The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Great moments in film reviews

January 6, 2006

Bear with me. The sociogenesis of this post takes some strange twists.

Scott Lemieux (of LGM fame) regularly points his readers to the latest idiocies of “political” film reviews. Today I followed his link-chain to alicublog’s discussion of the par-for-the-course Mallard Fillmore “humor” about Brokeback Mountain (good film? bad film? you tell me; we have a toddler and a single income. I’m not even sure I remember what the inside of a movie theater looks like). From there, I got diverted to Altmouse’s satirical post on wingnut film reviews.

The post itself was, in my view, sub-par for Altmouse, but one of the comments brought back some dim memories for me:

Professor Altmouse,
You might also enjoy some nonpartisan films like Happy Scrappy Hero Pup, Boobah, or possibly The Brave Little Toaster. Just trying to help.

My high-school girlfriend’s father was an influential establishment Republican, so naturally they got the Washington Times. And I read it, because, well, it was there. The Brave Little Toaster non-partisan? Check out this review (courtesy of Lexis-Nexis):

Copyright 1990 News World Communications, Inc.
The Washington Times
March 16, 1990, Friday, Final Edition

LENGTH: 931 words

HEADLINE: Spring fever at the movies;
‘The Brave Little Toaster’


“‘The Brave Little Toaster,” an independently produced cartoon feature opening today for a week’s run at the Biograph, presents a pair of twin dangers:

One is that children in the audience will go home convinced, where previously they only had suspected, that household appliances really do come alive at night, sprouting eyes and mouths and wandering the halls.

The other danger is that advocates of animal rights – quivering in their seats as an animated toaster is menaced by a hammer-wielding junk dealer – will have found a new set of victims to champion.

After all, watching this movie, even those who wouldn’t lift a donation envelope to save a snail darter will at least sympathize with Blankey the electric blanket, Kirby the vacuum cleaner, Lampy the reading lamp, an old dial radio named Radio and brave little Toaster…..

Toaster earns the heroic title role in the climactic junk-pile sequence. Flinging himself into the gears of the pounding auto compactor, he saves not only his friends but, as it turns out, the Master. But toasters never die, and his reappearance, repaired and revivified by the Master, is briefly moving.

For a cartoon that in other ways fails to measure up, that’s not nothing.


Thankfully, those bastions of consumer capitalism, the Swedes, would one day counter the propaganda of The Brave Little Toaster. So happy endings all around.

Back to the stomach flu now….

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.