on March 10, 2003
Taking place when the master Rob is finishing his university thesis, this is the second installment in the Toaster saga. As a discerning teenage fan of the Toaster series, I was expecting this to be a crass, contrived money grab capitalizing on the first two movies that were based on Thomas M. Disch's books.
Well, I was wrong. This movie probably does have the weakest plot line of all the Toaster movies, but the themes of friendship, teamwork and caring for animals are well illustrated. The songs are fun and the animation is much better than the cover art would lead you to believe (esp. in the song about the internet).
My only complaint is only that the story focusses more on the animals than I would have liked to see. The Toaster takes less of a role in this movie than Radio! It was nice however to see the usual cruel and sarcastic Radio following the example of Toaster.
If your kids liked the other Toaster movies, they will most likely enjoy this one too. And for those of you like me who used to watch the first one over and over again when you were 6, you'll find yourself smiling as you watch this one too.
on March 7, 2003
Like many other grown-ups who are kids at heart, I am a big fan of the Brave Little Toaster. For the completely uninitiated, it's a series about anthropomorphic appliances, and other mechanical things (are computers and streetlamps and giant evil magnets etc. really "appliances"?), who come to life a la the "Toy Story" toys when people aren't around. For good measure, traditional Disney-style anthropomorphic animals are included in a bit part in the original movie, and in "Rescue" the animals can talk and are in effect the "human" equals of the appliances.
For some bizarre reason known only to Disney and whoever else produced the Toaster movies, "To the Rescue" was released AFTER the other direct-to-video sequel, "The Brave Little Toaster Goes To Mars." So "Rescue" is often referred to as the third chapter in the series, or Toaster III, etc. But as should be pretty obvious to anyone who has watched all three movies and paid minimal attention to the plot, "Rescue" is clearly the SECOND chapter in the series, with events taking place directly after the theatrical release. In the original movie, Rob McGroaty, the "master" of the appliances, is going away to college. In "Rescue," he's a college senior wrapping up his thesis (titled "The Secret Life of Animals," humorously enough... oh, how little Rob knows!) in veterinary medicine. In the god-awful bad "Mars" movie, Rob has married longtime girlfriend Chris and is an established veterinarian with a baby on the way.
I don't think that "Rescue" is on the level of the original movie, but it's definitely worth a look. (When it comes out on DVD, I think I'll actually buy it!) Its failings could best be described, I think, as "sloppiness." Whereas the first movie was pretty groundbreaking with the totally non-organic cast, who were NOT familiar, human-shaped playthings like the Toy Story toys, in the 10+ years between the original and its sequels the producers must have realized that Hey, kids love the Toaster, so why not make their parents buy some slapped-together sequels!?
Despite some jokes and references clearly meant for adults - nothing DIRTY, people, so chill out - and some songs that are actually pretty good, "Rescue" has a slap-dash feel to it, with TV cartoon-quality (as opposed to movie-quality) animation, and plot holes you could drive a truck through. Or maybe, I should say plot *discrepancies.* (Grown-ups use big words, you know!) Once you get over silliness like Rob losing a 600 page thesis due a power outage - he typed the entire thing in one sitting, without saving to disk ONCE?! - or the notion that Eville animal vivisection people will pay lots of dough to acquire any old collection of miscellaneous animals, there's an enjoyable and even exciting story to be found, very much in the spirit of the original movie. Unlike "Mars," which totally runs off the rails with its cockamamie stupidity and creepy extension of human sentience to seemingly everything (like balloons, yikes!!), "Rescue"'s shortcomings never threaten to tank the whole movie.
Aside from the appliances saving some cute talking animals, "Rescue" brings Radio, Lampy, Kirby and the gang into the Information Age. In the first movie, "high-tech" is pretty much synonymous with evil, with the "evil appliances" at Rob's parents' apartment (who have replaced the old gang left at the summer cabin) singing their hilarious "cutting edge of technology" song, infomercial-style. "Rescue" carries over the stern disapproval of rampant consumerism, and also acknowledges that even "cutting edge" machines are quickly abandoned by the always-looking-for-something-better masses.
By way of a crash course in modern technology, singing and dancing computers, servers, and modems perform a musical number ("Information Superhighway") for the benefit of Rob's elderly appliances. It's a catchy, goofy tune, and yet it has a genuinely moving message about the power of the internet to bring isolated people into a larger community. Even more affectingly, this song is reprised by an abandoned pre-transistor (1st gen) computer that Rob's appliances discover in the university basement.
The abandoned computer - named Wittgenstein, as in the polymath philosopher for some unexplained reason - is actually one of the highlights of the movie. Wittgenstein has, hands down, the best songs, and the sub-plot to bring him a new part helps prevent the movie from being all about the cuddly wittle animals and what a dweeb Rob is. "Rescue" eschews much of the emotionally tough material of the first movie, and as such I expected that every character who needed to be rescued or repaired in some way would get help, but I was still very happy to see Wittgenstein (Brian Doyle Murray, in one of his better voice roles IMO) get his due. Not to mention, it's refreshing to see a NON-EVIL sentient computer for once! :)
Alack, the comically brilliant Jon Lovitz does not return to reprise his role as Radio, my favorite character, but his replacement is pretty good. And the voice of Tony the Tiger (I'm not going to try to spell his name) happily returns as Kirby the vacuum cleaner. If you haven't seen the original Toaster, go rent or buy it ASAP! If you like the Toaster, chances are you'll like this sequel as well.