NC (voiceover): So the movie begins with the not-so-wise idea of showing us footage from the first film, making us realize how much we’re gonna hate this one. Narrator: The prophet Nicodemus predicted that NIMH would again thrust its evil on the rats, and a son of Jonathan Brisby would be chosen to save them. NC: (speaks as Jesus’ father to a Photoshopped image of Jesus as a baby while calming, holy music plays in the background) Now, Jesus, you know your mother and I are very, very proud of you. NC (voiceover): So, it’s sort of hard to understand, but I guess Timmy is being sent to the rats to train in their ways and become a stronger person. Justin: You know, Timmy, when your father saved the rats of NIMH, he didn’t know that was his destiny. NC: (mimics Justin) I get the feeling that history’s gonna say…you are your father, whether you like it or not.
NC (voiceover): So, literally, the next 20 minutes or so is just building up what a fucking godsend Timmy’s going to be. NC (voiceover): So Timmy shows off one of his new skills by setting up traps for dangerous wildlife. Young Timmy: (pulls a string on a balloon that a snake just ate, inflating it and launching the snake into the sky) And don’t come back!
NC: (as Young Timmy) Well, I can’t do anything, haven’t done anything, don’t plan on doing anything, but this dead guy says I’m the Messiah! NC (voiceover): So Timmy grows up into a teenager, played by the Karate Kid himself, Ralph Macchio, and guess what? NC (voiceover): So, after all his training, on his first adventure to obtain food, what does Timmy end up doing? NC (voiceover): But he comes across another mouse named Jenny, who, it turns out, actually escaped from NIMH. NC (voiceover): So Jenny explains how her parents are being held at NIMH and how the experiments are getting more and more out of control, mostly run by a crazy scientist named Valentine. NC (voiceover): (sputters with rage) Thorn Valley isn’t going, so what the fuck are you talking about?!
Jenny: (getting out blankets to make a rope out of) When I was little, I remember a mouse in the cage next to ours telling my parents that the rats escaped from NIMH had settled in a place called Thorn Valley. NC (voiceover): So Timmy, after just a mere couple of years after hearing the news, finally goes to save his brother along with Jenny, who’s off to save her parents, but a nasty hawk bursts their bubble and they plummet to the ground. NC (voiceover): Well, it’s so Jeremy and the caterpillar can scam people out of money by charging them for asking questions. NC (voiceover): So Jeremy finally flies Timmy and Jenny to NIMH, and it turns out that Justin and Mr. NC (voiceover): So…(sighs)…after whatever the hell we just witnessed, Martin locks up Timmy and tells Jenny that he’s going to take over Thorn Valley and make her his queen.
NC (voiceover): So when you get down to it, the actual secret of NIMH in this movie was a totally insane mouse who had the voice of Eric Idle.
NC (voiceover): They help everybody escape, but the place catches fire, and Timmy wants to go in and save Martin.
NC: (as Timmy while fiddling through his papers trying to find the right cliche lines to say) Oh!
NC (voiceover): He finds Martin and manages to get him out of there before the place burns up. Martin: (is back to normal--no Eric Idle voice--and talking to Timmy) You singlehandedly saved Thorn Valley. I watched The Secret of NIMH several times as a kid, but I had no memory of it until yesterday.
The story begins in a cave, where an ancient rat named Nicodemus (Derek Jacobi) speaks to an old, dead friend.
On top of all this, Brisby's home is in danger of being destroyed when the farmer plows his field. My big problem with The Secret of NIMH can best be described by a term coined by Blake Snyder in his screenwriting book, Save the Cat!: "Double Mumbo Jumbo". Yet, we're asked to believe that she and Jonathan met and started a family after he escaped the lab.


