16 November 1998 | GrammarCub
A family movie that doesn't exclude or preach
"Follow That Bird" attempts to take a show written for pre-schoolers and present it to a larger audience. Not only that, they attempt to create a film that is both entertaining and enlightening. For this reviewer, they succeed magnificently. There are many "in-jokes," so to speak, in this movie -- anyone who has ever watched the show will laugh whenever one of the characters asks, "Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?" and the normal audience of Sesame Street will still be amused by their favorite characters, while learning something about friendship and the meaning of family. Sesame Street, the TV show, was rather daring in that it showed black, white, green, purple, furry, and ... other ... living in perfect harmony. Except for Oscar the Grouch!
And, speaking of Oscar, one of the many funny bits (this movie is packed with them, and all of the humor is safe for family viewing) is the Grouch diner. Look for Sandra Bernhard as a Grouch waitress. The cameos in this film are something else; Chevy Chase, John Candy, Sandra Bernhard, even Waylon Jennings, all devoted some of their time and talent to making this roundly enjoyable movie. And listen for the voice of Sally Kellerman as Miss Finch, the social worker from the Feathered Friends Society.
Not that all of this movie is funny and light-hearted. There's a few sad moments with Big Bird -- I always get choked up during the "One Shining Star" song, which features a three-part counterpoint with Bird, Mr. Snuffleupagus, and Olivia all singing about Big Bird being safe back at home. And the Sleaze Brothers' scenes are thinly disguised cartoon villainry. I don't know if any of the Sesame Street characters have SEEN villains before -- Oscar is the closest they have, but he's just Grouchy. He doesn't actually hurt anyone, and the Sleaze Brothers start out nice and friendly to Big Bird.
We learn quite a bit during this movie -- we learn that we should never order tossed salad in a Grouch restaurant, for example. We learn that it's never ok to jump from a moving vehicle -- unless we have Gordon's permission. And we learn our real home is where the people love and care about us. But, perhaps the most important lesson is that there are 258 fabulous credits! Hahahahahaha! (thunder and lightning sound here) And, from the filmmakers we learn that you CAN make a family film that includes the entire family (how many times have "family films" been suitable only for those family members still in diapers?) and refuses to preach? One of the many strengths of the Sesame Street characters is their ability to teach a lesson without shoving it down our throats. We never feel threatened or annoyed by these characters; we're always safe and welcome on Sesame Street.