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It was one of the last films personally produced by Walt Disney. However it’s not a particularly well-known film. Since there’s nothing more I can say in the introduction, let’s jump straight into the review. Let’s take a look at The Gnome-Mobile.
As the movie begins, we’re introduced to the character of D.J. Mulrooney, played by 3-time Academy Award-winning actor, Walter Brennan.
D.J. is an incredibly rich man who’s made a fortune in the lumber industry. On this particular day, he’s rushing to the airport because he has to meet two very important people: his grandchildren.
Jane and Michael Elizabeth and Rodney, played by Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber, respectively, have arrived at the airport to spend some time with their grandfather. D.J. decides to take Jane and Michael Elizabeth and Rodney to one of his forest reserves for a picnic.
Ok look, you and I both know that we’re not going to ever be able to call these kids, Elizabeth and Rodney. Every time we see them, we’re only going to think of Jane and Michael. So to make it easier, I’m just going to refer to them as Jane and Michael for the remainder of the review. It’s just been so cemented into our heads that they’re the Mary Poppins kids, Jane and Michael. Heck, even the opening credits uses this billing to their advantage.
Back to the movie, when they reach the forest, Jane goes exploring the forest for a bit and soon comes upon a little person.
No, I mean a gnome. Yep, Jane meets a gnome. Apparently, gnomes are real creatures who live in the forest and do their best to keep out of sight from humans. But this particular gnome, Jasper, played by Tom Lowell, is desperate as he and his grandfather are the last two remaining gnomes in this forest. The others have all gone away or died due to the forest being chopped down. Jasper’s desperate to find other gnomes, girl gnomes, in particular, so that he can settle down and get married.
Jane hurries back to show her grandfather and brother the gnome. At first, they of course don’t believe her and think she just imagined it, but Jasper soon shows himself and explains his situation.
A bit startled at the sight of a gnome, D.J. takes the whole situation somewhat well, in my opinion. Jasper soon leads them to his grandfather, Knobby, also played by Walter Brennan. Knobby is a 900+ year-old, irascible, gnome who seems to have given up hope of finding other gnomes. Knobby is extremely against the idea of seeking the humans’ help in finding other gnomes, but after some convincing from Jasper and a promise from D.J. that no harm or humiliation will come to them as they go to another forest, Knobby gives in.
As they all drive in D.J.’s Rolls-Royce, the car is then deemed “the gnome-mobile” and a Sherman Brothers song is then sung.
D.J. also doesn’t let the gnomes know that his last name is Mulrooney because the gnomes feel that the Mulrooney company was the main company responsible for the destruction of the forest and subsequent loss/exodus of the gnomes.
Soon night overtakes them, so D.J. decides that they should all spend the night in one of the hotels that he owns before heading to the other forest in the morning. They hide the gnomes in the picnic basket to prevent anyone from seeing them. But, as you can imagine, since D.J. is in his own hotel, his name gets mentioned and Knobby throws a fit in the picnic basket when he realizes that he’s in the hands of Mulrooney himself.
Once they get to the privacy of their room, D.J. lets the gnomes out and he and Knobby have a go at it. Knobby accuses D.J. of kidnapping him and D.J. tries to convince Knobby that he only wants to help him and none of what Knobby thinks about him is true.
After D.J. leaves the room in a rage, a passing-by traveling showman, Horatio Quaxton, played by Sean McClory, discovers the gnomes in D.J.’s hotel room. He takes advantage of D.J.’s absence to kidnap the gnomes to use in his show.
When they discover that the gnomes are gone, D.J. and his grandkids, decide to seek help. Since going to the police will make this appear in the newspapers, D.J. decides to seek the assistance of one of his employees, Ralph Yarby, played by Richard Deacon. And of course, once Mr. Yarby hears this story of the gnomes, he thinks that D.J. has completely lost his marbles. So, he tricks D.J. into seeing a psychiatrist by telling him that he’s going to see a private detective. D.J. suspects nothing until two of the asylum workers grab a hold of him and take him to his room for further treatment and rest.
Jane and Michael soon hear about this and decide to rescue their grandfather. Surprisingly, they actually succeed in this endeavor.
While driving back, Michael tells his grandfather that he noticed a travelling showman at the hotel that night. D.J. thinks for sure that this must be the guy responsible and soon finds out that Quaxton is taking refuge in a cabin somewhere. They drive to the cabin, overpower Quaxton, and rescue Jasper and Knobby.
Knobby has since gotten over his rage and D.J. and the kids head to the forest that they promised to take the gnomes to. However, they’re chased by Mr. Yarby and two of the asylum workers in a quite comedic car chase. Luckily, D.J. and the gang manage to escape.
Finally, D.J. and the gang reach the new forest and discover that there is a colony of gnomes in this forest led by Rufus, played by Ed Wynn, in his last film appearance. And to Jasper’s delight, the colony includes a good number of beautiful, eligible maidens. He falls for one named Violet, played by Cami Sebring. However, there’s a special rule in this colony. The groom doesn’t choose the bride. Instead the groom is lathered in soap and the girls have to try to catch him. Whoever can hold on to Jasper for 7 seconds is the winner and gets to be his bride!
The game goes by quite enjoyably although Violet is often always pushed to the side by some of the other stronger, meaner girls. Thankfully though, Violet ends up winning the game and she and Jasper are soon wed. As a wedding present, D.J. promises to take all the gnomes back to his forest where they will be free to live in peace for eternity. As they all head back to that forest, we get to hear that “gnome-mobile” song once more.
And that was The Gnome-Mobile. It’s a pleasant enough film. Walter Brennan does an amazing job portraying both D.J. and the gnome, Knobby. Almost all the other actors do a great job too and are enjoyable to watch.
The special effects are similar to those from Darby O’Gill and the Little People and hold up very well for this day. The “gnome-mobile” song isn’t one of the Sherman Brothers’ best, but it’s catchy and simple enough to be sung. Overall, the movie isn’t amazing, but one can get some level of enjoyment from it.
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So, the final score for this film is 26/35 = 74.29% (C) !
The next review will be posted on September 21st.
6 thoughts on “The Gnome-Mobile (1967)”
Great review! I actually grew up watching this film a lot and what’s funny is I saw it so much more often than Mary Poppins that I might be one of the few people who had the opposite reaction: “Oh look, it’s those kids from the Gnome-Mobile in Mary Poppins!”
I do love Mary Poppins, now…I just came to it later. 🙂
That’s interesting! I’ve never met anyone who’s seen this film much less one who’s seen it that often.
And you know these kids are in yet one more Disney movie that I haven’t reviewed yet?
I think my family came across the Gnome-Mobile at the library and checked it out a lot. It was also the first movie that introduced me to Walter Brennan.
Oh, I didn’t know they did three movies together. Are they siblings again in the third one?
I’m not sure; I haven’t seen it.
Very nice review! To be honest, even though it looks very similar to ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People’, I might be tempted to give this one a rent at some point, if for no other reason than to see Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber in another film.
They’re in yet one more live-action Disney film that I haven’t reviewed yet 😉 !