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Thursday, 9 June 2016

Retro Movie Review: Ferngully: The Last Rainforest (1992) #RobinWilliams

Ferngully: The Last Rainforest 
Cast: Robin Williams, Samantha Mathis, Christian Slater, Tim Curry, Jonathan Ward, Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Tone Loc
Genre: Animated 
Estimated Worldwide Gross: over $21 million

Trivia: filming began in August 1990 - one year and several months before Hook, which was released theatrically in 1991.... one year before Ferngully came out 

Plot: The magical inhabitants of a rainforest fight to save their home, which is threatened by logging and a polluting force of destruction called Hexus

'Robin Williams, Moreso as Batty Koda, & Tim Curry Makes This Average Disney-Like Effort Still Watchable In A Way'

Ferngully: The Last Rainforest went unnoticed by many people when it was released in 1992, despite the TV ads and somewhat high production values, the film was overshadowed by, as well as it did much worse than that other Robin Williams animated voice-over project, Disney's Aladdin, which was also released that same year. 

And because of this, Robin Williams's noticeable vocal efforts as the lab-tested, sarcastic fruit bat, Batty Koda got overlooked in favour of the movie's preachy tone. 

A young man, Zak is shrunk down to size and with that, he sees the damage the logging company he works for is doing when they cut down the rainforest. Zak then helps a fairy in Crysta to stop them and an evil nemesis, Hexxus, who feeds off pollution. 

The voice-acting by the likes of Samantha Mathis, Christian Slater, Robin Williams - who was great, Tim Curry, Cheech Marin and co was good, yet Pip was too much of an annoying jerk and the protagonists Crysta and Zak are flat and too boring and one-dimensional: had they been Disney or Pixar creations, they would have gone all out to make them more interesting and likeable, given them better lines, as well as make them more relatable to audiences. Also to add, Zak was too tanned, but then again, maybe that's because he is from Australia and well, a lot of Aussies have brown tans, as they have hot and sunny weather out there. Or perhaps, I'm just talking crap. 

I did come across one online comment which said that the film didn't make the best use of Tim Curry and Robin Williams by relegating them to minor character roles. But that was their role in the film, to begin with. Batty Koda, the comic-relief supporting character was always going to play second fiddle to Krysta and Zak, who were the main protagonists. Obviously, if the movie was centred around Batty - which perhaps they should have done instead and toned down the intrusiveness of the environmental theme-, then, of course, the directors would go out of their way to help fully utilise Robin's comedic and vocal talents. 

The film is one massive commentary on humans and the environment. The story was heavily disjointed and not very memorable or exciting, to be frank; I didn't care much for it, and neither I wasn't invested in Zak and Crysta's romantic interests. I only tuned in to Robin's energetic & cheery performance as Batty Koda. I watched this film for his character more so than for any other reason, and as he cracks me up with his comedic quips. 

Aside from the ordinary protagonists, for the most part, Ferngully is distinctly average - yet sufficiently entertaining in parts and hence, it is the amusing vocal hi-jinks of Robin Williams (especially through the Batty Rap song) & Tim Curry's convincing turn as the antagonist, Hexxus, that prevents it from being virtually unwatchable, and even more dull. And thank goodness, because whilst it does get a little too serious at times, it's a good thing Robin's humourous role alleviates what could have potentially been a monotonous flick. Without him as Batty Koda, I would not have watched this movie. 

Much like with Disney's Aladdin it was virtually dependent on the Genie, here in Ferngully, the movie, or be it the movie's highlights was virtually dependent on Robin's turn as Batty Koda and his quips.  

Actually, he, as in Robin Williams, didn't reprise his role as Batty in the sequel, - and that film did even and was even worse. 

A lot of people have labelled this film as environmentalism propaganda at its worse, and yet completely ignore that Captain Planet and the Planeteers takes this to a much more extreme level. But it is a good thing it came out in the '90s when people didn't take everything so seriously and to heart because if Ferngully was produced and released today, the backlash to this film would be ten times worse than it would have been, 20+ years ago. 

The naivety of the message can be easily and best forgiven/forgotten and one I can get by, because of the likes of Batty Koda's sarcastic and witty turn and in spite of the overriding eco-friendly messages. That, and the addition of that character makes it a tad more bearable than 2006's inferior The Ant Bully, which is in many ways the same film as this, but is set in a different setting and with a different set of & even less interesting characters.

The movie of course bombed (unsurprisingly) and whilst a remake would be a bloody awful idea, Batty Koda deserved his very own spin-off movie during the 1990s and with Robin voicing Batty again. Arguably, he was the only character in the film that didn't manage to turn Ferngully into a complete and utter snooze-fest, with his comical hijinks that didn't come off as grating & funny one-liners - & still, he didn't appear in it nearly enough. 

The art-style and animated sequences were well done if only the narrative and writing received the same amount of treatment as the visuals. The songs are not very good, but with the exception of the Batty rap: they were mostly tepid, uninspired & not catchy at all. Ferngully is sufficiently entertaining but for the continuous environmental messages, dull story, and the somewhat vomit-inducing message at the end of the film. 

Favourite Robin Williams Character Lines

- 'Delicious and nutritious! Tastes like chicken!' 

- 'I'm blind! Oh No! (opens his eyes) I can see! It's a miracle!'

- 'Human tails? Human's don't have tails. They have big, big bottoms that they wear with big shorts. They walk around going 'hi Helen!'

- 'Hail Caesar! Emperor of Rome!' 

- 'Price check on prune juice, Bob. Price check on prune juice'

- 'Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!'

- (mimicking Scotty from Star Trek) 'aye aye captain, I can't get enough speed, we've got no dilithium crystals!' 


Pros +

- Robin Williams (but more-so Robin Williams) and Tim Curry 

- Batty Koda voiced by Robin 

- Still better than the direct to DVD sequel 

- The Batty rap song 

- The animation was quite good

Cons -

- Film would have been more uninteresting and bland, had it not been for Robin Williams's performance

- The main protagonist characters are disappointingly ordinary 

- Story suffers whilst environmentalist messages become more, if not so in-yer-face intrusive & preachy

- Story not as good as Disney's animated Aladdin; is mostly boring  

- Some of the songs have not held up well and are not very good 

Final Verdict:

Ferngully: The Last Rainforest isn't by any means necessary as awful as the critics originally made it out to be. But whilst the environmentalist issue was addressed well - if a little too intrusively, in turn, the main story gets lost in the background & suffers. It was also disjointed and not that good. 

As breathtaking the animation and art-style looked on screen, had the quality of the story's writing been on the same par as that of say Aladdin, the movie would have been better because of it. Yet Ferngully is an inferior movie in every aspect to Aladdin but one of the few positive things to come out of it is Batty Koda, courtesy of Robin Williams. If it were not for him as that character, this film would have been an even bigger flop.

Thanks to and due to Robin, he is an underrated animated character in the making. 


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