Take 3: The New Adventures of Heidi Review

First, it was All Dogs Go to Heaven 2. Then, it was The Cabin, followed by Scarlett. Now, for the fourth So Bad It’s Good Blogathon, I am continuing my saga to find the one movie that can rightfully claim this coveted title! As you can see by the aforementioned films, my track record has been two ‘90s projects that were just ok and one 2011 Hallmark movie that was so bad, it was unenjoyable. This time around, I traveled further back in time to choose my fourth attempt at finding my “so bad it’s good” movie. In my review of The Lion, I mentioned Leonard Maltin’s TV Movies & Video Guide 1989 Edition. This is because that book introduced me to the 1962 title. Through this publication, Leonard introduced me to another movie. That film is 1978’s The New Adventures of Heidi! According to Leonard’s review of this picture, the movie contains the following:

A) A “modern” retelling of a well-known story

B) Musical numbers

C) New York City

D) Christmas

To me, these facts sounded like the ingredients of a “so bad it’s good” project. But has The New Adventures of Heidi finally claimed this sought-after title? Keep reading to see what’s on the other side of the mountain!

The New Adventures of Heidi poster created by Pierre Cossette Enterprises and NBC.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When it comes to acting performances in made-for-tv movies, it can be hit or miss. But in The New Adventures of Heidi, the acting was stronger than initially expected!  Portraying the titular character, Katy Kurtzman gave a performance that appeared genuine, like the character’s goodness was true all along. Whenever Heidi is with her friend, Elizabeth, you can see they truly enjoy spending time together. Elizabeth meets Heidi after running away from school. Despite knowing each other for a short amount of time, they display a strong camaraderie. This camaraderie was displayed through a down-to-earth personality, pleasant facial expressions, and a kind demeanor from Katy. Executed with consistency, Katy also displayed authentic emotion. When Heidi first learns about her grandfather’s plans to send her away, her emotions effortlessly change over the course of the scene. Happiness turns to thoughtful concern, her eyes intently set on her grandfather. As the conversation continues, Heidi’s eyes grow sadder, eventually leading to shed tears. Because of Katy’s acting strength, her overall performance was enjoyable to watch!

Since I mentioned Elizabeth, I’ll talk about Sherrie Wills’ performance! On the surface, Elizabeth seems like a spoiled child who is rough around the edges. But beyond the surface, she doesn’t seem like a stereotype. Because of Sherrie’s acting abilities, Elizabeth is a character that gives the audience a reason to be sympathetic toward her. A great example is when she and Heidi go Christmas shopping. When they arrive to a toy store, they are overcome with happiness and wonder at the sights of the season. But as soon as Elizabeth sees a carousel music box, she immediately bursts into tears. This is because Elizabeth’s mother, who passed away before the film’s events, used to give her father a music box every Christmas. It is scenes like this one that show how there is more than meets the eye.

Back in 2019, I reviewed Summer Magic, a Disney production from 1963. One of the reasons why I wanted to see that particular film was Burl Ives’ involvement in the project. When I discovered he was cast in The New Adventures of Heidi, I was curious to see how his performance differed from Osh Popham of Summer Magic. Like his previous performance, I liked his portrayal of Heidi’s grandfather! While his acting abilities were expressive, there was a lot of heart in his performance. This heart can be seen during the musical number, “Heidi”. In that number, Heidi’s grandfather is singing about how thankful he is to have Heidi in his life. Throughout this scene, he appears genuinely happy, reminiscing over all the joy Heidi brought so far. A warm smile appears on his face and a pleasant demeanor is heard in his voice. Heidi’s grandfather seems approachable, showing him as a friendly man and lovable parental figure. Even though he was in a handful of scenes, Burl Ives did a good job with his role!

The messages and themes: The original Heidi is known for containing messages and themes of family, friendship, and finding a silver lining. Like the original, The New Adventures of Heidi also features themes and messages that are timeless and relatable! Before Christmas, Elizabeth’s father, Dan, tells his secretary how he’ll be too busy to celebrate the holiday with his daughter. His secretary, Mady, tells him “But no two are the same. And you’ll never have this one back again”. This simple statement reminds the audience how unpredictable time is. Therefore, it is wise to spend that time with those you love. When Heidi comes home, she is upset because her grandfather hasn’t returned. Dan shares with Heidi how even though it’s important to hold on to the memory of lost loved ones, time needs to be made to open hearts for those still living. This message is just as meaningful today as it was in 1978. That could also be said about all the messages and themes in The New Adventures of Heidi!

