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Nobody is taken very much aback on meeting a pointy-eared furry little beast who speaks and sings in English, in a voice like Disney's Chip 'n' Dale. But after all, in this "typical" American small town (so beloved of executive producer Steven Spielberg), school is still in session on Christmas Eve Day and a subtitled Cocteau film is broadcast on local TV that night, and the grasp on character and psychology is more or less the exact equal of Dr. Seuss (e.g., the Widow Scrooge who vows to capture a troublesome mutt and put him in her spin-dryer). But it's rather as if Dr. Seuss had decided to supplement his reputable pediatric practice and peddle mind-altering, brain-damaging substances to the older kids on the school playground: the animated stuffed animal, when gotten wet, spawns egg-sized fur balls that grow up to be sharp-toothed batlike hellions who like to smoke, drink, break-dance, throw open the classic trenchcoat and expose themselves to females, and much, much worse. To find, or to imagine, the ideal customer for this concoction is a chore. The problem, in part, would be to find someone young enough not to be bothered by the cuteness and not to notice the total insincerity. (The horror element, much diluted by the two aforementioned qualities, would not be part of the problem for the indicated age group, though a number of presumably grown-up critics professed, or pretended, to be bothered by it.) Such restrictions, of course, would not leave anyone around who could appreciate the cinematic in-jokes, but those are inappreciable anyway. With Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, and Frances Lee McCain; directed by Joe Dante. (1984) — Duncan Shepherd

Rated PG | 1 hour, 46 minutes
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