Saturday, November 29, 2008
You'd think I would have learned my lesson with THE HAPPIEST MILLIONAIRE. Well, here's another late 1960s musical from the Disney studios (directed by TV western vet Michael O'Herlihy) featuring subpar Sherman Brothers songs and performances by Lesley Ann Warren and John Davidson. Once again, Warren and Davidson are young lovers. She's again the eldest daughter of a wacky family (they have a band-hence the title) and he's the handsome suitor that someone in the family doesn't approve of. Just like in MILLIONAIRE, her father is portrayed by another beloved TV star (Buddy Ebsen), and the mother character (Janet Blair) is sadly underdeveloped. Seems like awfully familiar territory. Like MILLIONAIRE, it's also based on a true story!The difference this time around is that Grandfather Bower (Walter Brennan) is the problem. You see, Civil War vet gramps is a staunch Democrat - he's even written a song honoring President Grover Cleveland for the 1888 Democratic Convention which he wants the "family band" (including a young Kurt Russell) to perform. Only young Republican Joe Carder (Davidson) shows up and one by one seduces the family (not literally) with the notion that they should pick up and move to Dakota. The family moves and the political division between the family members intensifies when the old coot starts preaching to anyone who'll listen about how evil Republicans are. Normally I would agree with him, but the character is so pathetic and annoying that you just kind feel sorry for him. Grandpa really gets his knickers twisted when the Dakotans decide to split their territory into two states, thereby doubling their amount of Republican senators!You might be asking - does this really subject really make for a fun, freewheeling family musical? My answer is a resounding NO. As I continued to watch, I wondered - just where the HELL is this One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band I was promised? I was expecting a silly, mindless comedy about a 19th century Partridge Family, but what I got was two long hours of an old man whining about political issues that seem relatively simple compared to what we have going on the states today. I guess it might have been interesting in 1968, but 40 years later it just seems un-entertaining. Once again, as with MILLIONAIRE, I wonder who the studio was aiming this film at - kids certainly could not care less about these political issues. There were no cute fluffy animals or magical British nannies to be seen - just a lot of yelling and pontificating about how politics should never be discussed in the home.It was fun seeing a young Goldie Hawn (at 1 hour and 32 minutes in) in a small role (though it would have been fun to see her interact with future lover Kurt) and other child stars like Pamelyn Ferdin (THE ODD COUPLE) and Jon Walmsley (THE WALTONS) as members of The Family Band, but overall this effort was a major disappointment - I guess I still haven't found what I'm looking for in terms of a Disney musical that even comes close to be being as wonderful as MARY POPPINS.