As the chorus sings under the opening credits and repeats throughout the film, “Pippi Longstocking is coming into your town.” This threat is fulfilled in The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, the latest cinematic spinoff of Astrid Lindgren’s popular children’s books.
Pippi, the freckle-faced, red-haired bundle of mischief, begins the movie by falling off her father’s boat into a typhoon. She and her horse and monkey drift to a seaside town, where they set up shop in her father’s abandoned house while waiting for the old man to show up.
The townspeople, including the next-door neighbors, take one look at this carrot-headed pixie and decide that she is having a subversive effect on the local children. Which, actually, she is; she’s fond of all-night pancake parties and civic disturbances that involve the willful destruction of gallons of ice cream.
The parents quickly see that their children are having too much fun, and predictably move to nip this tendency in the bud. In particular, the headmistress of the orphanage sees Pippi as an immediate enrollee.
It’s kind of a strange movie. Kids may enjoy the whole anti-establishment angle of Pippi’s various hijinks, such as her rebellious approach to the educational system: Pippi can’t understand why teachers would ask questions of students, when the teachers already know the answers.
And yet, the film, which is scripted and directed by Ken Annakin, is so bland in almost every way that it’s difficult to know what kids would find attractive in it. (I have no familiarity with the Pippi books – they were unequivocally a girl thing when I was a kid – and so can offer no point of comparison.)
Another problem is the casting of newcomer Tami Erin as Pippi. I’m sure she’s a nice girl, but she’s got “zero charisma,” as the kids in E.T. would say.
There’s an idea. Instead of spending 25 bucks to take a few little ones to see this moribund movie, save your money and buy a copy of E.T. when it comes out on video this fall. Then you’ll have something as a permanent part of the library, and it’ll be a truly enchanting fantasy, instead of a half-baked one.
First published in The Herald, August 2, 1988
Tami Erin’s subsequent movie career was not extensive, although IMDb duly notes that she released a sex tape in 2013. This was getting toward the end for Annakin, who has a number of interesting British films to his credit, and a boatload I haven’t seen.