tek's rating: ½

Babes in Toyland (G)
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Caution: spoilers.

This is a 1961 movie, which I must have first seen sometime in the late 80s. I'm not sure if I saw it as a rerun on The Wonderful World of Disney, or what. But I'm writing this review in 2014, upon watching it on DVD. It's a musical based on a 1903 operetta of the same name, which has been adapted into a number of films over the years. But this is the only version I've ever seen. It stars Annette Funicello as Mary Quite Contrary, Ray Bolger (best known as the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz) as Barnaby, Ed Wynn as the Toymaker, Tommy Kirk as Grumio, and some other people whom I don't know from anything else (most importantly Tommy Sands as Tom Piper).

So, it starts out in Mother Goose's village, the day before Mary is supposed to marry Tom. (Incidentally, Mother Goose herself is a minor character who always carries a snarky goose named Sylvester.) There's a swindling miser named Barnaby who is somehow aware that Mary is supposed to inherit a lot of money when she gets married, even though Mary herself is unaware of this. So he hires a couple of bumbling thugs named Gonzorgo and Roderigo to kidnap Tom, throw him in the sea, and then steal Mary's sheep. (Actually, I'm not sure if the sheep belong to Mary or to Bo Peep, who is one of several children of whom Mary is guardian.) Oh, and I should say that Roderigo is the dumber of the two thugs, and never speaks, but he seems kind of homicidal, in a dopey way. Anyway, Barnaby wants to marry Mary so he can collect her inheritance himself, which is why he needs Tom out of the picture, as well as the sheep... because they could provide Mary with enough income to remain independent even without Tom. Once both Tom and the sheep are gone, Mary would be facing a financial crisis that could apparently only be resolved by accepting Barnaby's proposal.

However, Gonzorgo decides to double-cross Barnaby after kidnapping Tom, by selling him to a band of gypsies instead of throwing him in he sea. That very night, Barnaby calls a town meeting to announce his engagement to Mary, who is obviously distraught by the arrangement. Barnaby has also quite uncharacteristically hired a band of gypsies to perform for the townsfolk, in celebration of the impending nuptials. And one of the performers is an old gypsy woman named Floretta, who is actually Tom in disguise. And at the end of her song, Floretta reveals her true identity. (This is the scene I remember the best from watching the movie as a kid, though it happens a lot sooner after Tom's abduction than I thought, about halfway through the movie.) It seems odd to me that the gypsies would have bought Tom in the first place, if they were just going to let him go within a day, but whatever.

So, Tom and Mary are reunited, but their happiness is short-lived. For the children had already snuck off to search for the missing sheep in the Forest of No Return. Now Tom and Mary go looking for the children, who have been captured by trees. And a little while after Tom and Mary find the children, the trees tell them all to turn themselves in to the Toymaker, who is the mayor of the land in which they find themselves... Toy Land. The Toymaker has an assistant, a brilliant inventor named Grumio. The Toymaker inadvertently destroys Grumio's latest invention, which puts them behind schedule on making toys for Christmas. Which is odd not only because it should be Santa's elves making toys for Christmas, but also because the Toymaker just learned of this invention, and couldn't possibly have been counting on it to meet the deadline, but whatever. Anyway, Mary, Tom, and the children decide to help make toys, so they can meet the deadline. That night, Grumio comes up with yet another new invention, the nature of which I don't want to spoil. But it ultimately falls into the hands of Barnaby, who has followed Tom and Mary, along with his hired thugs. And Barnaby uses Grumio's invention against the Toymaker and Tom, so he can once again force Mary to marry him.

But, there is a happy ending, of course. (Although if they ever did find the missing sheep, I didn't notice it.) Tom and Marry do finally get married. Anyway, the whole movie is redonk, but pretty funny. And there are some decent songs. (Although one of them, "Just a Toy," sounds terribly sexist, if you take it seriously. Not that anything about this movie should be taken seriously.) And I feel like the special effects were decent, for 1961. And... I dunno what else to say, but it's a fun movie.


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