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DISNEY TRIPLE FEATURES 'NO DEPOSIT, NO RETURN' WITH 'HOT LEAD & COLD FEET' AND 'THE BAREFOOT EXECUTIVE'

Year: 1976 Rating: **
NO DEPOSIT, NO RETURN: Disney flick with Don Knotts whose usual, more natural Tim Conway sidekick is replaced by Darren McGavin as one of two dimwitted brother-in-law safecrackers tangled with two prep-school kids...

The girl being Kim Richards (your author's first crush, as made public on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, episode The Curse of Carlton taking place at an autograph show) who, along with familiar child actor face Brad Savage, ditch their stuffy grandfather David Niven at the airport, and the kids learn their thief-pals owe money to a crime boss (Vic Tayback) and to help they come up with a plan to fake a kidnapping. The ransom by wealthy gramps will bring in the money needed. Niven keeps avoiding the payments, knowing it's all a practical joke. And other than some car chases and Don Knotts chasing a pet skunk, that's about the gist of it. It all seems like a bunch of actors stuck in a constrained story. McGavin is miscast as Knott's straight man and Knotts isn't very funny as the doofus. There are better Disney flicks. Take CANDLESHOE, also starring David Niven (with Jodie Foster as the kid) and involving wily kids who, unlike this, have a decent, more interesting premise to follow.

Year: 1978 Rating: **1/2
HOT LEAD & COLD FEET: Having watched this movie as a kid the only scenes remembered were of Don Knotts involved in unsuccessful take-ten-paces-and-draw showdowns. But the main storyline is about two brothers... played by the same actor, Jim Dale, a Disney regular and now very obscure... one a mean gunslinger the other a preachy do-gooder taking part in a race involving mini stream-engine trains, canoes down rapids and mountain-climbing, all in order to inherit a load of money from their crazy white-bearded father (also played by Dale... the white Eddie Murphy of his time)...

The good brother wants the money for... good reasons (building a church with tough and pretty school teacher Karen Valentine and two savvy orphans) and the bad brother wants the money for — you get the idea. The town bullies and the crooked banker, along with Disney 1970's go-to Darren McGavin, are rooting for the villain because they have something to gain, sabotaging the good brother in a tortoise-vs-hare fashion throughout this semi-funny Disney film with enough happening to keep you interested, although the build-up, introducing the siblings in contrasting lives before they meet, fares better than the wacky race: which not only gets tiresome but neglects the other characters. And those Don Knotts scenes happen only sporadically; he's sort of a cameo-with-hiccups.

Year: 1971 Rating: *1/2
THE BAREFOOT EXECUTIVE: Disney's child-teen regular's regular Kurt Russell plays a climber. A dreamer. A junior college student working as a gopher at a television studio, and he wants to be a programmer but has no idea what shows are good... And most important — his girlfriend adopts a chimp who also sits and watches TV, with a twist...

The chimp sits mesmerized when he likes a show, and goes bonkers when he doesn't. It turns out, the chimp has a pulse on what shows work and what shows don't as later indicated by the ratings. And if the same monkey were watching this film it'd commit suicide, and yet, somehow, it's not that entirely god-awful, with some entertaining chase scenes. But overall this standard by-the-numbers live-action Disney film that never really evolves just isn't worth the climb.
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