The scenery: This movie was filmed in California and Colorado, according to IMDB. For the scenes taking place in the Alps, my guess is they were filmed in Snowmass, Colorado. Despite this, the setting looked like a pretty convincing Switzerland! In some establishing shots, large mountains and dark green hills are captured in long to medium shots. A color palette of greens, browns, and white illustrated a natural landscape whose justice likely can’t be done through filmography. Red poppies are sprinkled around Heidi and her grandfather’s home. They can also be seen in expansive green fields. The vibrant hue of the flowers provide a striking component to this landscape. When all this is added together and paired with a bright blue sky, a welcoming and picturesque environment is presented to the audience!

The Fourth So Bad It’s Good Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room

What I didn’t like about the film:

Glaring cases of discontinuity: What makes or breaks any story is its continuity. This component is like a thread, tightly holding each piece of the story together, if strong enough. But when it comes to The New Adventures of Heidi, there were a few aspects that caused this thread to be looser. In the introduction, I mentioned the movie was a “modern” retelling of Heidi. While this statement is true, it looks like Heidi, her grandfather, and Peter didn’t get the memo. That’s because their attire reflects the time period of the original story, which is set in the 1880s. Even Heidi and her grandfather’s home is reflective of an era gone by. During the movie, Heidi’s grandfather begins to lose his eyesight. Because of this, he decides to send Heidi to live with her cousins. But while singing the song, “Let Me Stay/Let Her Stay”, Heidi’s grandfather prays to God to have Heidi stay in the Alps, even going so far as to sacrifice his eyesight just to make his prayer a reality. It seems like he has forgotten that this decision was in his control since the very beginning. This example shows how discontinuity can muddy the waters of character development.

The musical numbers: As I mentioned in the introduction, there are musical numbers in The New Adventures of Heidi. I can tell the film’s creative team wanted to include musical numbers in an effort to give their project its own unique identity. In all honesty, though, I don’t think this movie needed musical numbers. My reason is how weak these numbers were. Some of these musical numbers were performed by Katy and Sherrie. I’m not going to give these actresses too much criticism, as they were children at the time of the movie’s production. But I will say they are better actresses than singers. Sherrie’s voice was flat, unable to reach higher notes. Meanwhile, Katy’s voice was stronger, but she couldn’t reach some higher notes either. This highlighted the actresses’ weaknesses, giving the audience the impression of how Katy and Sherrie were likely not professionally trained singers. Even professional singers couldn’t catch a break either. Burl Ives is a talent who can do no wrong, singing wise. But he was caught up in one major weakness in these numbers: talking throughout the song instead of singing. This happened during the song, “Let Me Stay/Let Her Stay”, where Heidi’s grandfather is speaking his prayer when he’s meant to be singing it. Marlyn Mason also fell into this trap with the song, “That Man”. Because she tried to sing and talk through her lyrics at the same time, she performed the song faster than the music. To me, this felt so jarring, as the music and execution of the lyrics seemed like they belonged to two separate pieces.

A regurgitated story: This film is titled The New Adventures of Heidi. If you take the time to watch it, you’d see how the movie rehashes most of the story points from Johanna Spyri’s original. Take for instance, the character of Elizabeth. In The New Adventures of Heidi, she’s meant to be a Clara representative; a wealthy young girl dealing with her own conflict that Heidi helps to resolve. But instead of dealing with a serious medical situation, Elizabeth wants to spend more time with her workaholic father, especially after the death of her mother. Similar to the original story, there is a medical situation present in The New Adventures of Heidi. But this time, Heidi’s grandfather is losing his eyesight, as I explained in my paragraph about the film’s discontinuity. The longer I watched this movie, the more I questioned what it’s intended point was.

