The road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. Walking up that road are The Oogieloves, a trio of the most cloyingly unbearable characters a parent could ever introduce to their preschool child.
These characters are the star of "The Oogieloves in The Big Balloon Adventure," which is 83 minutes of cinematic candy for kids in that it's brightly colored, makes them jump up and down, and is ultimately really bad for them.
The Oogieloves are giant puppet-like humanoids who look like escapees from the "Barney" compound. They are: Goobie, a clever inventor; Zoozie, who loves animals and speaks many languages; and Toofie, who's fearless and refuses to wear a belt. They live in the village of LovelyLovelyville, in a cottage overseen by their nervous minder J. Edgar an upright vacuum cleaner and Windy, a disembodied smiling face in the window.
The Oogieloves are planning a birthday party for their friend, Schluufy, a pink pillow. But the five magic balloons they intend to give to Schluufy float away. So the Oogieloves have to retrieve the balloons, guided by Windy's directions and accompanied by their fish, Ruffy.
For each balloon, the Oogieloves encounter a helpful new friend: Cloris Leachman as a circle-loving grandma, Chazz Palminteri as a milkshake mogul, Toni Braxton as a sneezing soul singer, Cary Elwes as a bubble-blowing cowboy, and Jamie Pressly and Christopher Lloyd as a salsa dancer and her bongo-beating accompanist.
At each stop, the Oogieloves must perform some kind of dance or movement exercise and the preschoolers in the audience are invited to join in, with onscreen visual cues to tell them when it's time to get out of their seats.
Any parent whose kids went through their Teletubbies phase will recognize the Crayola-colored palette and playful pantomime going on here. (Producer Kenn Viselman cut his teeth marketing the Teletubbies in America, and worked in vain to make a Teletubbies movie.) But the Teletubbies included quiet moments, which allowed space for its pint-sized audience to breathe. Director Matthew Diamond and writer Scott Stabile don't leave any moments for rest in this overly frenetic story.
That's just one of the movie's many missteps. Some of the audience-participation numbers particularly Braxton's slow and inappropriately sultry solo aren't the sort of bouncy uptempo songs that get little bodies moving. The overall look is cheesy and chintzy, and the false cheeriness becomes ultimately oppressive.
Frankly, I worry for the poor child for whom "The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure" is their first movie experience. He'll think that you're supposed to get up out of your seat and talk back to the screen, "Rocky Horror"-style, all the time. They may also believe that all movies are as poorly crafted and manic as this one.
'The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure'
They're fuzzy, they're colorful, they're cloying, and they're coming for your preschool child.
Where • Area theaters.
When • Opens Wednesday, Aug. 29.
Rating • G.
Running time • 83 minutes.