Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Video: The Point (1971)

When I was growing up, I must have watched this animated special every time it aired. It debuted on DVD a few months ago, and I realized I didn’t remember anything about it.

Other than the premise, which is admittedly hard to forget. In a village where everything has a point – including the heads of the villagers – a boy (voiced by Bobby Brady himself, Mike Lookinland) born with a normal head is ostracized and eventually banished because of it. Heavy stuff for a seven-year-old.

The show is definitely a product of its era, filled with counterculture thinking that dates it somewhat. It’s billed as a fable, but even on those terms it’s obvious and a bit repetitive. It would be tough getting a kid to sit through this today. And the ending doesn’t exactly make sense. Young Oblio returns to the village with the understanding that everything in life has a point. (I said it was obvious.) The evil Count removes Oblio’s hat and is shocked to see that now Oblio, too, has a point. Great. I’m with you so far. Then all the points in the village disappear, including the ones atop the people’s heads ... except for Oblio’s. I guess the poor little bastard is destined to be a freak no matter what.

I was at a loss to explain what I responded to in the show until the sequence with the giggling fat women dancing in the buff. Then it all came back to me. Nope, nothing inappropriately sexual here.

The animation by Fred Wolf, who would later work on the landmark TV special FREE TO BE ... YOU & ME, is witty and engaging. You can see the influence his style had on later artists like Bill Plympton. The redoubtable Paul Frees contributes wonderful voice work. But the music by Harry Nilsson holds the entire enterprise together. The DVD has an option that allows you to skip directly to each song. I should have taken advantage of it.

Dustin Hoffman narrated the original; in the home video release it’s Ringo Starr. According to the IMDb, one version featured narration by Alan Thicke. I’ll bet his take worked very well. Believe it or not, Thicke can be very funny. I have fond memories of his work as deluded local talk show host Dennis Dupree on the short-lived sitcom HOPE & GLORIA with Cynthia Stevenson.

Miscellaneous: Links

Salon’s Charles Taylor is an interesting film critic, even though I seldom agree with him. You’ll need a Salon day pass to read his latest piece on the budding cinema of dislocation, but it’s worth it. The essay convinced me to take a look at LARA CROFT: THE CRADLE OF LIFE, “the only adventure movie since THE MASK OF ZORRO that can be called romantic.” As if I need an excuse to watch Angelina Jolie.

Elsewhere, Dan Chiasson reviews the first wave of lad lit. TV Barn fears for the future of Trio. (Courtesy of GreenCine Daily.) And from Sarah Weinman, a great, far-ranging interview with espionage novelist Charles McCarry.