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MMYIF: Ducktales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp

My Misspent Youth In Films...

Ducktales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp
Directed by: Bob Hathcock
Starring: Alan Burnett, Christopher Lloyd, Terence McGovern
Released: August 3, 1990

Scrooge McDuck takes Huey, Dewey, and Louie to Egypt to find a pyramid and magic lamp.

What I Thought Then

A feature-length version of one of my favorite "Disney Afternoon" television shows. Behind Darkwing Duck, obviously.

What I Think Now

For good or for ill, it really is just a feature-length version of the television show. Barely. At seventy-five minutes, it's technically a movie, though it features roughly the same level of animation that you'd expect from a television show. It makes zero attempt to catch new viewers up on the characters or the world. Are Huey, Dewey, and Louie even named in this? The story is functional--the plot is cohesive and there's a whiff of a narrative arc underpinning it all--but it still feels pretty derivative. You'd swear it was nothing but a ripoff of Aladdin, except that this movie came out two years earlier.

Anyway, Scrooge, et al, are on the hunt for the treasure of Collie Baba (sigh), a figure from Arabian legend who hides his treasure in an Egyptian pyramid for some reason. I mean, I guess it's okay to confuse the two; they are on neighboring continents after all. But let's leave aside all of the Middle-East cultural insensitivity or we'll be here all day. They find the treasure, which includes a magic lamp that is home to a zany wise-cracking genie. The kids get the lamp, hijinks ensue. Oh, and there's a powerful sorcerer trying to get the lamp from them. Seriously, I know it's impossible because that's how the passage of time works, but it really feels like they were just ripping off Aladdin. Anyway, you can guess how this plays out. Scrooge gets the lamp, then loses his entire fortune, and then the bad guy gets the lamp, and then there's a confrontation and Scrooge sets the genie free after setting everything right.

It's... perfectly serviceable children's entertainment I guess, but I didn't enjoy it. Part of it is just that the world has changed in thirty years. Or maybe I have. I just find it really hard to empathize with a main character whose sole defining characteristic is that he cares about money more than anything else and whose character growth is to learn that enslaving sentient creatures is bad, actually. Hardly a hero of the people. Taking a step back from the movie, it feels weird to me that Scrooge McDuck has enough cultural cache in the post-BLM era that this show got rebooted. His television persona made sense in the Reagan era. But now? There's a point in the movie where his fortunes have been reversed, and the new owner of his money bin has Scrooge arrested. Not kicked out, arrested. And arraigned, apparently, since he had to post bail to get out. So my bleeding-heart liberal brain is watching this and just thinking that he's fallen victim to a social injustice that he's been capable of inflicting on others and we're all just sort of fine with that. It's just not charming anymore.

Beyond that, the animation is sub-standard for film. It's not Care Bears Movie levels of shoddy, but it's venturing that direction. The non-racist jokes land. The action is a bit dull and the music is forgettable, up until the theme song plays over the closing credits. The performances are fine; the actors in this had been playing these roles for a few years now. Christopher Lloyd chews scenery as the villain--he knew exactly what kind of movie he signed up for and decided to just have all the fun being in it. Rip Taylor is the genie. He's no Robin Williams, but he gives it a go. (Oh hey, Rip Taylor's in this!) (You know... Rip Taylor.) (Ask your parents.) Frank Welker's in this too, for all you fellow 80s animation stans.




In My Misspent Youth In Films, Kurt is going through the movies he grew up on. Read the explainer or see more posts.


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