An eccentric millionaire and his grandchildren are embroiled in the plights of some forest gnomes who are searching for the rest of their tribe. While helping them, the millionaire is suspected of being crazy because he's seeing gnomes! He's committed, and the niece and nephew and the gnomes have to find him and free him.
Walter Brennan ... D.J. Mulrooney / Knobby
Matthew Garber ... Rodney
Karen Dotrice ... Elizabeth
Richard Deacon ... Ralph Yarby
Tom Lowell ... Jasper
Sean McClory ... Horatio Quaxton
Ed Wynn ... Rufus
Jerome Cowan ... Dr. Ramsey
Charles Lane ... Dr. Scoggins
Norman Grabowski ... Male Nurse
Gil Lamb ... Gas Attendant
Maudie Prickett ... Katie Barrett
Cami Sebring ... Violet
I've always remembered Tom Lowell as Canoe, Hayley Mills beatnik boyfriend in That Darn Cat, since I saw that movie in the auditorium back in school in the seventies.
Later, I would learn he was the orderly that Cornelius killed in Escape from Planet of the Apes. I was puzzled as to how he became reduced to such a bit part, then seemed to vanish from sight. He never appeared on Love Boat or Fantasy Island, for crying out loud!
Lo and behold, I come across a movie called The Gnomemobile in the movie store. And it had Tom Lowell in it.
So I buy it. With Lowell as Jasper the gnome, the children from Mary Poppins (which, oddly enough was how they were credited) and Walter Brennan for some unexplained reason in a dual role, this movie could have been on the level of Mary Poppins, Sound of Music, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Willie Wonka.
So what went wrong? Over half the movie is spent on trying to get Grandpa out of the nuthouse.
With a cast involving Maudie PIckett, Ellen Corby, Frank Cady, Richard Deacon and Alby Moore, they all would have stood out well had the movie made them gnomes along with Ed Wynn.
So who was supposed to want to see this movie? If girls were supposed to think Lowell was cute, why does he sit out so much of the movie. He only gets one closeup toward the end as well.
So were small children supposed to like the Mary Poppins children?
Was Grandpa gnome or doodene supposed to be comically likable? Grandpa gnome maybe, but like Lowell, he sat out the majority of the movie.
Once the movie got back to the woods, those beautiful woods, and we see Jasper trying to find a bride, the movie gets cute again.
Even the talking animals, the birds, the owl and the raccoon, were all nice to see, but they aren't seen over five minutes at the beginning, then they are gone.
Effects-wise, especially in regards to the double filming, this was all done very well.
I must have caught some of this decades ago on the Wonderful World of Disney, as it all came back to me in strange shadowy flashbacks.
Still it could have worked, even with gnomes singing that silly song instead of grandpa doodene. Ellen Corby, Frank Cady and Alby Moore would have been hysterical singing that thing.
I saw it years ago, before BETA system was erased from the earth, and I still sing the songs from time to time. It is like a weird cross between Mary Poppins, Herbie and fragile rock. It was really amusing and as I said, with some catchy songs. Maybe the special effects are a little bit old-fashioned, but I am sure it is now as charming as it was then. I remember, maybe, the good being too god and the bad guys being too bad but, after all, it's supposed to be for kids!
It's also one of those real image movies from Disney, a little bit forgotten, I don't know why. When home video was striking the world, many titles as this one were released, and now with the DVD explosion, some interesting movies, just like this one, seems to be passed by. I think this is much better than "lizzie McGuire" and all that "princess Disney" stuff and things like that. At least, a movie like "the gnome-Mobile", does say something, not just "hey! be cool and buy clothes" when you read between the lines.
One of the most charming fantasies that Walt Disney ever produced was The Gnomemobile. Even seeing it at the age 20 I was rather pleased with this wonderful kid's film. And if you've imbibed in any spirits while viewing it, The Gnomemobile can be quite a trip if you get my drift.
The creators of Mary Poppins almost duplicated their success with The Gnomemobile. Walter Brennan gets to play a dual role, a reprise of the business tycoon from his series, The Tycoon and a mini me version of himself as a leader of a tribe of gnomes.
These little folks live deep in the forest that Brennan's lumber company keeps chopping down and depriving them of a home. I imagine if this had an Irish locale, the wee ones would speak with a brogue and be called leprechauns.
Anyway Brennan the tycoon has a couple of more little ones now, his grandchildren played by Matthew Garber and Karen Dotrice the kids from Mary Poppins. They work on grandpa and he takes an interest in the plight of the gnomes. But to help them grandpa faces some considerable opposition, not the least of which that folks just don't believe in the wee folk.
The Gnomemobile marks the farewell performance of Ed Wynn who was a delightful performer who had been in show business for over 60 years when he passed away. Wynn plays one of the gnomes and a rival of sorts to Brennan's mini me.
The Shermans, Robert M. and Richard B. wrote the musical score for The Gnomemobile and while it doesn't provide any lasting songs like Mary Poppins, the score is serviceable enough for the film.
It's as charming as it ever was, but what a gas it is if you're indulging.