Willow (1988)

Willow (1988), directed by Ron Howard.

Following the ancient formula, a girl-child is destined to challenge the rule of an evil sorceress. The baby must be hidden, rescued, and then championed by unlikely heroes and their magical allies.

Fantasy-comic-adventure films were very big in the 1980s. None are entirely satisfactory but each has its charms. This one is pretty lush and large-scale, a mix of grubbiness and Tinkerbell, filmed partly in New Zealand. George Lucas wrote and produced, and I notice his influence more now than I did at the time: that frenetic wagon chase and fight scene, for example. Even the James Horner score comes with extra "John Williams" this time.

The first 30 minutes is with the little people and is meant for children, although the attack and killing of the dog-creature might be too intense. Some of the dwarves struggle to run or even walk and it's painful to watch them. Old-timer Billy Barty is the village shaman, part magician, part fraud and wise man. This section drags and we could have used the time better.

Things pick up when we discover Val Kilmer in a hanging cage. He's the "Han Solo" disreputably adventurous and roguish heart of the film, up and down but never too serious. Good chemistry with the very lovely and initially villainous Joanne Whalley; they married right away.

The troll-monster effects show their age.

I remember being irritated by the French-accented brownies (little-little people) but they are funnier now. The twin girls playing the baby are just great.

Available on Blu-ray. The IMDB lists 2.20:1 as the aspect ratio for the 70mm print; the Blu-ray is more like 2.35:1.