Movie Review: The Three Caballeros

by David Sokol
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three caballeros

  • MPAA Rating: G
  • Running Time: 71 minutes
  • Recommended for: ages 5+

Filmed in Technicolor, the animation is charming and clever, and the various narrators have young-kid-friendly voices. There are plenty of interesting (but hardly academic) geographical and historic references, and lots of likable characters, beginning with Pablo the adventurous penguin, the little gauchito, and of course Donald Duck himself. There are Spanish words sprinkled in throughout, and everyone who likes Donald and his occasionally indecipherable diction will be tickled by his goofy antics.

Kids Will Like:
The film's various sections have nice pacing, and young viewers will be charmed by the simple stories that paint the world as an exciting place, full of eye-popping color and adventure. The scene where the little gauchito, aboard his flying donkey (Burrito), comes out of nowhere to win a big race is a hoot. Kids will also be drawn in by the movie's lush backgrounds and rich animation, including a particularly funny shape-shifting Donald.

Parents Will Like:
Besides the cozy, and then colorfully flashy, look of the movie and its storylines, parents will like the nostalgic, innocent feel and south-of-the-border music. Also to be appreciated is the before-its-time juxtaposition of live-action and cartoon elements, which is where José and a girl-crazy Donald dance wildly with Aurora Miranda and a band of musicians and dancers. But more than the light storylines, it's really the up-tempo and beautifully drawn visuals that are most likely to engage grown-ups ... and kids too.

Heads Up:
There are some innocently made references, like to two toucans making love ("when they're beak to beak, they can't get cheek to cheek"). The little "Flying Gauchito" takes a knife to hunt a condor bird (who turns out to be a friendly flying donkey). José Carioca, fresh out of the gift box is smoking a cigar (as he speaks in Portuguese), which Donald quickly grabs for his own purposes. Donald, later, dances with real-life Aurora Miranda, who can be mildly and teasingly seductive. Then, when Panchito, the third "gay caballero," makes his entrance, it's with guns blazing wildly (into the ground and off into space, of course). In another scene, from the flying carpet, caballero Panchito somewhat innocently refers to some very-real women sunbathing below as "the hot stuff," and they playfully fly close to the ground and temporarily scare the ladies. Moments later, Donald is love struck when a singer tells him, "You belong to my heart now and forever." The tender scene is broken up by a strange sequence with guns shooting flowers and an oddly dreamlike reprise of the Three Caballeros theme. Firecrackers and fireworks end the film in a happy burst of sound and color.

Own It?
Available as a "2-Movie Collection" two-fer also containing Saludos Amigos (originally released in the U.S. in early 1943), this is a good deal, particularly for serious Donald aficionados and fans of early-Disney animated work. A visually beautiful feast for the eyes, The Three Caballeros has aged nicely, and kids of all ages will enjoy repeated viewings. For older kids and adults, the historic special features make the package even sweeter.

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