Alright, time for our first trip to The Retroplex! You know, “multiplex”? Theatre? Retro movie reviews?
…I told you I was bad at naming things.
After weeks and weeks of thinking about writing a review, trying to decide which movie to review first, and generally being very distracted, I finally got around to doing this. So sit down, get some popcorn, shut up, and enjoy the show.
I’m kicking things off with Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer. Why? Because Rainbow Brite was the show of my childhood. Back when I was four years old, I loved her and all her little fuzzy Sprite friends, even her stuck-up, conceited horse. I wanted to be her, and often pretended that I was.
I actually didn’t see this movie until sometime in the early 90s, long after it was released theatrically in 1985. I didn’t even know it existed until I found it at the local mom-and-pop video store. I probably rented it seventeen times until one happy day when the Disney Channel aired it and my dad got it on tape for me.
I’m pretty surprised that the movie got a DVD release at all, but it did, and I got it. I hear it’s become something of a rare commodity now, though, so I kinda wish I’d have bought two of them.
So, how does the movie stand the test of time? Well…let’s get this show on the road and find out, shall we?
Here’s the lowdown on the plot, such as it is:
Earth is in danger. Spectra, the diamond planet through which all light in the universe must pass, is being covered up by the spoiled, selfish Princess, who wants the giant gem all to herself. If Rainbow Brite doesn’t stop her (and Murky Dismal, who’s also after Spectra), Earth will be plunged into a second ice age.
Sounds pretty damn ridiculous, doesn’t it? Of course it does. Moving right along.
The writers said to themselves, “What’s the best way to kick off the action?” Some jerk said, “I know! A great big musical number!” Maybe they should have fired that guy, because that was a very bad idea. The movie drags on for a while as the Color Kids and Starlite (the self-proclaimed Most Magnificent Horse In the Universe) sing about the coming of spring and how they have sooo much work to do. I’m not sure how singing a sucky song is gonna get all that work done, but okay.
Thankfully, that’s the only number we have to sit through, and otherwise the music is alright, especially the end credits song, which I’ll talk about later.
So, spring has come, la dee da. Along with it comes something interesting (at last!). On her way down to Earth, Rainbow butts heads with Stormy, who– surprise –is in charge of winter and storms and whatnot. Honestly, I think she should have had a larger role in the movie because she’s spunky and looks like a little 80s rock star. She would have spiced up things a little bit. Not to mention the fact that her horse, Skydancer, is badass. Not only does he look awesome, he can shoot lightning bolts from his hooves and spew ice out of his snout. I bet Rainbow is jealous as hell. All she gets is a horse who can’t even fly and who’s always giving people lip. Have I mentioned that I don’t really like Starlite?
Anyway, Rainbow goes down to Earth to work her magic. She tries, and nothing happens. Twink suggests that maybe the star sprinkles are tired from the winter, but everybody knows that little furball is on crack, so they don’t pay him any mind. By the way, Brian’s there too, but I don’t know why he’s even in the movie, because he’s pretty much useless.
So it’s back to Rainbow Land to find out what the hell’s going on. A super cool robot horse named On-X shows up to find Rainbow Brite and tells her that Spectra is in danger. Rainbow puts two and two together and decides to take Starlite and go with On-X to Spectra. Lucky for us, none of those damn annoying Color Kids come with her.
Elsewhere, Murky overhears the conversation. His ears perk up at the realization that it’s a giant freaking diamond, and he goes off to build a very hilarious rocketship to go on his own trip to Spectra, dragging Lurky along. Unfortunately, they don’t really do anything important and are mostly around for comic relief.
As an aside, I’d like to add that Peter Cullen, the man responsible for giving the iconic Optimus Prime his voice, also does the voice of Murky. Hard to believe, ain’t it?
Prepare to roll your eyes: Rainbow and Starlite travel through outer frigging space on a rainbow, with no protection of any kind whatsoever. I’d like to see anyone over the age of ten suspend their disbelief on that one.
Here we are on Spectra, which ain’t looking so shiny at the moment. The Spectrans, who look suspiciously like Sprites, are being enslaved by big golden robots, amusingly dubbed “Glitterbots”. I guess they put all these robots and stuff in to try to appeal to any little boys who might have been forced to watch this movie because their sisters wanted to see it. Anyway, the Spectrans have been hypnotized into covering the planet with a net-like thing. I know, I know, just stay with me.
On-X starts going on and on about Orin, the one who sent him after Rainbow Brite. Orin is nowhere to be found, though, and they’re being chased by Glitterbots. Cue some action-type stuff.
Fortunately for Rainbow and company, the Glitterbots are mostly retarded. Our heroine and the horses escape, and– quite literally –drop in on a red-headed kid named Krys. Thank God they did, because it would have been pretty damn boring if Rainbow and Starlite had been the only protagonists in this thing. Only thing is, Krys is kind of a sexist jerk. But hey, that makes things more entertaining, right? Yes, it does.
