This weekend the Guild Cinema’s “Mom’s Matinee” series scores big points for originality by programming Don Bluth’s 1982 animated feature The Secret of NIMH (loosely adapted from Robert O’Brien’s novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH). Back when it came out, this weird, suspenseful film (made by disgruntled ex-Disney animators) was up against sappy old E.T. in theaters and never really broke out as a hit, but time has been kind to its oddball mix of genuine scares, dorky comic relief, and inspired animated sequences set against shaggy, organic backgrounds. If you’ve never even heard of this movie, you might be surprised by the number of internet shrines out there praising its goodness.
The casting is notable, especially John Carradine (as the ominous Great Owl) and Derek Jacobi (as Nicodemus, aging leader of the rats). The story expands mightily on the fairly tame original text, introducing sci-fi elements, magic and some fairly violent fight scenes, mostly to good effect. Fairy tales are supposed to be scary, though, so I have no qualms about bringing my 3- and 5-year-old kids.
I’ve been personally nagging Keif at the Guild to program more big-screen animation, so I’m very pleased to note that he’s also got Miyazaki’s Oscar-winning Spirited Away scheduled in April. Hooray for repertory cinema!