Previews for “The Oogieloves in The Big Balloon Adventure” imagined hordes of young children singing and dancing along with a trio of characters you could easily mistake for distant cousins of the Teletubbies. They’re pudgy with plenty of personality. But the fan club is looking a little sparse.
I saw the movie Thursday in a theater that’s normally quite popular with families, but there was just one mom with two preschool daughters sharing “The Oogieloves” theater.
The Oogieloves are big on movement. They like to sing, dance and ride bikes (wearing helmets) — and one has a thing for climbing that ends up saving the day when five magic balloons destined for a pink pillow’s birthday party fly away. But they’re not terribly good at it, leaving me to wonder why a movie that pushes the movement mantra stars characters crafted to be lumbering and stiff. Somewhere between the Oogieloves and all those Barbie-like twigs at the other end of the spectrum lie all sorts of characters that would have made better sense in this setting.
Watching “The Oogiloves,” which is rated G and lasts 88 minutes, made me think we need another option on the rating scale. G-rated movies should be fun for the whole family, not tortuous for the grown-ups who take children to see them. I’d have appreciated being warned beforehand about the utterly unoriginal plot and mediocre-at-best writing. Frankly, the film left me feeling mocked. I’d have enjoyed a good parody of “sparkalicious” movies, but this isn’t it. Instead, it feels like an exercise by filmmakers eager to see just how much they could get away with.
I try to find the best in everything I see, so I’m going to dig deep and see what I can come up with for “The Oogiloves.” I suppose the animal puppets, though part of landscapes strewn with fake tulips and ivy, are a plus. So too are wholesome morals like caring and sharing, though expecting audiences to blow oodles of kisses at the screen seems a bit over the top. It’s nice to see a movie with characters who enjoy making music, but I’m not that keen on pink keyboards covered in plastic jewels or bongo drums that look like two miniature ice cream containers glued together.
Families who see “The Oogieloves” will experience a talking mirror with a bad Southern drawl, a cowboy enamored with bubbles and a giant Sombrero hovercraft. Also a fish with containers that often look bone-dry and a red vacuum cleaner who likes to shake his index finger while sharing lots of rules and regs. That last one reminds me of photos of a pair of politicians captured on an airport tarmac that I’d really rather forget. Still, there might be one circumstance in which this movie would work. I can imagine a preschool-age birthday child taking friends to see the movie, and the grown-ups might come out relatively unscathed if margaritas were available nearby.
Instead of seeing “The Oogieloves,” try enjoying a puppet show, heading to the zoo, playing at the local children’s museum, climbing a rock wall, seeing a work of children’s theater or taking a sample dance class. As hard as I tried to find redeeming factors in “The Oogieloves,” I just can’t go there. Kids aren’t dumb, and parents shouldn’t settle.
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