Disney Top 5: Live Action Films

Okay, we started our Top 5 feature with an easy one but now we’re going to jump into a less-travelled path. I’m going to count mixed-media films in here, not strictly live-action only, but something like “The Three Caballeros” is out even though I love it because it’s mostly animation with a bit of live action. On the other hand, something like “Mary Poppins” is mainly live action with a bit of animation, and that’s okay.So without further ado, here we go: my top 5 picks!

Isn't this how you were with your sister growing up?

Isn’t this how you were with your sister growing up?

#5: The Parent Trap. I’m referring to the original, starring Hayley Mills, although I have to give some props to the remake with Lindsay Lohan. I watched that while I was working at a video store while in college and I was sort of surprised by how charming it was and it still kills me how cute that poor girl used to be. Wow. But I digress! The original is goofy, and dated, but it’s honestly a fun movie. And I wanted to have some classic films represented on here, not just the more recent fare. I can do without the silly duets with herself, but Hayley’s two different characters are pretty well-played and it’s fun to see them “swap”. Plus of course you want to see them succeed and repair their parents’ marriage. The likelihood of this setup, really, seems pretty farfetched but that’s what movies are for. 😉

Kirk Douglas, the Singing Tough Guy

Kirk Douglas, the Singing Tough Guy

Honorable mention to: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which would’ve been my other choice for an earlier live action movie if I had more room. The difference is because I like family comedies more than adventure films and although I enjoyed this one, it went a little slow for me. But it has Kirk Douglas singing in it, and the song is great, so see it just for that if you haven’t yet. 😀

The poster makes it look all wholesome and non-disturbing.  Don't be fooled.

The poster makes it look all wholesome and non-disturbing. Don’t be fooled.

#4: Return to Oz. I think everyone and their mother thought this was a weird and not great movie but I love it. It’s actually relatively faithful to the two books it’s based on, “The Marvelous World of Oz” and “Ozma of Oz”, although liberties are taken. The effects are marvelous. The downside, and this is a valid complaint, is that it is an intense and freaky movie. Even before the Wheelers, the many heads of Mombi the Witch, and the Gnome King we start out with Dorothy being commited to a Sanitorium for shock therapy! This went over my head as a child but I loved the sort of creepy feel to it regardless. And as I said, many of the creepiest elements are straight out of the books (which is what makes Ozma of Oz one of my daughter’s least favourite Oz books right now). I still recommend it, just know what you’re getting into before you show your kids – some of the Gnome scenes are pretty heavy.

Honourable mention to: Flight of the Navigator, another 80s Disney movie I loved as a kid. We used to watch it over and over and OVER on the Disney Channel. Honestly this is an overlooked gem, IMO. 🙂

This is more like "TROOOOON!" which would rhyme with "KHAAAAN!" so there you go.

This is more like “TROOOOON!” which would rhyme with “KHAAAAN!” so there you go.

#3: Tron. I didn’t really care for it so much as a kid but somehow now that I’m older… maybe it’s because of my growing love for Jeff Bridges, maybe because I just appreciate the subtler aspects or the nostalgia of it, I’m not sure. But in any case I have a growing love for this movie, the idea behind it, the look and feel of it – everything! Even the music! I can’t in good conscience put Tron Legacy on here even though I honestly loved it. The thing is, it’s not actually a GOOD movie, it’s just a really fun and entertaining one. I had so many moments of “HAHA WHAT” while watching it but loved it all through. Especially ol’ hippie Jeff. 😀 But well. “Tron” falls short of its Legacy in a few ways but totally wins over it in many others. It’s exciting and well-acted, and oh David Warner. It transcends its rather goofy start to be really great in spite of a somewhat silly concept, in my opinion. 🙂

Pirates and guns and skulls.  Seems legit.

Pirates and guns and skulls. Seems legit.

#2: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. So first of all, this movie is responsible for igniting my love of Walt Disney World about 8 years ago. Secondly though, it was just SO MUCH BETTER than I thought it would be. Johnny Depp is… he’s unexpected. He’s hilarious and poetic in his role. Orlando Bloom is less than that, the show is definitely all Jack Sparrow’s, but both Bloom and Keira Knightley (who, I must admit, I am not a big fan of most of the time) are really great in spite of all that. And the backup cast! And OH Geoffrey Rush! Everyone. Just everyone! Come on, this is Pirates, I don’t have to explain any of this to you. 😀

Honourable Mention to: Enchanted, with Amy Adams. Pirates Vs. Princesses, eh? 😉 Fact is, though, I really enjoyed this movie… but not enough. It felt to me like Disney wasn’t quite sure how to poke a little fun at itself and its conventions without skewering them, so to avoid skewering them they went too far and honoured them a bit too much. There’s a little too much “Aren’t we being funny? Look how we’re making you notice that this is a thing we always do!” but it’s done with SO MUCH LOVE that it kind of… I don’t know, it felt wrong somehow. Don’t get me wrong, the parts of the movie that are NOT being self-referential are actually wonderful. The music is great. Amy Adams is great. The love story is great. EVERYTHING is great except that the whole “We are Disney and you know you love us” attitude hurts me a little. Even though I do love them. 😉 I would love to see more Giselle love in and around Disney parks though. 😀

Practically Perfect in every way!

Practically Perfect in every way!

#1: Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins. This film seems to me to capture everything that Disney is about. The message is subtle, the music is marvelous, Julie Andrews is shiningly gilded with sweetness and a tiny bit of snark you’ll miss if you blink. It’s funny, it doesn’t talk down, it’s deeply layered with things I didn’t get until I was a parent. The animated sequence is a standout but some of the best moments are with Mr. Banks and are quiet. Also, if you haven’t read the books you won’t feel like you’re missing a thing, but if you HAVE, you’ll catch a few little nods that they tucked in. Very few of the actual Mary Poppins stories are precisely followed, but several are referenced rather slyly. It’s fun. 😀

Honourable Mention to: Bedknobs and Broomsticks. This film is NOT on the level of Mary Poppins, however, it’s still really fun and holds a nice place in my heart. My kids watched it recently and really enjoyed it, the Sherman Bros music is great as always, but I also was watching it when I got some very good news and now I associate it with that. Haha. So there you are. 😉


2 thoughts on “Disney Top 5: Live Action Films

  1. Is it any surprise that the crazy “Return to Oz” starred Fairuza Balk who would later show up in movies like “The Craft,” “American History X,” and “Waterboy.”

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