May 30, 2009

Breaking out another childhood movie for no good reason.

The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit
1968

This is one of those movies I first saw when I was about eight. It's been a long time, with mostly everything about this movie being lost to me except for the following three things: the horse is 1) gray, obviously, 2) enjoys beer, and 3) is ridiculously talented. That is pretty much what I remembered, so I was of the opinion that watching it again couldn't possibly ruin any fond childhood memories.

This fast-paced, rollicking Disney adventure combines fatherly love and corporate survival with exciting horseplay and budding romance. The highjinks begin when harassed New York advertising executive Fred Bolton (Dean Jones) acquires a horse for his painfully shy daughter as part of a hurriedly conceived promotional campaign. With help from an attractive riding instructor (Diane Baker), and his daughter's would-be boyfriend (Kurt Russell), Fred hopes the horse will bring his client fame, save his own job, and just maybe finance his daughter's expensive equestrian habit! A must-see for every Disney fan and lover of good wholesome old-fashioned fun.

Yes, Kurt Russell! Don't worry, he doesn't come flying out of nowhere to smack you in the face with his questionable anti-hero qualities. No, he cruises in with a fancy car and a cavalier, yet knowledgeable, attitude about everything. In short, he's harmless.

The real story is the widower Fred, his typical horse story main character daughter (Helen), and the woman who "instructs" her (Suzie). Fred doesn't like horses, and is mainly irritated that Helen's riding lessons are so expensive. Helen mainly just wants a horse of her own, and is willing to pout and serve her father enough martinis until he's drunk enough to say yes to any request she might have. (Because I suppose getting one's parents drunk was an acceptable practice in this decade. That or it's just acceptable for the middle class Disney fans of this decade. I'm not sure which.) I mainly feel for Fred in this scenario, because no matter what he's going to get screwed over. His daughter is going to manipulate him with alcohol and his daughter's riding instructor is overcharging for lessons that involve mainly, "Good! Excellent! Now when you put your horses away, make sure to close and latch the stalls!" I mean, this isn't exactly quality. Fred has a reason to complain.

But Fred has other problems. Namely, his marketing campaign for Aspercel (think Tums, or something in that vein) took a nosedive, and he's out of ideas. Somehow, his marketing and his daughter's want for a beautiful, Grand Prix level horse crash in a crazy scheme to get people to buy this product. If they buy a horse, rename it Aspercel, and have Helen ride it to the Nationals (or something), then surely this is a marketing campaign bound for success! I fail to see how this is going to be successful, unless heartburn is common among the show jumping crowd.

Anyway. The horse is great. Helen actually really sucks. Your plan is backfiring, Fred! Probably you need a better instructor who doesn't yell "Great! Fantastic! You saddled your horse perfectly today, Helen!" instead of something constructive. But we can't tell Fred this, you see, because he's sort of fallen for Suzie. Typical, Fred. That's just great.

Because Helen is a whiner, she decides she's going to quit showing because it isn't fun anymore after she's finally amassed what looks to be talent. Fred is understanding, and because Suzie is probably realizing how horrible she is as a teacher, she decides to ride Aspercel in the Nationals.

The longest show jumping sequence in the history of ever commences. It was actually about as interesting to me as reading a show jumping scene, which is typically just as boring, if not more so. I skimmed through this eventually, because after about five minutes I start tuning out. Horses jump, horses jump some more, people applaud, horses jump, all leading to a not very astonishing conclusion!

Not so much a comedy, not so much a drama. Reaches a period of stagnant boredom that it cannot haul itself out of about halfway through. It's Disney in 1968.

2 comments:

Kelsey said...

Aspercel, Aspercel. When you're sick it'll make you well!

That's the only thing I remember about this movie.

Heather said...

"Aspercel, Aspercel. When you're sick it'll make you well!"

That's some quality jingle writing right there. I don't know WHY he's having so much trouble. LOL