A screenshot of my copy of Leonard Maltin’s TV Movies & Video Guide 1989 Edition. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for! The answer to whether The New Adventures of Heidi will claim the title of “so bad it’s good” is…an unfortunate no. The longer I think about this film, the more I see how spectacularly average it is. As I mentioned throughout my review, there were musical numbers included in this production. I also noted how Christmas makes an appearance in the story. But when you look past all the silver and gold decorations (that Burl Ives reference was definitely intentional), the movie is the same story as the original wrapped in pretty Christmas paper. Despite the title boasting “new adventures” with the world’s favorite Swiss mountain girl, the script spends more time repeating history. At the same time, parts of the movie are treated as if the project were a sequel, the creative team expecting the audience to know exactly what is happening on screen. Reflecting on my fourth attempt at finding my “so bad it’s good” movie, I realize a script’s strength can determine a film’s overall quality. In the case of The New Adventures of Heidi, the acting was strong and the film itself did have other merits. But not even Burl Ives himself could save this picture. Bottom line is if a cinematic project chooses to use bells and whistles, that may mean the creative team is trying to make up for a loss in another department.

Overall score: 5.1 out of 10

Do you have a “so bad it’s good” film in your life? If so, what is it? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Summer Magic Review (A Month Without the Code — #5)

For a few years now, I have wanted to watch the film, Summer Magic. It’s a title that I had never heard of until I came across it on Pinterest. Even after I recorded the movie on my DVR, I didn’t make the time to watch it. Because of the A Month Without the Code Blogathon, I decided to include Summer Magic in my roster of films! This is the third movie of Hayley Mills’ that I’ve reviewed this year. I liked both The Moon-Spinners and The Trouble with Angels. When I read the movie’s tagline on their DVD cover, I saw the word “mystery” and was excited to see what kind of story would be told. I also discovered that Burl Ives was one of the stars of the film! Prior to watching Summer Magic, I had never seen Burl act. However, I was familiar with who Burl was as a singer, as I’ve heard his versions of various Christmas songs. So, I was curious to see if he was given a significant part in the movie or a cameo role where he got to portray himself. Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s find out in this review!

Summer Magic poster
Summer Magic poster created by Walt Disney Production and Buena Vista Distribution. © Disney•Pixar. All rights reserved. Image found at https://movies.disney.com/summer-magic.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When it comes to films starring Hayley Mills, I, as an audience member, have never been disappointed! That’s because she has the acting talents to lead a film! Hayley had such a pleasant on-screen presence in Summer Magic, bringing her character, Nancy, to life with charm and likability. As I said in my introduction, I had never seen Burl Ives act before. His portrayal of Osh Popham was better than I expected it to be! He was so expressive in his acting performance and his singing performance could do no wrong. Deborah Walley is an actress that I am not familiar with. Despite this, I was entertained by her performance! Julia was such an interesting character to watch on screen. Deborah’s ability to pull off a well-rounded performance helped her achieve that goal. The rest of the cast was good as well. Because of the believability they brought to their roles, all of the characters appeared and felt like real-life people!

The music: If you’re going to cast Burl Ives in a film, you have to have him sing at least one song. Burl actually sang two songs in Summer Magic and both performances were really good! His first song “Ugly Bug Ball” not only featured music that reflected the story’s time period, but it also featured music that resembled when the film was released. Burl’s second song, “On the Front Porch”, as well as the rest of the music, felt like it belonged in the world of the early 1900s, when Summer Magic takes place. This helped the movie be immersive and bring this cinematic world to life.

The historical accuracy: Another aspect of Summer Magic that made the movie feel immersive was the historical accuracy of the overall production. For historical fiction stories, this aspect is so important because it provides a sense of authenticity. From the costumes to the architecture, everything seemed like it was brought back directly from that time period. Even things as simple as hairstyles helped the movie’s creative team realize their cinematic idea. Anytime I see a period film that appears and feels historically accurate, it gives me the impression the creative team behind that film not only knows what they’re doing, but that they care about the project they’re making. This is exactly how I felt about Summer Magic.

