2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Big Three to the Rescue.,
This review is from: Tall Tale - The Unbelievable Adventure [DVD] (DVD)
"Tall Tale - The Unbelievable Adventure" was a huge flop on its release and only made back a third of its budget for Walt Disney. A bad day at the office, which did not exactly encourage them to make more westerns! Admittedly it is not a great film, but it most certainly deserved a better fate than it got. The movie uses a slightly wacky screenplay by Steven L. Bloom and Robert Rodat that taps into the American folklore figures Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan and John Henry. These three were actually 20th century literary inventions known as 'fakelore', and they were known as 'big man' characters. They seem to have their origins in the tall tales that cowboys recounted across the campfire in days gone by, especially Pecos Bill who can lasso a tornado. Not easy that!
The wildly imaginative plot has these characters helping a young boy and his family in the fight to save the pristine wilderness of Paradise valley against a greedy and ruthless developer played by Scott Glenn. The three heroes resemble a modern American version of King Arthur and his knights sleeping until England, when in dire peril calls upon them once again. And so they come! The film also cleverly looks at the decline of folk culture and America's transition from mythic heroes to a world of grasping tycoons. All a bit much for the young audience that the film was aimed at! Pecos Bill comes with his horse widowmaker, and Paul Bunyan has his rather noticeable blue ox. Patrick Swayze is surprisingly good as Pecos Bill. There is a funny scene where a man is foolish enough to insult Texas in his presence. It wasn't big and it wasn't clever! The late great Burgess Meredith makes an uncredited appearance as does William H. Macey. The film even includes John Ford and John Wayne's dearly beloved Monument Valley to add real western piquancy.
The film is something of a strange misfire which does at least manage to capture the mythic broadness of the tall tales. The excellent cinematography by Janusz Kaminsky who shot "Schindler's List", is worth mentioning in the way that it brings out the vastness of the old west, and adds embellishment to those tall tales. This is the old west seen through the hopeful and almost hallucinatory dreams of a young boy. We all hope there are heroes like these out there. Marvel comics were born of such dreams and their film characters continue to appeal to us. A better film than it would appear to be.