A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Big Six

August 18, 2011

The Big Six

Back to the Broads today for more sailing and adventure for the children from Coot Club which we reviewed on Tuesday. After that movie, which felt like a vacation in itself, I was very much looking forward to spending more time in Arthur Ransome’s world full of young children having adventures and camping and sailing. This movie has all that, and the small-town British charm, and gorgeous scenery, but I actually found myself slightly disappointed. I didn’t enjoy this movie quite as much as the other one, and I’m having a hard time putting my finger on exactly why.

Most of the same characters from Coot Club are back for this story. There’s Tom, of course. There’s Dick and Dot, on vacation again. Mostly, however, this is a story about the Death and Glory boys Pete, Bill and Joe. I think part of my problem is that I don’t find these boys as compelling as characters as the other Coots. For one thing, they’re very ill defined. They seem to live full time on their boat completely without adult supervision of any kind. (I had begun to wonder in fact if they were orphans, but then there is mention of telling their parents what they’ve been up to, so that’s not the case.) Now living without adult supervision is pretty much the entire point of the Arthur Ransome books, but most of the kids have to at least go home once in a while. (A common thread seems to be that girls in the Ransomeverse are under constant threat of having to wear dresses and gloves and behave themselves.) Pete, Joe and Bill however seem completely independent.

We get to see them fishing, shopping, cooking (poorly) and generally living their lives. They’ve even started their own business – working as a salvage company recovering boats in distress on the river. I think they’re meant to be like boys on a grand adventure living in a floating club house and being blissfully free of parents. What comes across for me, however is a strange sense of responsibility. They are like little adults – not so much like boys on vacation.

Anyhow, things start to go bad for the Death and Glory boys when somebody begins un-mooring boats and setting them loose on the river at night. It always seems to happen wherever the boys are staying and very soon everybody on the river is convinced that it is the boys themselves behind this nefarious action. Even worse – there are thefts at local businesses that the boys get blamed for as well. So this movie is less an adventure and more of a mystery. Dick and Dot and Tom all have to find a way to exonerate the Death and Glory boys, so they form their own Scotland Yard. (Scotland Yard has their Big Five, says Dot, so they will be the Big Six.)

Dick and Dot do most of the detective work, really. It almost feels patronising at times that the two city kids spend so much time ordering the simple minded country kids around and lecturing them. Dick in particular seems particularly well suited to detective work since he seems obsessed with the meticulous inspection of minutia. And he owns a camera.

I can see what this movie is trying to do. It’s all about kids pretending to be detectives, in the same way that other Swallows and Amazons books involve pretending to be pirates or explorers. I just didn’t enjoy watching this as much as I enjoyed Coot Club. With the constant threat of being caught and framed for something they never did this movie ends up being less enjoyable than the other. Perhaps my issue is that in this movie just about everybody except for the Coots believes that the Death and Glory boys are up to no good. In the first movie you could get well behind hating the Hullabaloos and their loud and obnoxious ways, but in this movie there’s a sense that the whole river is against our heroes, which makes it less fun for them to gallivant around.

Still, there are some special treats in this film. For one thing there’s an old eel fisherman played by Patrick Troughton which means that since Tom’s father is played by Colin Baker there are two Doctors in this movie. (Indeed I would say I enjoyed it more than the Doctor Who story “The Two Doctors” which also starred these two actors.) And of course there’s sailing and birds and British countryside and lovely music. This is a pretty and enjoyable movie – I just didn’t like it quite as much as I like Coot Club. Oh, well.

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August 18, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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