"Candleshoe," an enjoyable new comedy-mystery from the Disney studio, derives its title from the principal setting, a Tudor mansion in War-wickshire. The movie opens in downtown Los Angeles with scenes of Jodie Foster as the young heroine (an orphaned tomboy delinquent named Casey) leading her pals on a series of larcenous escapades.
This initial buoyancy is never completely lost, though the movie begins to display the usual Disney pokiness and excess brightness soon enough. But "Candleshoe" isn't immobilized by wholesomeness, as Disney movies go, it's unsually spirited as well as pleasant.
The script may own much of its ingenuity to the original literary source, a mystery novel by Michael Innes titled "Christmas at Candlesho." Since Foster is cast as a juvenile American Anastasta - a walf coached by Leo McKern and Vivian Pickles to pass herself off as the long-lost grandchild of an English hoblewoman - it's amusing to find Helen Hayes again cast as the titled lady stirred by an apparent imposter.
Casey is meant to insinuate herself just long enough to decipher clues to a missing treasure coveted by the villains and hid somewhere in the vicinity of Candleshoe. The story is designed to show how cynical self-interest is transformed into devotion to Hayes' Lady St. Edmund and the other members of her financially strapped household (preen a hard-working butler played by David Niven and a quartet of equally hard-working orphans.) The premise of 'Captains Courageous" is more or less stood on its head and complicated by a treasure hunt. In "Candleshoe" a poor tough kid is humanized by exposure to people in a "privileged" situation who are not as well off as they appear to be.
With Foster, Hayes and Niven in the leading roles and McKern and Pickles off the sidelines, the film is enlivened by a superior cast. A young actress named Veronica Quilligan also contributes a striking performance as the Candleshoe orphan most resentful of Casey's presence and most suspicious of her motives.
Director Norman Tokar sustains a livelier overail tempo than he did in "The Apple Dumping Gang" or "No Deposit, No Return," although he's still poky by anything but Disney standards and much too slow for out-rageous slapstick climaxes like the extended donnybrook in "Candleshoe."
Tokar does bring off a beguiling chase sequence in which the heroes intercept a train (the steam-operated Severn Valley Railway) by motoring ahead and parking across the tracks. The final scene, which has amusing echoes from the finale of "In the Heart of the Night," is also very deftly handled: Hayes, discovering Foster at the railroad station, persuades her to become a permanent part of the Candleshoe family.
The movie generates some human interest by simply bringing these actresses together. The next logical step is to find or invent a stroy uniting Foster with Mickey Rooney.
Maybe an original musical with a theatrical setting about a show business family?