Throwback Thursday Review: “The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking” (1988)
If you grew up in the 80s, chances are you rented a lot of movies. The decade was chock full of great kid/family flicks that had me and my friends scanning the walls of the local Blockbuster Video, every weekend, for some new adventure to watch. We also each had our select few that we would fall back on, any time there was nothing new that sparked our interest. For some it was “Goonies” or “The Dark Crystal”, but for me (at least from ages 7 to 8) it was Disney’s “The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking”. Now let me explain… yes I was also in love with movies like “Star Wars”, and “Labyrinth”, and all of the other classic 80s family films. Thanks to my mother though I had also been raised on old tv shows and movies of the 50s and 60s. “Get Smart” and “The Apple Dumpling Gang” were regular entertainment at our house, as well as the “Pippi Longstocking” films from the 60s starring Inger Nilsson. 7 year old me loved watching that spunky little ginger girl get into mischief and go on wild adventures.
When I saw a tv spot, on the Disney channel, one day showing a trailer for the new film adaptation of Pippi, I almost fell off the couch in excitement. Being that going to the theater was an extremely rare treat for me, in those days, I had to wait for it’s home video release, but the day it appeared on the Blockbuster wall I was in line checking it out. Little did I know that my mind was about to be blown, and I would rent and watch the movie another 200 or so times in the following year.
After being separated from her father (John Schuck) at sea, young Pippi (Tami Erin) travels to a family estate called Villa Villekulla to find her inheritance of pirate gold and wait for her father to find her. Next door, live siblings Tommy (David Seaman) and Annika Settigren (Cory Crow) who spend their days looking for any kind of excitement to break their mundane routine at home. When they meet Pippi, they see her (and so did I as a kid) as a kind of super hero. She lives alone, without parental rule, in a giant old house. She has not only a pet monkey, but also a talking horse, and more tales of adventure and danger than a kid could possibly imagine. Even cooler, she has semi-magical powers like being able to throw things insanely far or do a triple back flip off of a tree house and come to a slow, soft landing.
The point is, Pippi was cool. She was cool to Tommy and Annika, and she was definitely cool to a second grade kid who daydreamed about doing half of the things she did in the movie. Dodging authorities, flying in a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang sort of contraption, riding a horse down main street, I mean how cool is all of that?! Granted, as I watched it yesterday, I found it far less intoxicating. The acting is fine, and the songs are still catchy as hell, but being a 36 year old I found myself balking at Pippi’s crazy stunts and defiant attitude. I actually felt bad for the adults in the movie. The film still has an undeniable charm to it though. The kind of charm that many live-action Disney films of earlier years had. The kind of charm that enabled this grown man to still enjoy one of his childhood favorites. Pippi is still cool.