Note_lines_horizontal1
String of musical notes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/pentagram-vector_710290.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Backgroundvector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

No “magic” and “mystery”: On the DVD cover for Summer Magic, the film’s tagline says “A Season Of Love, Music, And Mystery”. However, “magic” and “mystery” are nowhere to be found. Since The Moon-Spinners was created by the same studio as Summer Magic and since The Moon-Spinners was released the year after Summer Magic, I assumed the latter would have a mystery that was more light-hearted than the aforementioned title. Sadly, this plot didn’t leave any room for a mystery to be told. Even though this movie is called Summer Magic, there is no “magic” that is usually found in Disney films. When it comes to films from this particular studio, “magic” is not just coming from the things that happen on screen. It’s the way that the film makes an audience feel. For me, Summer Magic did not make me feel this way.

A basic plot: Because of what I just said, I thought there was going to be a mystery featured in this film’s plot. That didn’t happen, which caused the plot to be too basic for my liking. The story was also straight-forward, leaving no room for intrigue. Even when there was a chance for the narrative to have a sense of intrigue, those chances ended before they could begin. A perfect example is when Osh Popham was telling Nancy and her mother about the previous homeowner’s painting, only for his wife, Mariah, to confront him about his lie moments later.

Lack of musical numbers: For movie musicals, there’s, usually, at least one musical number. This scene will feature singing and dancing, but will also be presented as a grand spectacle. Summer Magic never had a scene like this. In fact, anytime a song was incorporated into the film, the characters would, mostly, sing the song while sitting down. Because Disney’s forte is musicals, I was quite surprised by the lack of musical numbers in this film. Since Mary Poppins was released the year after Summer Magic, I’m wondering if the first movie received more attention and financing from the studio, possibly viewing Summer Magic as an afterthought?

A Month Without the Code banner
A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/07/31/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode65/.

My overall impression:

As of August 2019, I have seen four of Hayley’s Mills films in their entirety. For the most part, I have enjoyed these movies. But, if I were to rank them, Summer Magic would be at the bottom of the list. That’s because the film itself was just ok. Since there was no “mystery” or “magic” in the story, the film’s plot wasn’t as intriguing as I hoped it would be. Despite the fact that the movie’s tagline promised that there would be music, it wasn’t a musical in the typical sense. But the film did have its merit, such as the acting and the historical accuracy of the project. It’s a film that I can’t fully recommend, but not completely dissuade people from seeing. Like I said about The Nun’s Story, Summer Magic is one of the “cleaner” films in A Month Without a Code! While there are a few things that would need to change, this film could be “breenable”. These things are:

  • There is some language in Summer Magic that would need to be rewritten or removed. This is because some of the words that the characters said were unpleasant. One example is when Nancy is trying to put up wallpaper in the house. When her mother expresses her doubts about whether Nancy is capable of completing the task on her own, Nancy makes a statement like “Any idiot can do it”.
  • There were three lines in the song, “Ugly Bug Ball”, that I was very surprised were featured in a Disney film. The lines are highlighted in bold print:

“Then our caterpillar saw a pretty queen

She was beautiful in yellow, black and green

He said, “Would you care to dance?”

Their dancing led to romance.

And she sat upon his caterpillar knees

And he gave his caterpillar queen a squeeze

Soon they’ll honeymoon

Build a big cocoon

Thanks to the ugly bug ball”

Because of how suggestive these lines sound, they would need to be rewritten.

  • During the movie, Julia and Nancy develop a crush on Charles Bryant, a recent college graduate who comes to their small town as a school teacher. Julia admits that she completed “finishing school”, so I’m guessing she would be 17 or 18. Meanwhile, Nancy might be somewhere between 14 to 16. Since this is a Disney/family-friendly film, their interactions with him are innocent. But, the fact that two teenage girls would entertain the idea of falling in love with a grown man should not be in a family-friendly movie.
  • While Osh Popham is looking for a painting for give to Nancy’s family, he finds a picture of a scantily clad woman. When this painting is presented to the audience, jazz music can be heard in the background. If this film were created during the Breen Code era, this painting would not be shown on-screen. I don’t believe that the jazz music would be heard either.

Overall score: 6.3 out of 10

How are you enjoying my reviews for A Month Without the Code? Are you looking forward to my upcoming posts? Le me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen