Friday, January 22, 2010

“A point in any direction is the same as no point at all.”

Well, whaddaya know, another animated feature. This one’s a bit…odd though. The Point was made in 1971 as a made-for-TV movie based on an album and drug-induced children’s fable by singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson. The only reason I sought this out is because I watched it as a kid and it was weird as all hell.

So a father reads his son a bedtime story about a kingdom where everyone there has a pointed head, except for one kid who’s born with a round head. When he’s older, he gets a pointed hat, a loyal dog and earns the ire of the son of a powerful Count and gets exiled from the kingdom on the technicality of not having a pointed head and is sent into the Pointless Forest, where he meets all sorts of weird things before learning the moral of the story (that everything has a point, if you couldn’t guess already), and returns home.

The Father/Narrator: Originally Dustin Hoffman, then in subsequent releases/broadcasts, it was Alan Barzam, then Alan Thicke and then finally Ringo Starr for the home video version. Anyway, whoever it is, it’s a normal dad reading his kid a bedtime story. The Ringo version is the one I watched and he does a fine job of it.

Oblio: Mike Lookinland voices Our Hero, a decent kid who’s treated differently by the accident of his birth. Not much to his character though.

Arrow: Oblio’s loyal, blue and pointy dog. The badass of the film, because he’s never annoying and generally more observant of his environment than Oblio.

The Count: Lennie Weinrib voices our villain, a purple-bodied guy with a gigantic moustache and a surly attitude. He’s a jerk, his son’s a jerk, and he manipulates the rather foolish king into exiling Oblio. Like a jerk.

The Pointed Man: A really trippy, three-headed weirdo who Oblio meets in the Pointless Forest and tries to espouse some kind of nihilistic belief system onto the poor kid. Has a habit of popping in and out of sight to “his” own musical cue.

The Rock Man: Bill Martin voices a guy made of multi-colored pastel rocks that Oblio runs into in a ravine after evading giant bees. Gives the kid some vague advice and talks like he’s stoned….

Look, I need to apologize for that pun: I’M SORRY!

The Leaf Man: Paul Frees voices a guy who looks like a walking shrub that talks like Dom DeLouise who’s trying to get Oblio involved in the growing field of leaf selling. Probably not a direct drug reference, but it was 1971 so I’m not ruling it out.

Directed by Fred Wolf, the film has a really unique visual style that has a lot of sketch-like, hand drawn elements to it by the animators. Sometimes its kind of charming, sometimes (like the Rock Man) slightly less so, and sometimes, like those bouncing pink ladies that never stop laughing, it strays into nightmare fuel. Still, its really memorable what the animators did.

Original Fable by Harry Nilsson, Story by Nilsson and Carole A. Beers, screenplay by Norm Lenzer, and additional story stuff by Fred Wolf. The story itself is a fairly inoffensive tale about accepting people different from yourself. Still, the ending is a bit…weird when you think about it. Spoilers on, though I doubt you’ll check it out for the story. Oblio returns home, people are happy and the Count tries to boot him out again, knocking Oblio’s hat off…only to reveal a point on Oblio’s head. Then suddenly, the heads of everybody and everything else in the town become rounded, except for Oblio. I guess this is all well and good, but the whole crux of the story was that Oblio was disliked for being different from the majority, and at the end of the movie, he’s still different from the majority…um...

The songs by Harry Nilsson are generally catchy and easy to listen to. Pretty nice, actually, especially “Everything’s Got ‘Em,” “Me and My Arrow,” and “Are You Sleeping?”

The Point is a weird little movie, but not without its charms. The songs are catchy and occasionally the animation is surprisingly engaging. Not recommended for everybody, but it’s a harmless enough little tale.

No trailer, but here's the clip of "Are You Sleeping?" since I rather like the song and it showcases the animation.

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