Throwback Thursday: “The Indian In the Cupboard” (1995)
There are movies that, no matter how strong of an argument you have, I will never admit are actually terrible. Why? Because I watched them as an impressionable kid and they hold a special place in my heart. When I saw a list the other day of movies that were based off of Y.A. novels and failed to start a franchise and saw “The Indian In the Cupboard”, I thought the author of the piece was sorely mistaken. “Maybe they didn’t turn it into a franchise because the first one was such a classic,” I thought. Instead of taking guesses at why there wasn’t an “Indian In the Cupboard pt.2” and why this writer had put the first one on their list, I decided I’d just go back and watch the movie. Hell, I hadn’t seen it in twenty years: it’d be cool to revisit something from my childhood. It wasn’t.
Movies like this were meant to exist only in 1995. When bowl-cut haircuts were the big thing, over-sized clothes were popular, and apparently loose storylines in kid’s movies were the norm. We all know the premise to the film: a kid gets a cupboard for his birthday and doesn’t know what to do with it. His mother suggests he puts his Native American toy in it for safe keeping and when he unlocks it the next day to check on it, he finds the toy has come to life. Think “Toy Story” but messing with a real person’s life. The Indian, Little Bear (Litefoot), was apparently in the woods with his young son when he was suddenly transported into the cupboard and in miniature form. Now he’s at the mercy of a young boy, Omri (Hal Scardino), who talks almost only in a whisper and falls in love with Little Bear. To recreate the surroundings he is used to, Omri makes him a teepee and gives him a cardboard box that has dirt on it. Surely this will not make him miss home. It’s all fun and games for Omri until he brings to life another Indian toy and scares him to death…literally. That’s when he and Little Bear realize that he has a great power he shouldn’t possess.
His “doesn’t know how to keep a secret” friend, Patrick (Rishi Bhat), brings over his cowboy toy, Boone (David Keith), wanting him to also come to life. Omri hesitantly leaves Patrick alone in his room, allowing him to give life to his toy, and now we have two miniature stereotypes running around. This is the whole movie. Two toys that are actual people who are trapped in a distant future (1995) with no way back unless Omri can find the will to part ways with them. Somehow this story gets stretched into a film that’s a little over an hour and half and goes absolutely nowhere.
Honestly, if you didn’t watch this movie as a kid, you missed your window to actually enjoy it. As an adult, it’s cool to see that Steve Coogan is in it, as well as a young Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men). It’s also interesting to see that Richard Jenkins hasn’t aged one day; thus making him a prime candidate for actually being a vampire.
It is with a heavy heart that I take this film off of my list of “classic movies from my childhood”. That’s good news for “Angels in the Outfield” and “The Big Green” which have each just moved up a spot.