DVD Release Date: July 16, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: August 29, 2012
Run Time: 86 min.
Director: Matthew Diamond
Cast: Cloris Leachman, Chazz Palminteri, Jaime Pressly, Cary Elwes, Christopher Lloyd, Toni Braxton, Misty Miller, Stephanie Renz, Malerie Grady
Once upon a recent Monday morning, a crowd of adults and kids gathered in a Dallas movie theatre to experience what creators are calling "a unique, interactive movie experience" designed for "young children and the adults who love them." It’s The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure and it’s not your standard kiddie film.
Before the screening began, wee ones were taken off to a supervised craft and snack area while adults listened to the film’s writers Kenn Viselman and Scott Stabile (but mostly Kenn). For a man who prides himself on making "a real G movie" that models good behavior, Viselman’s talk was decidedly R-rated. However, the content—if not the vocabulary—of his talk was parent-pleasing. Viselman is the man behind the Teletubbies’ western hemisphere success and the marketing guru behind Thomas the Tank Engine and Eloise, so he clearly knows his stuff. As most parents put their kids in front of the TV at some point, Viselman’s goal is to give them healthier choices. The Oogieloves were created with a child’s best interests in mind, giving them something to do as well as watch.
Which brings us to the interactive aspect of the movie. Once the kids joined adults in the theater and the film began, it was clear this was not a "sit down and be quiet" kind of experience. The story is about a surprise birthday party the Oogieloves (Goobie, Zoozie and Toofie) and friends are trying to throw their friend Schluufy the Pillow. When J. Edgar (he’s a vacuum cleaner, get it?) loses the five magical balloons meant to be Schluufy’s gift, the Oogieloves set out to retrieve them. Each time they find a balloon, there's a sing-a-long and a dance number that everyone in the audience is invited to join in.
And join in they did! The kids in the audience loved it. The songs and choreography were both repetitive enough that even non-readers caught on quickly. Interactive segments were noted with both onscreen text cues and butterflies (when it's time to stand up and party) or turtles (when it's time to sit down—but only if you want to). This worked best when the adult caretakers joined in the fun, too. The film is designed to be like a video storybook where adults help children interact with the on-screen adventure. As a parent-child activity, it works beautifully. It’s also carefully crafted to be educational, as the thirty-seven-page Parent Guide (available at www.oogieloves.com) will attest.
The Oogieloves themselves resemble Nintendo characters come to life, but big-name 'real' people are also in the cast. The enthusiastic lineup features Cloris Leachman (Alex & Emma), Chazz Palminteri (Hoodwinked), Toni Braxton, Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future), Jaime Pressly (Horton Hears a Who), and Cary Elwes (The Adventures of Tintin), who says "not since Princess Bride have I had this much fun making a movie." Braxton’s diva-like Rosalie Rosebud was the only one who struck a slightly sour note, through no fault of her own. Her number was a little too sophisticated for youngsters in the audience who stared, bemused, rather than joining in the song.
But the real stars of the show are the Oogieloves themselves. Producers emphasize that kids in their film are part of the solution, not the problem. True to form, the Oogieloves pull together to achieve their goals and each exhibits problem-solving skills. In stark contrast to kids in many family films, the Oogieloves are polite, friendly, and accepting of those who are different. Young children could certainly find worse role models.
Publication date: August 29, 2012.