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
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!
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!
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.
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!