Okay, let’s acknowledge something. The Return of the King is the least fun part of the entire “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. I mean, if you think about it, Frodo FAILS!!! He screws up at the last minute and the only reason Middle-Earth is rescued from it’s eternal damnation is, seriously, a slapstick accident. Add in hours’ worth of bloody mayhem and top it all off with teary farewells galore (even if you only know the characters from the films, it’s been three years; that’s practically going to college with somebody!) and you have great fun and good times for all.
So here we have the kiddie cartoon version! And it gets better (or worse) – This is a sodding musical!
See, Rankin-Bass made a television special, “the Hobbit”, which all us 80’s kids have all seen at least once. You’ll remember that Ralph Bakshi and company ended their adaptation of “Lord of the Rings” before delving into book three. Rankin Bass boldly went ahead and made their own “Return of the King” movie. The result is one of those movies that has to be seen to be dis-believed.
I’m going to ignore the eye-explodingly bad animation and awful script. I’m going to ignore the fact that this movie makes no sense if you don’t know the story. Honestly, it makes even less sense if you do know the story (there’s no mention at all of Legolas and Gimli, but there’s about five minutes of Sam imagining what would happen if he took the Ring and took over the world). You see, there is something worth focusing the attention on.
This is a musical. I can’t repeat that enough. Gandalf calls in an Attack Bard to tell the story of the Ring. And so help me, he sings the whole story! Oh my God, the songs are so ridiculous you have to watch this movie just to hear them. And I tell you right here, any band that covers the entire soundtrack will win my eternal love and admiration.
Honestly, if any movie deserved a Karaoke feature…
The Best Parts:
0 minutes in (before the movie begins on the video) – Woah, “Watership Down”? “Flight of Dragons”? And the relatively awesome early lineup of WB’s Saturday morning?
1 minutes in – Pegasuses?
2 minutes in – Yes, just a typical day. Frodo and Sam are sitting down to dinner with Sarek (Spock’s dad), Ben Franklin, and John Arbuckle.
4 minutes in – Attack of the Bard!!!
5 minutes in – Gee, Elrond looks a little different in these flashbacks…
9 minutes in – All of this has happened before the opening credits?
11 minutes in – They really like that one shot of the Ring, don’t they?
15 minutes in – Evil Sam!!! He uses his dark magic to…
Turn Mordor into a lush, beautiful forest. Dammit, Sam, you suck at being evil.
19 minutes in – Hobbits start out as little freak babies.
26 minutes in – The hell?
28 minutes in – “Dark Crystal” much?
30 minutes in – Ooooooohhh! Pretty!
35 minutes in – (*smooch*) “G’night everybody!”
36 minutes in – Oh, do let’s sing about the Elves for no reason!
37 minutes in – Anyone else reminded of the first “Care Bears” movie?
43 minutes in – Wee! This is fun, isn’t it kids?
47 minutes in – Now I have a new song to hum on the way to class.
55 minutes in – “S-T-A-Y I-I-I-I-N S-C-H-O-O-O-O-O-L-L!!! B-R-U-S-H Y-O-O-O-U-R T-E-E-E-E-T-H!!!”
56 minutes in – Yeah, uh, that brings up an interesting issue. Where the [bleep] is Aragorn?
59 minutes in – Man, that must be some pretty good “Pipeweed” they’re on…
1 hour, 1 minute in – “I wanna sing ‘the Doom Song’!!!”
1 hour, 14 minutes in – I can totally not tell that this is really a woman.
1 hour, 17 minutes in – Now, this might have been a trick of the eye, but don’t blink or you’ll miss Legolas’ millisecond of screentime.
1 hour, 20 minutes in – GWAR ROXOR!!! >:O
1 hour, 23 minutes in – Everybody sing!!!
1 hour, 24 minutes in – Hey, screw you, Frodo. 😡
1 hour, 27 minutes in – “Cool! We can rip them up and feed our chicks!”
1 hour, 36 minutes in – That’s it?
Classic Lines of Dialogue:
“YOU! Oh, I can feel you throbbing with excitement.” – Sam
“Behold!!! The gardens of my delight!!!!!” – Evil Sam, sucking at being evil
“Why so glum, wizard?” – Aragorn (one of his maybe five lines)
~*~ Poetry Corner ~*~ Oh, good God, where do I start?
“Frodo of the niiiiiine fingers! / And the Ring of DOOOOOOOOOM!!! / Why does he have nine fingers? / Where is the Ring of DOOOOOOOOOM???” – the Attack Bard
“If you never say hello, / you won’t have to say goodbye!” – Attack Bard
“Where there’s a whip / there’s a way! / We don’t wanna go to war today / But the lord of the lash says ‘hey, hey, hey!’ / We’re gonna march all day, all day, all daaaay!!!” – Orc Army
“The bearer of the Ring / the wearer of the Ring! / Beware, oh bearer of the Ring!!!” – Attack Bard
“You are standing in the eye of the storm! / Move an inch and you’ll be dead! / You are standing underneath / the Towers of the Teeth / and the Eye blazes RED!!!” – Attack Bard
“Praise them! / Praise them! / Praise them with great praise! / The end of the Ring / the return of the King!” – Attack Bard
Things I Learned from this Movie/Book/Whatever:
* – You can summarize the first 2/3 of “L.O.T.R.” in about seven minutes.
* – Orcs = mutated Australian animals
* – Hobbits: If you’re sneaking around in Orc territory, maybe not having an endless monologue would be a good idea?
* – Some people are willing to go through a LOT for a nifty coat.
* – There’s nothing scarier than an irradiated Hobbit.
* – Sparkly lights can break down walls.
* – Orcs would make good motivational coaches.
* – If you use essentially the same animation for each battle scene, the one guy with blond braids is eventually going to stand out.
* – Don’t have a conversation with somebody as you’re both trying to outrun lava.
* – Things valued by Hobbits: fat chicks, gardening, sex, and weed.
Things That Can Save Any Movie:
Cool Creatures? Hobbits, Elves, eagles, and so on (no Dwarves though), all beaten with the ugly stick.
Good Soundtrack? You have got to be joking.
Hot Guys? Ditto for this.
Pretty Scenery? And this.
Nifty Animation/Special Effects/Illustrations? And especially this.
Drinking Game Potential? Drink when we have oddly-placed exposition. Drink when they gloss over the important plot points in the book. And, of course, drink when they sing. Then, once you know the words, sing along.
Head Movie Potential? You might need some (ahem) Pipeweed to get through this.
A quarter Danny. Just cause of the songs.
A Rankin/Bass Film released in 1980 by Lorimar Telepictures. Written by Romeo Muller and directed by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass. Songs by Maury Laws and Jules Bass.
Glen Yarbrough, Orson Bean, John Huston, Roddy McDowall, Paul Frees, Will Conrad, Casey Casem and Brother Theodore.