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‘The Rescuers Down Under’ (G)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 17, 1990

There's a Wagnerian scale to the animation in "The Rescuers Down Under," a gorgeously drawn myth made for plucky children and very brave mice. A spirited sequel to Disney's 1977 "The Rescuers," this planet-wise adventure focuses on 8-year-old Cody's struggle to save a legendary eagle, Marahute, from the net of a ruthless poacher.

Teeming with such magically real creatures as kangaroos, platypuses and shy koalas, the feature stars a pair of anthropomorphs, the diminutive and daring Bernard and Miss Bianca (Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor). As the top mouse agents of the International Rescue Aid Society, they are dispatched to Australia to aid Cody (Adam Ryen), who has been kidnaped by the loathsome McLeach (George C. Scott at his ornery best).

The vast Australian outback, with its great red mesas and empty wastes, dwarfs but does not diminish the deeds of the little heroes, who ally with Jake (Tristan Rogers), a Crocodile Dundee-style kangaroo mouse. For all Jake's macho know-how, it is the bookish Bernard who through sheer doggedness manages to save the day.

The story is bound to test the little ones' resilience, but it won't scare them out of their rompers like the witch in "Snow White" or the death of Bambi's mother. A generous mix of suspense and cartoon humor, the movie offers plenty of relief in the form of Wilbur the Albatross (John Candy), a frill-necked lizard named Frank (Wayne Robson) and McLeach's lizard sidekick, Joanna, who only hisses.

Longish for a children's movie, it is preceded by a featurette version of "The Prince and the Pauper" -- featuring Mickey Mouse in a dual role -- and a 10-minute intermission. All told, that's about two hours' worth of motion picture entertainment. Some squirming might ensue, but even for parents, "The Rescuers Down Under" is worth getting your lap wrinkled.

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