Remember the fantasies you had when you were a child? Didn't you
always wonder what those toys in your room would say if they could come
alive? Well, Hollywood seized on this theme long ago, but their vision
until now has usually been a nightmare with killer dolls and evil
abounding out of every drawer. Great, make the kid scared to death of
his own room. Turn his sanctuary into a house of horrors in his
This time, in THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD, an imaginative director
(Frank Oz) has found a magical and delightful series of children's
storybooks by Lynne Reid Banks, and he delivers a tale full of joy as
well as some pathos. Oz (what a great last name for a director of
children's stories) is a director with an usual background. He has
directed Muppet movies (THE MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN) and some of my
favorite Steve Martin comedies (LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, DIRTY ROTTEN
SCOUNDRELS, and HOUSESITTER). Moreover, as an actor, he was the voice
of Yoda in the last two Star Wars movies.
Before I go too far, I do have some surprising news to report.
Regardless of what you might assume, there are no special effects in
THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD! Trust me. I have seen this movie, and the
little people in the movie are real. You see the show and try to
convince me otherwise. Nothing that realistic could be done with
special effects. It is the real McCoy; I am certain.
THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD tells the story of a nine year old boy
named Omri. Omri is played by Hal Scardino who is a nerdy looking kid
with crooked teeth - not your usual glamorous child actor. He gets an
old locked cupboard for his birthday. His mother is played by Lindsay
Crouse who was so wonderful in HOUSE OF GAMES, but who does nothing
with her minor part in this movie. She finds him a key given to her by
her grandmother. The key opens the cupboard, and later Omri discovers
that whatever plastic item he puts in will turn to life.
The body of the story revolves around two toys that the cupboard
transforms into flesh and blood. One is an Iroquois Indian man, Little
Bear, acted by Litefoot who I am told makes his living doing rap songs.
Little Bear is brave, courageous, and wise. He is the star of the
show, and Litefoot delivers a great performance. Little Bear's nemesis
and sometimes sidekick is an alcoholic Texas cowboy, Boone - nicknamed
Boo Hoo Boone for his crying. Boone (David Keith) is foul mouthed,
funny, smelly, dumb, and at first, very drunk. The interaction between
the two of them is more interesting that even that of them and Omri or
of Omri and his buddy played by Rishi Bhat - another type of Indian.
The easiest way to frame the story in your mind is that it is the
ET for this generation albeit the film is not of ET's caliber. On the
other hand, it is easily the best family film thus far this year. So
many movies treat kids as dumb or rebellious. Here Omri actually likes
his parents and his school, and Omri is quite bright. Watch how
cleverly he solves problems. Too bad the movie didn't stop at certain
points and say, okay adults, if you are so smart, how would you get
Little Bear out of this fix?
Unlike another similar movie, HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS, this is
not a comedy albeit we all laughed many times. This is a serious show
about a magical moment in a child's life. You get to live it
vicariously and savor some golden moments. The feeling of the
innocence and challenges of your own childhood well up in you.
The book and hence this movie takes some wonderful and unexpected
twists. The only problem I had was with the script by Melissa
Mathison. Why did she have to have a dozen hells and damns? Without
them, the script would have worked just as well. If your nine year old
told you he was feeling "damn good" wouldn't you attempt at least to
correct him or has society given up the fight against profanity? I
know plenty of cuss words. Would you have liked this review better if
I stuck some in every now and then for the sole purpose of spicing it
up? What if this was a review to be read mainly by young kids? Would
you feel like correcting me then? Finally, why do we have to be so PC
these days where the cowboys must be lazy, stupid, and shiftless and
the Indians noble and brave. Imagine the uproar if the character
traits had been reversed.
Copyright © 1995 Steve Rhodes