Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mr. Bug Goes to Town ★★★

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    "Mr. Bug Goes to Town" (also known as "Hoppity Goes to Town") is a 1941 technicolor animated classic that certainly never stood a chance--as far as financial success is concerned--considering the triumph of Walt Disney's "Dumbo," released two months prior, and due to its untimely release, December 5th, being two days before the horrific attack on Pearl Harbor. (I assume the nation's desire to see talking and singing insects brimming with optimism subsided once those events began to play out.)

    Regardless of this sequence of so-called misfortune, "Mr. Bug" does provide an upbeat tale of buoyant proportions, accompanied by a handful of musical numbers and a plethora of quirky comical inclinations that surely give rise to a unique style all of its own. We are transported to Bugville, a small and quaint civilization that seems to rest right under our very noses, and become familiar with several of the town's occupants; there are Mr. Bumble and his vivacious daughter Honey, Mrs. Ladybug and her two children, Buzz the adolescent and inquisitive Bee scout, and a snail, aptly named Jeepers Creepers, who constantly harasses the civilians with an air of pessimism and phrases such as, "I told you so."

Image result for mr bug goes to town 1941
    And who could forget the charming yet bumbling Hoppity, a cheery grasshopper who everyone claims to be the savior of all the town's mishaps, but who essentially is nothing more than a love stricken goofball, whose sole ambition is to win the hand of Honey, the only bachelorette in town. We watch as the locals satisfy their sweet tooths at the resident Honey Shop and while they entertain themselves with theater shows, which rest under the nearest sewer grate, all while surviving the impending destruction caused by the surrounding litter of the "human ones." (There's empty match boxes and cigar butts, pens and pencils, and even larger objects such as a mirror and woman's purse scattered throughout our little insects' environment.)

    The characters, although rather bland and one-dimensional, are instilled with this sense of delicate humanness, as their facial features come to mimic those found in everyday life. (Honey genuinely seems quite beautiful, which only adds to her allure.) Our conflict--other than the above mentioned ruination caused by humans--comes in the form of C. Bagley Beetle, a rich and successful old timer who also pines for the attention of our lovely leading lady, and his two henchmen: Swat the fly and Smack the mosquito. From here, the picture humbly relies on numerous stretches of situational irony, as our antagonists ineffectively attempt to derail the plans of Hoppity and as the inhabitants of this frail community unsuccessfully strive to find a new home, far from the reaches of humanity's negative effects. (We also watch as Hoppity struggles to maintain his dignity, as his failings come fast and often.)

    "Mr. Bug Goes to Town" will always be characterized by its lack of success at the box-office and by its simplistic aim to delight the eyes and ears of children, when adult themes are clearly just a scene or two away from being in the spotlight. There is a hint toward the loss of innocence, as our naive insect counterparts must come face-to-face with the harsh reality of man's decadence; not to mention a social statement (this is in reference to the blatant contamination caused by humanity's recklessness and its impact on nature) that is just pining to rear its virtuous head, as the last line in the film alludes to man's inferiorness in the grand scheme of things. (We learn that it all comes down to perception.) Nonetheless, "Mr. Bug" sticks to adolescent intrigue, even though there was never much patience for such productions during this time period. It is a film truly haunted by its missed opportunities.  

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