The Apple Dumpling Gang

Watched as part of the September 2017 Letterboxd Scavenger Hunt
My list | Dan Mundell's master list
#1: A film that sounds good enough to eat

Watched as part of the July 2017 Letterboxd Scavenger Hunt
My list | Dex B's master list
#18: An unseen family film rated 3.2 or lower

2017 movie viewings, #134. So why did my generation, the so-called "Generation X," eventually as adults become so focused on achieving a state of permanent adolescence, through such things as (for one example) inventing the "Cartoon Renaissance" of the early 1990s that continues to be such a cultural force and defining trait of our times? Well, a strong argument could be made that it's because we were fed an unending diet of crap children's projects when we were kids, and were so dissatisfied with the experience that we were determined to change the situation for the generation after us; and evidence for that argument doesn't get much more stark than the frankly unwatchable 1975 Disney live-action film The Apple Dumpling Gang, force-fed to me as a kid a dozen times whenever babysitters or libraries or schools or summer camps were feeling too lazy to do anything else.

Of course, in hindsight it's easy to see why this situation came about in the '70s to begin with; because it was the trippy, daring Countercultural Age! A time when all taboos and boundaries regarding sex, violence and subversive thought were being rapidly shattered; a time when the newest generation of adults were openly rebelling against the generation before them; a time when anything "family-friendly" was considered hopelessly square, the creators of those projects doddering old fogies out of touch with the times. What smart artist would even want to create a chlidren's film in such an environment, I ask you?! And thus was it that an exclusively family-friendly entertainment company like Disney almost went out of business in the 1970s, because they literally couldn't recruit anyone young, smart and interesting to make anything for them; and thus is Disney's oeuvre in the '70s a sad graveyard of terrible, shoddy movies that no one in their right mind watches anymore, whether that's Escape to Witch Mountain, Snowball Express, Herbie the Love Bug, The Cat From Outer Space, or today's film under question.

I originally picked this for the scavenger hunt because I thought it was going to be a fun "bad film" experience, and that I'd get a lot of fodder for discussion in today's writeup; but I have to confess, I lasted barely 20 minutes before turning off the movie in bored frustration for good, which makes it even more head-spinning that I ended up seeing this movie something like a dozen times when I was an actual kid in the '70s. I've been critical of my generation in the past, for our tendency to endlessly worship shit, a habit I finally weaned myself off of about 10 or 15 years ago in my mid-thirties (which is why, for example, I haven't watched any Quentin Tarantino movie since Kill Bill); but watching a cultural nadir like The Apple Dumpling Gang again makes me curiously sympathetic to the more annoying traits of our collective generation. After all, if you're given nothing but shit, you don't have much choice but to be nostalgic for shit; and if it hadn't been for this, Generation X wouldn't have started cranking out much better stuff the exact moment they reached their early twenties and started entering the entertainment industry for the first time, starting with a series of projects in rapid succession (including 1987's Ralph Bakshi's The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse, 1990's Tiny Toons, 1991's Ren and Stimpy, 1993's Animaniacs, and 1998's The Powerpuff Girls) that completely and utterly changed the face of children's animation for good, at the same exact time that the so-called "Disney Renaissance" was occurring through films like 1989's The Little Mermaid, 1991's Beauty and the Beast, 1992's Aladdin, and 1994's The Lion King.

That's truly when the Second Golden Age of family-friendly films happened that Generation X pined for its entire collective childhood; but there's a good chance it wouldn't have happened without us being force-fed an entire decade of unwatchable crap, back when all the smart artists were off creating New Hollywood and winning Oscars for X-rated movies. So in this, I suppose we have The Apple Dumpling Gang to thank; but fortunately for you, you can just take my word for it, and don't have to watch this stinker yourself.

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