Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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Film #237


Animated film about a young deer, Bambi, growing up in the wild after his mother is shot by hunters.

Year 1, Day 237

BEFORE: After a more recent film (if you could call 1991 recent) I’m returning to an ancient 1942 Disney classic, Bambi. This is another one of the classics that I never watched as a kid and it’s taken me all these years to bring it to play it. Just now as I’m typing this foreword, ready to press play on the Apple TV, my suitemates asked if I would cry at the film as it’s one of the sadder Disney films. The answer: I guess we’ll find out.

AFTER: Earlier this week I attended an event with experimental filmmaker Peter Rose and one thing he said really stuck with me: film above all else, is a time-based medium. It’s something I’ve mentioned in many of my past reviews including yesterday’s on Beauty and the Beast. And with Bambi, time is what I view as the crucial element; what makes or breaks the film.

Before I get into that though, I’ll take a step back and look at the film in general terms. Once again you have incredibly complex characters who are able to show a range of emotions and feelings through subtle movements. You can see Bambi’s naïveté, Thumper’s energy and rebelliousness, and Faline’s playfulness despite not much dialogue and animation, when compared to today’s, would be viewed as crude and elementary. The story also is a moving one. It tells of Bambi’s growth from a baby to a full grown adult (with two stages in between) and more importantly the rewards and obstacles in life. Bambi learns basic motor skills but also what it means to love and what it feels like when you lose someone you care deeply about.

Here’s where things get a little tricky though and where I’m not really sure about my final opinion yet: time. If you go back to the earlier quote of film being a time-based medium certain questions are brought to mind. Yes, the characters and story are fundamentally great but do they work in a film? Do scenes last too long? Are they too rushed? Does time pass in a reasonable way? It’s not enough to have things work well in the moment, it needs to work as a cohesive unit, telling a story, in this case, over the course of 70 minutes. And this is where I’m going back and forth between whether this film is above and beyond others or just really good. My gut reaction was to say it exceeded expectations and the lengthy moments of just seeing actions (Bambi walking, running through the meadows, playing with friends) helped provide a sense of natural progression. But the more I think about it the more I feel that these moments of development were just too drawn out. They’re very important to the story but to be honest, some just go on for far too long.

Hopefully that was clear enough to understand and I didn’t ramble on too long. At the heart of it all is this: Bambi is a fantastic film and one that you should see but there are just some parts that unnecessarily slow down the pacing and the development of the film. Another thing to keep in mind is that I wouldn’t consider this a kids film. Yes, there are some parts seemingly tailored to kids (Bambi’s early childhood development and learning) but there are also some extremely dark and serious scenes that would probably be difficult for kids to watch. Just something to keep in mind.

RATING: 4 out of 5