Review of The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure

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The Oogieloves -- Goobie, Zoozie and Toofie -- set out to find five magical balloons that will make their good friend Schluufy's surprise birthday party extra-special.
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Movie Review: "The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure"

-- Rating: G
Length: 88 minutes
Release Date: August 29, 2012
Directed by: Matthew Diamond
Genre: Family

Most modern children's movies make some attempt at reaching out to parents or older viewers. "The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure" takes the opposite approach by appealing only to the youngest of moviegoers, which is something that few parents or siblings over the age of five are likely to appreciate.

The movie tells the tale of a small crew of cutesy characters with such saccharine names as Zoozie (Stephanie Renz), Goobie (Misty Miller), and Toofie (Malerie Grady) as they attempt to recover five lost balloons in the similarly named city of Loveyloveville. Such a cast seems perfect for a children's film, especially when you consider the secondary characters such as Bobbly Wobbly (Cary Elwes), Lero Sombrero (Christopher Lloyd), Lola (Jaime Pressly), and Dotty Rounder, who is played by renowned comedian Cloris Leachman. The story follows the obvious and predictable path of the characters as they meet many other stereotypical children's television show characters, none of whom remain memorable after the film's conclusion.

The movie feels like a real waste of talent with so many funny and dedicated actors providing voices. The voice acting delivery is top-notch, which should be expected from the stars of such films as "The Princess Bride" and "Back to the Future," but the writing starts and goes nowhere. The direction's intent seems more on showing vibrant colors and getting the youngest of viewers to clap their hands or just stare at the scenery than advance any sort of plot. There is no attempt at elementary-school or even mild teen humor.

The movie's songs, however, are one of the greatest flaws of the movie. The lyrics typically have no meaning and seem like a jumble of word soup that will not teach children anything more than standard infant babble. That would be fine for a direct-to-DVD release aimed specifically at preschoolers, but the big stars and big-screen release would seem to indicate another intention. The slow pacing is fine for those with long attention spans, which is not something preschoolers are known for. Long pauses between the scenes and unnecessary transitions are likely to leave children plenty of time to request trips to the snack bar, bathroom or asking if the movie is over yet.

The puppeteering in the film also seems to have some glitches. For a screen release, this is somewhat unexpected as moviegoers have learned to expect near flawless performances from CG characters or Jim Henson's puppetry arts. The puppets on the screen regularly seem to lose pace with the voice actors, creating mismatched voices and confusion over which character should be delivering the spoken lines being heard. This confusion is not good for what appears to be the target audience, many of whom will have real trouble following the simple plot due to the pacing already. The same could be said of the dancing of the characters, which looks more like their standard walking motions or emoting in fast motion than any choreographed movements.

While most of the names seem to be drawn directly from the babble of infants, some character names seem decidedly jarring for adult viewers. The film's antagonist, if he could be called that way, is named J. Edgar and seems to be a nod to the famous CIA director. His only crime is losing the five balloons, and the plot of recovering the balloons has no tie to one of the only elements that might teach children something.

Many of the film's scenes seem to be an attempt at making small children smile, with quick action and shaking reminiscent of adult shaking keys before an infant. This works okay when done the first time, but it quickly becomes repetitive and obvious to even younger viewers. Preschoolers are likely to be lulled to slumber during the middle of the film, when slower songs and a creeping pace seem to make the relatively short film last quite a bit longer than it actually runs. There are many red herring elements that seem to be thrown in to catch the eyes of younger viewers but have no meaning in the story. A particular glow stick pops up again and again throughout the film, with no purpose other than to fulfill the key-shaking element that seems to be an attempt at a running gag.

Despite its all-star cast and fine voice acting, "The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure" might make a fine choice for a DVD rental to keep preschoolers occupied, but it's unlikely to find any fans amongst those who no longer need diapers.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars