I’m wondering, now I’m really getting into things, how much Disney’s terrible mid-century live action reputation comes from episodes of the TV show. For years, even I thought this was a theatrical-release movie, and it’s definitely the sort of thing people seem to think of. But it was never released in theatres—in fact, when it ended, my reaction was, “Wait, that’s it?” It hadn’t felt like it was long enough to be a two-parter, which in fact it was. It is pretty much exactly what I was expecting other than that, though.
A family is staying at the beach. The boys, Arthur (Michael McGreevey) and Petey (Bill Mumy), find an injured seal. They decide the smart thing to do is to nurse him back to health themselves. When vacation ends, the boys cannot bear to leave the seal behind, so they take him with them to their suburban home. I mean, it’ll be fine—there’s fish in their freezer that no one’s eating, and their neighbours have a pool, and what can possibly go wrong? So of course wacky hijinks, including an interminable scene at a grocery store also featuring a bunch of dogs, follow.
Eventually, the boys Learn a Valuable Lesson about how you can’t keep a seal in the suburbs, and that’s great, but frankly, Sammy probably shouldn’t have survived that long. I don’t know a lot about seals, I grant you—though today is the ninth anniversary of a nice, relaxing walk I took with some friends that ended with finding skeletonized seal flippers—but I’m pretty sure they’re not fond of chlorinated pools and canned salmon. And that’s what Sammy’s dealing with, here, and honestly, that’s even with the kids’ being the ones to provide him with medical care in the first place.
The Girl Next Door in this is a delight. Ann Jillian plays Portia (IMDb has her as “Porsche,” but come on) “Rocky” Sylvester. She’s not given much to do in a lot of ways, but she does really well with what she has. She’s a bit of a tomboy who’s accustomed to getting her way, and it’s clear that she and Arthur are dabbling at flirting with one another in a pre-teen sort of way. And when we first meet her, she’s wearing a Camp Inch sweatshirt, presumably hanging about the studio from the previous year’s filming of The Parent Trap. I could watch her further adventures happily, if they were better written.
I wonder a bit about the “modernized” downtown in this, which is a project Rocky’s father (top-billed-for-some-reason Jack Carson) is working on. It strikes me as the sort of architectural problem a lot of communities would come to regret in years to come. The downtown as we see it is perfectly charming, and while I can think of some ways of improving it, it’s clear that Mr. Sylvester’s choices aren’t among them. Even his own daughter is unimpressed by his model, and his plan to have a fantastic fountain to put them on the map is . . . not going to work. You kind of wonder what the town would look like today.