If “The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure’’ were a half-hour Saturday morning TV show, it would be a scary enough proposition for most parents. Seeing it as a feature-length, big-screen movie, it’s like paying to watch a dumbed-down mash-up of the least creative parts of “Teletubbies,’’ “Barney & Friends,’’ and “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.’’
Will your preschoolers enjoy it? Perhaps. Is it worth 88 minutes of their lives, or yours? Not in a world where “Sesame Street’’ is on TV every day. Not even in a world where “Sesame Street’’ didn’t exist.
“The Oogieloves’’ gives us Goobie, Zoozie, and Toofie, three oversize, plush, garishly colored live-action pals who open the movie by telling the audience to stand up and dance whenever butterflies float across the screen (and to sit when turtles follow). There are other moments designed to engage the kids: Whenever Toofie’s too-big jeans fall down, which is several times too often, the Oogieloves urge the audience to yell, “Goofy Toofie, pick up your pants!’’ The kids at a recent screening obliged, but it seemed more obligatory — you will have fun! — than spontaneous. And what’s the value of urging interaction in a public setting rather than at home?
The “adventure’’ follows the Oogie-loves in search of five errant gold Mylar balloons needed for their friend Schluufy’s birthday. Schluufy is a pink pillow that spends much of the movie asleep on a couch. Their other friends, J. Edgar (a red, upright vacuum cleaner . . . don’t go there) and Windy Window (a Southern belle whose sparkly disembodied face peers into the Oogieloves’ house), provide directions on the balloons’ whereabouts. The plush pals then ride their tricycles around crayon-colored Lovelyloveville, carting around Ruffy, a fish stuffed into a too small, dry fishbowl.
Among the adult characters they meet are polka-dot loving treehouse dweller Dotty Rounder (Cloris Leachman); Marvin Milkshake (Chazz Palminteri), a soda jerk who leads the gang in a “Milkshake March and Moo’’; a grinning cowboy named Bobby Wobbly (Cary Elwes), who is the most manic of the lot; and Rosalie Rosebud (Toni Braxton), a diva who sings an ode to her allergies. That song, “Ode to Adelaide (The Scratchy Sneezy Cough Cough Cough Song),’’ is backed by the Oogie-loves and is one of the movie’s many ditties that would not be out of place at an elementary school talent show.
Maybe it’s all harmless enough. But who needs a “Teletubbies’’ retread? Oogieloves is the creation of producer Kenn Viselman, the Newton native who handled the US marketing and licensing of “Teletubbies’’ and another British import, “Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends.’’ Ooglieloves seems so intent on getting toddlers to love it — and no doubt the merchandise that’s sure to follow — that such details as an engaging story line and originality seem to have gotten lost in Lovelyloveville.