Rainbow

Aside from occasional moments, the same could be said for Hoskins' film, which has an intriguing premise but lacks the production values to make the idea really sing. In a beard and long wig, Hoskins plays a slightly batty amateur magician, Frank, whose youngest grandson, 10-year-old Mike (Willy Lavendal), discovers the foot of a rainbow in a railroad siding. His school chums (Jonathan Schuman, Eleanor Misrahi) are initially skeptical but later join him in building equipment to calculate where the next rainbow will touch down. When one appears, the trio (plus Mike's older brother, Steven) pedal off like the tornado hunters in "Twister," and next thing they're swept up into the sky, "riding the rainbow."

With:
Frank Bailey ... Bob Hoskins Sheriff Wyatt Hampton ... Dan Aykroyd Sam Cohen ... Saul Rubinek Jackie Bailey ... Terry Finn Steven ... Jacob Tierney Mike ... Willy Lavendal Pete ... Jonathan Schuman Tissy ... Eleanor Misrahi Old Man ... Jack Fisher Aneat idea gets shortchanged by untidy direction and loose scripting in "Rainbow," a kidpic about a bunch of New Jersey brats whose tampering with one of nature's wonders almost leads to the end of civilization as we know it. Bob Hoskins' second stint behind the camera has the same kind of whimsical-didactic edge as "The Raggedy Rawney" (1988) but fails to underpin it with a story that can bear the weight. Pic may scrape by in ancillary, but there doesn't look like any pot of gold waiting at the theatrical end. In many respects, "Rainbow" is more notable on its technical side, being the latest and most sophisticated attempt to bypass shooting on celluloid -- an approach that effectively started with the Electronovision production of "Harlow" (1965) and resurfaced in the mid-'70s with the grungy-looking "Norman ... Is That You?" and in the telepic "Victory at Entebbe." Shot on Sony's digital High-Definition Video System and later transferred to 35mm, "Rainbow" is a huge advance on those earlier vid-to-film pics: In motionless closeups, the image is almost indistinguishable from one shot on 35mm. But quality starts to deteriorate rapidly in medium shots and, especially, long shots, with blurring in scenes of motion and overall fuzzy definition. In general, colors look flat and lack vitality.

Aside from occasional moments, the same could be said for Hoskins’ film, which has an intriguing premise but lacks the production values to make the idea really sing. In a beard and long wig, Hoskins plays a slightly batty amateur magician, Frank, whose youngest grandson, 10-year-old Mike (Willy Lavendal), discovers the foot of a rainbow in a railroad siding. His school chums (Jonathan Schuman, Eleanor Misrahi) are initially skeptical but later join him in building equipment to calculate where the next rainbow will touch down. When one appears, the trio (plus Mike’s older brother, Steven) pedal off like the tornado hunters in “Twister,” and next thing they’re swept up into the sky, “riding the rainbow.”

Where should they be set down but (you guessed it) Kansas, setting off a media frenzy about how they managed to travel 1,200 miles in a couple of hours. After a run-in with a dumb local cop (Dan Aykroyd), they eventually make it back to N.J., where their elders, apart from Frank, tag them as monstrous fibbers.

Soon after, however, the universe starts to slip out of joint: Colors start fading, the temperature rises, people turn ornery, and riots break out. Turns out that because Steven stole some nuggets of gold while riding the rainbow, the balance of the spectrum has been disturbed and photosynthesis cannot take place. No photosynthesis, no oxygen; no oxygen, no human life. The kids have only a few hours to retrieve the nuggets and implant them in the next rainbow.

It’s a clever idea that makes full use of the ability to play with colors in the video process, and the last half-hour, set in a world devoid of color, is often genuinely unsettling. (Film buffs will recall Marius Goring’s well-known line from Michael Powell’s “Stairway to Heaven,” when he sets foot in the living world: “One is starved for Technicolor up there.”) The problem is that Hoskins and the scriptwriters fail to elevate the material in a way that someone like Spielberg could have done with major resources and a genuinely wonder-full approach.

The other problem is script’s structure, which sets up story and characters in a haphazard, confusing way and then takes a major left turn for an embarrassingly unfunny section in Kansas with Aykroyd chasing the kids around an airport.

With a wobbly American accent, Hoskins mostly coasts as an avuncular eccentric, mouthing platitudes like “Don’t just dream the dream, be the dream” and getting by asa kind of Burl Ives on a bad-hair day. Other roles are better played, with the four kids fine and Saul Rubinek and Terry Finn performing yeoman service as the understanding teacher and overworked mother-with-a-career, respectively.

Pic, which shot in Montreal, reps a curious late-career entry for veteran British lenser-turned-horror-director Freddie Francis, 79, who worked as a camera operator on “Moulin Rouge” and second-unit d.p. on “Moby Dick,” two distinguished ’50s color productions by John Huston.

Rainbow

(CANADIAN-BRITISH)

Production: A First Independent release (in U.K.) of a Winchester Pictures/Filmline Intl. presentation, in association with Winchester Multimedia and Sony High Definition. Produced by Robert Sidaway, Nicolas Clermont. Executive producers, Gary Smith, Mike Prince, Graham Hampson Silk, Philip Hampson Silk. Directed by Bob Hoskins. Screenplay, Ashley Sidaway, Robert Sidaway, based on an original story by Ashley Sidaway.

Crew: Camera (prints by Technicolor), Freddie Francis; electronic cinematography supervisor, John Galt; supervising editor, Ashley Sidaway; editor, Ray Lovejoy; music, Alan Reeves; production design, Claude Pare; art direction, Paola Ridolfi; costume design, Janet Campbell; sound design (Dolby, SDDS), Claude Langlois, Mychel B. Bordeleau; visual/digital effects supervisor, Steven Robiner; special effects coordinator, Ryal Cosgrove. Reviewed at Warner West End 3 theater, London, July 28, 1996. Running time: 99 MIN.

With: Frank Bailey ... Bob Hoskins Sheriff Wyatt Hampton ... Dan Aykroyd Sam Cohen ... Saul Rubinek Jackie Bailey ... Terry Finn Steven ... Jacob Tierney Mike ... Willy Lavendal Pete ... Jonathan Schuman Tissy ... Eleanor Misrahi Old Man ... Jack Fisher Aneat idea gets shortchanged by untidy direction and loose scripting in "Rainbow," a kidpic about a bunch of New Jersey brats whose tampering with one of nature's wonders almost leads to the end of civilization as we know it. Bob Hoskins' second stint behind the camera has the same kind of whimsical-didactic edge as "The Raggedy Rawney" (1988) but fails to underpin it with a story that can bear the weight. Pic may scrape by in ancillary, but there doesn't look like any pot of gold waiting at the theatrical end. In many respects, "Rainbow" is more notable on its technical side, being the latest and most sophisticated attempt to bypass shooting on celluloid -- an approach that effectively started with the Electronovision production of "Harlow" (1965) and resurfaced in the mid-'70s with the grungy-looking "Norman ... Is That You?" and in the telepic "Victory at Entebbe." Shot on Sony's digital High-Definition Video System and later transferred to 35mm, "Rainbow" is a huge advance on those earlier vid-to-film pics: In motionless closeups, the image is almost indistinguishable from one shot on 35mm. But quality starts to deteriorate rapidly in medium shots and, especially, long shots, with blurring in scenes of motion and overall fuzzy definition. In general, colors look flat and lack vitality.

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