel is responsible for the flat photography.
What's wrong here? Just about everything. Fairy tales have been explored quite wonderfully recently by Showtime's ongoing "Faerie Tale Theatre" and by Virginia filmmaker Tom Davenport, who has done more with tiny budgets and a mix of professional and amateur actors than Cannon has with its big budgets and big plans.
"Rumpelstiltskin" comes by way of the Brothers Grimm, but brother, this one's just grim.
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