So Dear to My Heart is a combination of live action and animation that Disney released after their first such effort, Song Of The South. While that film was ingratiating chiefly due to the entertaining stories Uncle Remus tells, both the live action and the sparse animated sequences in this one fall flat. The live action stuff just isn’t terribly interesting (What? Danny the black sheep ran away again? Yawn. I’ll go right out and look for him in the swamp. Again.) and the animated stuff is forgettable pap that doesn’t satisfactorily advance the farm boy/sheep love story we are all here to see.
The movie is told through a grown up and off-screen Jeremiah going through a scrap book that he kept of his misspent and sheep-obsessed youth. We learn Jerry wasn’t always some sick freak who slept in the barn with his lamb. In fact, before he loved that sheep, he was in love with a horse!
He used to cut out pictures of famous racehorse Dan Patch and put them in his scary little scrap book, but Dan Patch doesn’t really play any part in the story except that Jerry names the black sheep who is born on his farm after him. At this point, Jerry descends into total madness and starts changing the pictures in his scrapbook from horses to sheep!
Jerry lives with his pinched up old granny who is always on Jerry’s back about saying his prayers, taking his vitamins and doing his homework (was his grandma Hulk Hogan?) and constantly tries to sabotage his budding love affair with Danny. I guess it was his granny’s rejection of his lifestyle choice that caused him to delve into a fantasy life within the scrapbook that was represented by these dumb animated scenes.
I was surprised by how little animation was in this already brief movie. There were maybe three or four different sequences and they tried to teach Jerry life lessons about not giving up and stuff. You had Christopher Columbus sticking it out to discover America, you had this Scottish king named Robert Bruce talking to a spider about not being a quitter (that worked out well, right? I mean, what with Scotland being its own country and all now), and this brainiac owl hosted all this blarney.
The animation looks fine, it’s just that the content is so generic. Let me put it this way: even if you’ve never seen Song Of The South, you probably have a good idea who and what B’rer Rabbit and all his B’rer friends are. You probably wouldn’t be able to pick any of the animated characters from this movie out of a police line up, even if the line up was made up purely of animated sheep, owls, and Robert Bruces unique to this film.
When these cartoon things aren’t happening, the movie eventually decides that it’s going to be about Jerry figuring out a way to take Danny to the county fair to enter him into some type of sheep beauty contest. His problems are multi-fold as Granny doesn’t believe in county fairs (she must be Seventh Day Adventist), Jerry doesn’t have the money to go, and Danny keeps running away (maybe Danny is tired of bad touches masquerading as grooming).
Jerry (with the help of his abysmal animated daydreams) sets about solving these problems. To get the money, he goes out and finds a big tree full of wild honey. This was a disappointment because I was sure that at some point Jerry would be getting chased by a swarm of killer bees, but that never materialized.
As far as Danny running away, Jerry finally chases him down in the swamp. That only leaves Granny to deal with. It turns out that sheep aren’t the only things that can get “lost” in the swamp!
Jerry arranges for Granny to have herself a little accident in the bog and the next thing you know, Jerry’s telling everyone she’s off on a trip to the city to visit her sick sister and he’s dressing in her clothes and talking to himself in her voice. Wait a second – that may have only happened in one of my cartoon daydreams. She may have just eventually given in to get Jerry off her back.
At the county fair, Jerry and Danny have their big showdown with all the fancy sheep and the movie crosses us up by having Danny lose, but just when all is lost, the judges bust out a very special award (pink ribbon – need I say more?) that they haven’t awarded in four years.
I can’t recall what the award was for, but they make a big deal out of how you have to “use what you got” or some bogus feel-good junk all the liberals think we need to pour on kids to improve their self-esteem. Whatever happened to the America I grew up in where we weren’t afraid to tell kids that they suck?
Burl Ives is the best thing in this movie, but he was squandered in the older, buddy role. He didn’t get to sing that much and other than the classic Lavender Blue, the material they gave him was cornpone garbage that Hee-Haw would have rejected.
Bobby Driscoll who was so good in Treasure Island and didn’t screw things up in Song Of The South will irritate you with his toothy, wide-eyed, goober performance. (His best moment is when he briefly rails against God when Danny is lost in the swamp.)
Even Danny the black sheep was a disappointment, showing zero personality and doing little more than running around and busting through screen doors, though he did butt a guy in the ass at the fair. But other than that, this movie didn’t pull the wool over my eyes. Or was it a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Or were they closing the barn door after Danny had already run away to the swamp? Whatever, just crate that smelly animal up and ship him to the market already.
© 2014 MonsterHunter