Grade: A-
Entire family: Yes
1964, 118 min., Color
Romantic comedy/Adventure
Olive Films
Not rated (would be PG for some peril and adult drinking)
Aspect ratio: anamorphic widescreen (16×9)
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA Mono
Bonus features: C+
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Amazon link

As I wrote when Olive released a no-frills Blu-ray of this title in 2014, Father Goose is one of those rare films that appeals not only to lovers of the genre—in this case, romantic comedy—but others as well. There’s humor and WWII adventure in this amiable 1964 film, which will make it appealing to boys in the family. The girls, meanwhile, will be won over by the seven schoolgirls of varying ages that are rescued by a reluctant (and still very funny and attractive in his second-to-last film) Cary Grant. Much of the humor is based on the contrast between Grant’s scruffy character and “proper” behavior, with the girls as engaging as any child actors I’ve seen.

Grant plays teacher-turned-beachcomber Walter Eckland, who dropped out of the world and in return just wants the world to leave him alone. Though war in the Pacific is raging all around him, he’s determined to be neutral and uninvolved. We first meet him when he turns up at British-Australian naval base that’s under fire, and, bothered more by a pelican that keeps hitching a ride on the boat he recently bought than by shells exploding all around him, he proceeds to try to “borrow” cans of gasoline and rations.

That plays right into the hands of the dockmaster, an old friend named Houghton (Trevor Howard) who’s been ordered to evacuate and set up shop coordinating more than 30 coast watchers spread across the Pacific islands. He needs one more coast watcher and Walter needs supplies, so they strike a deal . . . which Walter had no intention of abiding by, until Houghton “accidentally” rams his boat and forces him to make for the island. Then, to get Walter to actually report Japanese airplane and ship movements, Houghton hides bottles of scotch whiskey and gives Walter the directions to a bottle for every confirmed sighting.

Walter never gets drunk, and his drinking is played for laughs, so most parents won’t find it objectionable. After all, there is a war on, and when Walter ends up rescuing a pretty young teacher (Leslie Caron) and her charges, she immediately sets about trying to reform him. He may be gruff, but he’s still a likable fellow that the girls find as appealing as their teacher does. Sparks eventually fly, and the action intensifies, and in no time at all you’re rooting for this pair of opposites to come together in spite of all that’s happening in the world around them.

It’s one of the better Cary Grant films to introduce children to, and one of Grant’s most likeable performances. It’s also a darned good “starter” romantic comedy because of all the other distractions. Don’t expect a laugh-out-loud comedy—just a lot of smiles, and a little tension, too, as the world threatens to tear this couple apart before they can even come together. It’s a fun, light adventure that’s perfect for family movie night.

This Signature Edition features a transfer that’s a little sharper than the 2014 transfer and with brighter colors and edge delineation, but with a few minor-yet-noticeable hitches in the playback. What makes this a Signature Edition are bonus features similar to the random blend of archival and new extras that adorn every Criterion Edition. It’s a good idea, and I expect that as Olive continues to produce these they’ll get better at finding appropriate bonus features. Included here is a decent audio commentary by film historian David Del Valle—though he’s a curious choice, given his field of expertise is horror, sci-fi, and fantasy cult classics. Aside from very brief newsreel footage of Caron, an essay by a Village Voice critic, and an interview with the director’s son, the other main bonus feature is a talking-heads extra featuring Marc Eliot, whose biography of Grant was criticized for being a little too tabloid- and thesis-driven.

But it’s the movie that’s the star. If you don’t already own this title on Blu-ray, it’s a must-add “oldie” for your family’s collection.

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