It's probably safe to assume that a lot of the people reading this review had no idea that "Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure" even existed until a few days ago, when it suddenly turned up in the electronics department of their local big box store. Its theatrical release was very poorly marketed; I remember seeing only one TV ad, which protrayed the Oogieloves as though the viewer should already know who and what they are. Then it tanked at the box office. How badly? Well, it had a budget of around $20 million, and it only barely managed to break $1 million in earnings, making it one of the biggest flops in film history. Ouch. It will be interesting to see if it does any better now that it's available for home viewing.
I'm not sure if I want it to.
The bad movie enthusiast in me--who adores "Birdemic: Shock and Terror", "Troll 2", "The Happening", and movies made by The Asylum--wants everybody who shares my taste for the charmingly awful to see this movie. It somehow managed to cost $20 million, but you wouldn't know it. The tiny sets, little more than glorified dance floors, are minimally decorated. The body suits used to portray the characters are abysmal: they sag onto themselves in several places, the seams are obvious, and what little puppetry exists almost never works like it should. Eyes wobble indistinctly. The mouths are very special: bottom lips jut out, corners droop. They're always hanging open, too, giving the overall look of a manta ray filtering plankton. For heaven's sake, the puppets in "Neverending Story 3" are better than these things! There are only a handful of special effects worth mention, and they're all so bad that you may as well be looking at a game produced for the Sega CD or the Philips CD-i. In fact, even the practical stuff somehow manages to look like this at times. It makes your eyes water.
Alright, so it's ugly. What about the story?
Here's the setup: it's Schluufy's birthday. Schluufy is a pillow. Don't ask. He.. she.. it? lives with these creatures. They're Oogieloves, and their names are Goobie, Zoozie, and Toofie. They want to throw a surprise party for Schluufy. Their friend, an upright vacuum cleaner called J. Edgar (Get it?) is on his way with five magical balloons. Some squirrels startle him (At least, I think that's what happens.) and he lets the balloons go. The rest of the movie is about the oogieloves (Is this a species? Is it a name? Should I be capitalizing it?) wandering around and trying to find them. That's it. It tries to set up something sort-of like conflict with the loss of the balloons, but it's so trivial that it really shouldn't count. There are no antagonists. There are no consequences. In other words, we are given no reason at all to care about what happens in this movie.
(Oh, except for the weird pseudo-romantic tension between J. Edgar and a window. Don't ask.)
The writing is exquisitely lazy. It's loaded with agonizing dialogue, the stupidest of puns, and embarrassing songs about things like how to climb ladders. It's supposed to be interactive, but all that really happens is the audience gets told to repeat asinine rhymes (Such as, "One! Two! One, two, three! Windy Wendy, what do you see?"). It tries to present itself as a sort of variety show, but what you really get is various celebrities looking confused. You thought it was embarrassing seeing Harvey Korman in the "Star Wars" holiday special? Wait until you see Christopher Lloyd in "Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure". It's awful.
(I do have to say that Cary Elwes as Bobbly Wobbly is a lot of fun to watch. He clearly knew exactly what sort of movie he was in and was just doing whatever he wanted in front of the camera. It's a riot.)
"Ah," I hear you say, "But it was made for kids!" Sorry, but that's not good enough. "Sesame Street" is also made for kids. The Dr. Seuss shorts were made for kids. Don Bluth's movies were made for kids. Most of Disney's animated movies are made for kids. "Animaniacs" was made for kids, which might come as a bit of a shock to those of us who re-watch it as adults. All of these can be enjoyed by children and adults, too, because they aren't written with the assumption that the target audience is stupid. "Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure" is.
If you're a bad movie enthusiast looking for something new, sure, give this a shot.
If you're a parent looking for something new for your kids, don't waste your money, your time, or their time.