Disney In Review has proven to be an interesting source of writing material for me. So far, we’ve dealt with a post-divorce identity crisis in Mom’s Got a Date With a Vampire, crippling mother issues in Smart House, and the plea to not turn your passion into a career in Brink! This week, I took a look at what I remember as my favorite Disney Channel Original Movie: Don’t Look Under the Bed, and boy was it not great.
There seems to be a trend with these reviews, and it’s that I almost always end up hating the movie. At the very least, I’m annoyed. I think it’s the way that Disney always takes a simple idea, blows it up to larger-than-life proportions, and then goes about making their main character the absolute worst. They certainly accomplish that in this movie. Don’t Look Under the Bed revolves around the main character of Francis Bacon McCausland. I wish I were joking. I wish from the core of my essence as a human being that I were joking. Francis. Bacon. McCausland. Disney breaks a new record in lack of subtlety here because yes, Francis is a firm believer in science and logic like the scientist Francis Bacon, and yes, she is the cause of all the problems in the movie. “There’s no way it can get any worse,” you say, but oh god how you are wrong. These movies can always get worse, because Francis has two brothers: Albert and Darwin. I’ll give you a moment to scream into a pillow.
So, the movie starts off with weird things happening around the town: dogs end up on roofs, clocks inexplicably fast forward. Someone puts gelatin in the school swimming pool and turns it into bright red jello, a fact that no one on a team of twelve swimmers seemed to notice before diving in. The letter B is graffitied all over town (on lockers, on the bottoms of people’s shoes) and is absolutely never explained at any point. The best “answer” we get is that people seem to think this is all Francis’s fault because her middle name is Bacon. Hence, B. Before you ask, no. It doesn’t make sense. I’ll just go ahead and spoil the movie for you because the awful writing and character development is mainly what I’m here to talk about.
So, weird things are happening around the town and Francis is being blamed for it because she has the letter B in her name. Francis keeps seeing this guy around, but no one else appears to be able to see him. This guy’s name is Larry and he’s awesome. He’s the only good part about this movie. Larry Houdini (sigh) is an imaginary friend, but he’s not Francis’s imaginary friend. He’s Dawin’s imaginary friend, Francis’s younger brother. Larry is hot on the trail of the Boogeyman, the culprit behind all of the mischief in the town. We find out at the end that the Boogeyman is actually Zoey, the imaginary friend that Francis used to have before she chose to stop believing in her. We are told that if you stop believing in your imaginary friend before the time is right, they turn into Boogeymen and that’s exactly what happened to Zoey. Francis and Larry save the day by stopping Zoey the Boogeyman and turning her back into her normal form and yada yada yada life is great now. The reason all this non-believing started happening was because Darwin came down with a bit of leukemia. Albert, the older brother volunteered to do a bone marrow transplant and save Darwin’s life, but Francis convinced Darwin to grow up in order to not be afraid of his imminent death. There we have it: the basic plot. But the problem here isn’t with the theme of “growing up and losing your imagination is bad,” the problem is that Francis is the worst character I’ve encountered thus far.
Francis is written to be the very epitome of logic. When the clocks inexplicably fast forward, she collects the names, numbers, and addresses of people in the school in order to run a statistical analysis on the event. She uses the phrase “it’s the only logical conclusion” about ten times in the first twenty minutes of the movie. While firmly believing in logic isn’t a bad thing, she takes it beyond any and all rationality. Francis fails to understand that Larry is not real. She continually makes a fool out of herself by attempting to prove that he exists, despite every bit of evidence to the contrary. For such a “smart” character, Francis is an absolute idiot. Rather than accepting that perhaps this person who no one else but herself and little children can see is imaginary, she accepts the idea that Larry is constantly hypnotizing the people around him in order to make Francis seem crazy. Oh, you read that correctly. In an attempt to understand how her daughter could be behind all of the pranks in the town, Francis’s mother, in all seriousness, forms a theory that someone is hypnotizing the children of the town and making them act like miscreants.
So you think someone is coming into this house to control our kids’ minds?” the father asks. “How could they do that?”
At that very moment, Albert turns on the television, which immediately begins playing an infomercial. Jesus christ, Disney. Really?
And Francis completely buys into her mom’s mass hysteria idea, citing it as “the only possible explanation,” as if she’d already worked through and eliminated the other ones. So yes, Larry literally defies the laws of physics by walking on air and she still doesn’t believe he is imaginary. She is so stubbornly pro-logic that she actually ignores hard, concrete evidence on the basis that imaginary friends haven’t been proven to exist yet. While yes, that’s solid logic to start from, if a man can walk on air, disappear, change clothes in the blink of an eye, and BECOME A LITERAL TELEVISION PROGRAM, you might want to alter your outlook.
By the end of this movie, you will hate Francis with every fiber of your being. Early on, she expresses resentment toward Albert, her older brother. She does this by saying that although he volunteered to save his little brother’s life by donating bone marrow, all he really did was lie on a table while the doctors did the real saving. Francis Bacon McCausland is somehow more unlikable than Val from Brink! And in case any of you forgot, Val literally tried to murder someone.