Also, here’s some more voice actor trivia for you: the kid that does Krys’ voice is also the voice of Daniel Witwicky in Transformers: The Movie, which came out the following year. The girl that plays Stormy is his sister. Yeah, I pay attention to voice actors. Blame anime for that.
Anyway, we get no background on Krys. We don’t know where he came from, what he’s doing on Spectra, or why he has those puffy sleeves that look exactly like Rainbow’s. It would have been nice to get even just a little bit of backstory on him, but I guess they figure little kids don’t care about character depth. Truth is, they probably don’t.
So, Krys tells Rainbow Brite that the Princess is responsible for all this foolishness. She’s “wrapping the planet up like a birthday present” because she’s planning on taking it for herself. And no, she doesn’t have a name. She’s just “the Princess”. Frickin’ lazy writers.
Obviously, Rainbow and Krys have to go try to stop her. Well, they’re in for a real treat. The Princess is totally batshit, but at least she has a cool character design.
Krys and Rainbow try to talk some sense into her, to no avail. Not only does the crazy bitch still want to somehow rein in the biggest diamond in the universe, but then she takes Rainbow’s magic belt and throws them both in the dungeon. Why does she want the belt? Because she thinks it’ll look good with her red dress. Not because it shoots out rainbows or anything. I, personally, find this hilarious. Also, it’d probably look better with a black dress, but I digress.
Now it’s up to Starlite and On-X to get the belt back and save their friends. This is surprisingly entertaining to watch. What’s funny is, they actually succeed. Only in an 80s cartoon, folks.
However, the Princess uses her own magic to suck Krys and Rainbow into a pink vortex thing, sending them rocketing through space to some unnamed planet where the Princess apparently keeps all her prisoners.
Thanks to On-X, they bust out of their cell and finally find wise old Orin, who turns out to be one of those little Spectran Sprite guys. For some reason, he has star sprinkles. He also gives Krys a weapon, which is activated by Rainbow’s power. What’s the connection here? It’s never explained. Being a person with an overactive imagination, I have my own theories, but I’ll spare you.
Anyway, Krys kicks some ass with his new prism thingy, and Orin explains to them that they must go back and stop the Princess for good. He says, “Be brave, be bold, and don’t fight with each other!” Of course, since he told them not to fight, they’ve gotta. Damn kids.
Time for the final showdown. I know I haven’t mentioned Murky and Lurky much, but that’s because they’re mostly extraneous until right about now. Rainbow and Krys challenge the Princess and they’re getting their asses handed to them until Murky crashes his rocketship into the middle of the scene. That’s their opening, and together, they destroy the Princess’ magic jewel. And in true cartoon fashion, her palace and all her Glitterbots crumble to pieces.
Needless to say, the Princess is fucking pissed. She jumps into her spaceship, which was meant to grab onto the net around Spectra and pull it, which is pretty much the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Crazier than ever, she declares, “If I can’t have that diamond, no one’s going to have it!” Then everybody suddenly acts like Spectra is made of glass and not diamonds, fearing that the ship will crash and shatter the planet, when actually, the ship would probably just be obliterated on impact. But shhh, kids don’t know that stuff.
Just as the Princess is about to crash, she’s bounced off by the power of the rainbow, and promptly becomes sparkly space dust. Spectra is all shiny again, spring comes to Earth in an instant, Murky and Lurky are lost in space, Krys finally decides Rainbow is okay– for a girl. All is well with the universe. Roll credits.
Speaking of the credits, they play this synthalicious tune called “Rainbow Brite and Me”. I was totally obsessed with this song when I was a little kid. Even now, it’s a guilty pleasure. I still think it’s catchy as hell and…probably the best part of the whole movie. Too bad the opening number couldn’t have been as fun as this.
Overall, I have mixed feelings about this movie. The adult in me knows it’s ridiculous in a lot of ways, likes to make fun of it, and is embarrassed to be seen watching it. But the four-year-old in me still thinks it’s the coolest thing in the world, and probably always will.
It’s good clean fun for little girls (and maybe little boys), which is fine, because that was their target audience anyway. And it certainly could have been a whole lot worse. For a girl’s movie, it’s not as sappy and flowery as you’d think. There’s plenty of action, and lots of dark scenery and atmosphere.
It also has some good messages: girls can kick just as much ass as boys can; being a greedy psycho-bitch who is totally devoid of rational thought is a very bad thing.
The animation is definitely better than TV quality, but it’s not quite of the quality you’d expect from a theatrical release. If Rainbow Brite really did generate a billion dollars in retail sales, the least they could have done was give the movie a bigger animation budget. So, while not an eyesore by any means, it looks kind of dated.
The reason why I still have a special place in my heart for Rainbow Brite is not just due to nostalgia, but because it has some serious potential to be something that’s actually good. I mean, it’s like an American magical girl series. Now that’s something I’d pay to see: a re-imagining of the Rainbow Brite universe.
I never thought I’d hear myself say that.