Those of you who grew up with and cherish The Secret of NIMH may think these are stupid nitpicks. Seeing as 2D animation is pretty much dead, though, a Bluth-style remake of NIMH, written by the geniuses behind Up, say, will have to remain my own, private fantasy. Maybe [it’s] because I’ve praised the first one as an animated classic, and have even admitted it to being one of my favorite movies. Nothing about this kid indicates that he has great intelligence or great leadership skills. Ages: Well, at least I know what happened to the weather balloon I asked you to get for me. Ages: If snakes go flying through the air, humans might find out about Thorn Valley, and we might be in real danger. Ages: (to Timmy and Jenny in their room before leaving and closing the door) Good night, children. They come across a caterpillar who says he can lead them to the Great Owl, which it turns out is not the Great Owl, but actually Jeremy, posing as the Great Owl. Ages are kidnappers, and Timmy doesn’t even bat an eye as his brother is being tortured for several years. Insano: “And then the mouse turns into a mad scientist and betrays all his friends.” (pauses to absorb what he just wrote) Genius! Brisby (Elizabeth Hartman), lives with her small family.* Her life is a series of near-death experiences, populated by mostly unfriendly animals who either want to dismiss or kill her.
She seeks the wisdom of Nicodemus, who has formed an elaborate rat colony underneath the thorn bush in the farmer's front yard. This is a questionable family film, packed with spooky imagery, murder, and a hopeful, positivity-in-a-world-of-assholes vibe that I really appreciated. From the candle-lighting that opens the film to the moving-day scene in which rain drips down elabrate ropes and pulleys, mixing with pools of mud, the hand-drawn feats put a good deal of Pixar's stuff to shame.
Far be it from me to steal the magic from anyone's youth, but this film cheats left and right.
In reality, I'm stuck with a gorgeous, spooky, little picture that broke out of its cage much, much too soon. None of them would’ve survived were it not for the incredible bravery of that great mouse Jonathan Brisby.
That made-up prophecy you pulled out of your ass didn’t say anything about Timmy being the hero, so why doesn’t Martin have a shot? You know, I’m sorry, I’m still gonna dwell on this: You do not treat your child this way, especially if he hasn’t done anything yet! Oh, I’m sorry, except for that “great prophecy.” (cuts to clips of Nicodemus from the first “Secret of NIMH” film) OK, Nicodemus was a wise soul and could predict a lot of things that were going to happen, but you know what? You know, if he was to apply to any other fancy school, he’d be thrown out in a millisecond. And, I have to be honest, as we near the third act of this film, I’m not seeing the spectacular badness it’s supposed to have. Now, every child in the world will know that they can no longer escape the clutches of science! He caresses a large medallion with a red crystal in the middle, which reflects his large, pupil-free eyes. Her visit coincides with a council meeting, in which the scheming Jenner (Paul Shenar) rallies his colleagues to continue syphoning electricity from the farmhouse--while Nicodemus and the head of his royal guard, Justin (Peter Strauss), argue for relocating to a valley, where they can rebuild as an independent society. Brisby's love for her family is really touching, and I dug the bizarre, inter-species flirtation between her and Jeremy the crow (DeLuise). Don't get me wrong: I love Pixar, but to me there's a significant difference between innovating and working through problems via traditional animation and tweaking models with code and slider settings. It's just that looking at the strain of those pulleys reminded me that nothing in The Adventures of Tintin came close to creating that sense of gravity and excitement.
In this case, I'll buy that NIMH's meddling with rodent brains created a new race of creatures with the ability to talk and build hinged doors and power grids.
The creatures all have dumb, black eyes--except for the apes, who look at least semi-aware of what's going on.


I'm don't know what chemical one injects into an animal to give it psychic powers or the ability to conjure otherworldly talents, but the geniuses at NIMH apparently do. Brisby and the Rats of NIMH was dark, dramatic, yet still had an element of wonder that makes it--what I consider--a masterpiece of animation. He sure couldn't predict when a fucking brick was gonna fall on him and crush him into a Nico-pancake! I mean, it starts off bad—“Bad sequel” bad--and then it just spirals into a world of absolute insanity. Between this scene and the truly frightening United Artists logo that preceded it, I began to wonder if I'd put on the right movie. Ages (Arthur Malet) grudgingly gives her some healing herbs to treat her youngest son's illness. Years earlier, he and a small number of mice and rats escaped the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) after being injected with drugs that boosted their intelligence to human levels. Advances towards computer-generated realism are terrific, I'm sure, for the people working on such films, but as an audience member, it just looks like showing off. The movie's conceit is that, over time, the lab's injections made the animals smart enough to escape, and to fashion clothes and sophisticated language. The movie's last act turns into a fantasy free-for-all, with Jenner and Justin engaging in a fight to the death, wearing what look to be costumes from an elementary school production of Robin Hood.
My understanding of the book is that it was hocus-pocus-free, yet still beloved by millions of children.
We see Timmy and his brother Martin riding each other’s nuts until some evil scientists start following them.
Well, good, maybe here, they’ll finally treat him like a normal p- (a banner that says “Welcome Timothy” is being hoisted up) Ohh…really? The choices they made to go with this story are just mind-boggling, I still can’t comprehend it! The wise Great Owl (John Carradine) can't provide secrets to her husband's mysterious life without scaring her half to death.
It may be possible to build a fully functioning ATM machine using only hydroelectric power and popsicle sticks, but what's the point?
O'Brien's novel) go two steps beyond by A) introducing magic into the equation, and B) fudging the origin of their characters' intelligence. Maybe it was a trope of the era, in which kids'-movie creators thought everything needed artificial spicing-up. The only thing that’s remotely entertaining about this film is Eric Idle doing the voice of Martin, but even then, that’s because he’s just so batshit insane, that it’s sort of hard not to laugh at it. And then there's the farm cat, Dragon, a hulking beast who terrorizes every creature in sight. It's a dangerous, multi-layered process, which Jenner uses as the opportunity for a devastating power play. Brisby uses the medallion to lift the fallen cinder block out of a mud pit (which gave me flashbacks to both The Empire Strikes Back and Transformers: The Movie).
The one thing I'll grant Pixar is that they'd be able to pull off a terrific NIMH adaptation, storywise, without falling back on intelligence-insulting gimmicks to move things along. There’s still the fact that Martin’s the bad guy, there’s still the fact that they built up for this kid who’s literally done nothing, there’s the fact of that stupid self-fulfilling prophecy, there’s the fact that Mrs. Unless she was the child of one of the NIMH rats, she and all her farm-field cohorts should be pre-NIMH oblivious. Because they put a bandage on his head, and in all kids' movies, that seems to fix everything! Brisby’s barely in it nor the rest of the family, for that matter, it’s just…(sputters in rage)…IT’S SO TERRIBLE!




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