28 May 2020 | patrickmalloy-06236
Just barely succeeds, but works against itself most of the way
If you were to look at the basic nuts and bolts of The Scarecrow's story on paper you'd probably think it would make for a decent enough movie. I myself am easily won over by romantic movies with characters trying to work against some flaw that prevents people from seeing their inner beauty. Notable examples being Warm Bodies, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Phantom of the Opera, or Beauty and the Beast. The Scarecrow is loosely adapted from a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne titled "Feathertop"(and when I say loosely adapted that take the scarecrow coming to life part and the name then add everything else).
The story follows indentured servant Polly and a Scarecrow (brought to life by a good witch) who is secretly in love with her. Polly hides her money beneath the Scarecrow in the hopes of buying not only her own freedom, but the freedom of three other orphans who she has befriended. However when the arrogant Count Grisham who lusts after Polly discovers her intentions he goes to great lengths to stop her and force her to marry him. the scarecrow donning a magical disguise as Feathertop then comes to her aid to try help her secure freedom. The general plot as you can see isn't bad for an animated movie, even if it does seem to be inspired by Disney's Beauty and the Beast and Hunchback of Notre Dame films. There is charm to be had from this movie, but there's also some rather obnoxious elements.
The Scarecrow is played in a fashion very similar to how Aladdin was played, and Max the mouse and a living broom named Bristles are clearly inspired by Carpet and Iago from the movie as well. The villains of Grisham and Cheswick are also rather underwhelming coming off as second rate versions of Gaston and Le Fou (with fairly similar character designs too). Despite my issues with the overly cocky way that the Scarecrow is portrayed, he does make for a likable character as does Polly.
The animation is hit and miss, some scenes look almost as good as Beauty and the Beast, while others feel more in line with a straight to video project. And then there's the tone....The movie seems to be set in colonial America with the abundance of tri corner hats, powdered wigs and a off hand reference to "the colonies" but the dialogue is filled with anachronisms that permeated many post Aladdin animated films because EVERYONE was trying to capture the magic of Robin William's Genie without understanding why it worked. It would be one thing if Bee Bee the witch were making the anachronisms(her being magic and all) but when you have characters saying "cool" "hang out" or referencing Max Factor it becomes needlessly distracting. Unfortunately the tone also isn't helped by the songs. the two romantic songs are okay, but the rest of them are tone destroying and filled with anachronisms including a lengthy sequence where the characters dance the Charleston, the Jitterbug, and yes even the Hustle from the 1970s.
The Scarecrow is the kind of movie you wish were better than it is. Richard Rich when he began his directing career at Disney with The Fox and the Hound and The Black Cauldron made some very interesting(albeit flawed in Black Cauldron's case) animated films that felt unique and connected on an emotional level, unfortunately most of his work since Swan Princess in 1994 has been rather bland and forgettable fare that is often only made profitable from brisk home video sales(hence why we still have Swan Princess movies being made) The Scarecrow comes close to being at the same level of his first two movies, it just doesn't quite make it. It works well enough and it'll keep kids entertained so a marginal recommendation.