Candleshoe (DVD, 2004) Reviews
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Candleshoe (DVD, 2004)

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A Troubled Teen Seeks Her Fortune in Candleshoe

Dec 6, 2011
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:David Niven, gorgeous scenery, redemptive story

Cons:two of the orphans aren't very developed

The Bottom Line: "The whole world's a racket. First thing I ever learned. You get up out of bed in the morning with your dukes up."

It’s rather rare for me to happen upon a Disney movie I’ve never heard of before, but such was the case with Candleshoe, a 1977 movie directed by frequent Disney director Norman Tokar and based on a book by Michael Innes. Though the book was entitled Christmas at Candleshoe, the movie isn’t tied to that season; while I love movies with a Christmas theme, it’s probably just as well that this one lacks it because that makes it more likely to be watched year-round.

Candleshoe stars a young Jodie Foster as Casey, a tough-talking street teen who reminds me of Jesse, the surly thug-in-training in Free Willy. The movies share similar scenes at the beginning of kids running rampant in the streets, wreaking havoc, and those scenes seem to end in a similar way too until it becomes apparent that Casey has been apprehended not by the cops but by a petty crook with a complex scheme.

In a storyline that made me think very much of Don Bluth’s Anastasia, the bearded Bundage (Leo McKern) and his sour accomplice Grimsworthy (Vivian Pickles) plan to groom Casey, who looks remarkably like the long-lost granddaughter of wealthy widow Lady St. Edmund (Helen Hayes). If they can convince the old lady that her beloved relative has returned, Casey will be in an ideal position to find her late husband’s fabled treasure. Other elements akin to Anastasia are a loose brick in the wall, a song from a music box as a bond between a woman and her grandchild, and a waltz in a decrepit room that recalls memories of regal magnificence. It makes me wonder whether Bluth was inspired by this movie at all.

Unlike the titular orphan in that animated classic, Los Angeles-based Casey doesn’t much care about her roots, but she agrees to Bundage’s plot because it means an all-expenses-paid trip to an English estate, where she presumes she will live in the lap of luxury, and a cut of the spoils once she finds the treasure. She is also a skilled con artist herself, and it is her skill that grants her entry into Lady St. Edmund’s household. However, as she begins to compile clues, she makes two startling discoveries: this aristocrat is no longer wealthy, and she actually likes the old woman and her ramshackle family. Will she have the heart to go through with her plan under these new circumstances?

The supporting cast is great, with David Niven the clear standout as the devoted Priory, Lady St. Edmund’s butler who performs multiple roles in an effort to protect her from finding out that the rest of the staff had to be let go due to insufficient funds. Most of the movie’s funniest moments involve him frantically juggling guises, a charade known to the four waifs who call the castle of Candleshoe home.

Of these, we see the most of Cluny (Veronica Quilligan), a somewhat stuffy girl around Casey’s age who is deeply suspicious of her when she arrives. The only orphan who isn’t is Bobby (David Samuels), an adorable little rascal who takes to her immediately. Hayes, who I love so much in Herbie Rides Again, isn’t quite as feisty in this movie but still is a sweet-natured woman willing to fight for the home her husband gave her, the same battle she wages in Herbie Rides Again, though she joins the battle much later here.

This movie has plenty of humor to it between Niven’s role-switching, the children’s squabbling and Bundage’s clumsy efforts to make sure Casey holds up her end of the bargain. Nonetheless, I’d classify this as more of a drama than a comedy. There’s a wistful tone to much of the film, and its central element is Casey’s development from a cynical pickpocket to someone willing to open her heart to love amidst the gorgeous ruins of a once-grand country mansion. As few tales move me more than those that involve the redemption of a troubled character, that’s hardly a complaint. I don’t know why it took me so long to find out about Candleshoe, but I’m very glad I did.

This review is a part of the All Things Disney Write-Off and the Lean and Mean X Write-Off.

Recommend this product? Yes

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Format: DVD. Release Date: 6/1/2004
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