A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has lavish visuals and beautiful character animation, the somewhat syrupy story will probably entrance only the very young. There are some intense themes here: Banjo feels misunderstood and experiences mild peril alone in the city. More sensitive children may be disturbed by Banjo's separation from his family. The ideal age group for this movie is grade-school kids. Most will be able to identify with Banjo who constantly gets into trouble for misbehaving. Older children may still enjoy it, but 11- and 12-year olds may find the simple story too sentimental for their tastes.
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What's the story?
Young cat Banjo, living on a country farm with his mother, father and two sisters, has a knack for getting into trouble. When Banjo's father threatens punishment, Banjo, feeling misunderstood and unloved, runs away. He hops onto a delivery truck and heads toward the bright lights of Salt Lake City. City life is exciting at first, but soon becomes more frightening than expected, and Banjo longs to return home. He befriends a streetwise alley cat named Crazy Legs (voiced by Scatman Crothers) who vows to help get him back home. Numerous obstacles need to be overcome before Banjo can return to his comfortable lair.
Is it any good?
After leaving Disney, animator Don Bluth set out to create his own animated films equal in quality to the Disney classics he helped create; to an extent, he succeeded here. BANJO THE WOODPILE CAT is Bluth's first attempt and it has the look of a classic Disney feature of the 1940s. In the scene in which Banjo tries to find shelter during a rainstorm, the animation is tour de force. The animators depict not only the falling rain, but also the raindrop splashes on the ground and the ripples they create in puddles of water.
Where the film falters is in its by-the-numbers story. Banjo runs away, discovers the outside world isn't as wonderful as he thought, and returns home. The filmmakers fail to include the drama and humor necessary to bring Banjo's plight to life. Still, younger viewers should enjoy the cute characters, while not encountering anything too threatening. And parents can heartily approve of the film's "There's no place like home" moral.
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