Synopsis: Lem Siddons is part of a traveling band who has a dream of becoming a lawyer. Deciding to settle down, he finds a job as a stockboy in the general store of a small town. Trying to fit in, he volunteers to become scoutmaster of the newly formed Troop 1. Becoming more and more involved with the scout troop, he finds his plans to become a lawyer being put on the back burner until he realizes that his life has been fulfilled helping the youth of the small town.
Stars: Fred MacMurray, Vera Miles, Kurt Russell, Lillian Gish
Director: Norman Tokar
Running Length: 131 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: In my review of the lackluster The Odd Life of Timothy Green I lamented the fact that they just don’t make Disney live-action films like they used to. True, values were different in the 60’s and 70’s so the wholesome, apple-pie variety of films went out the window once the MTV Generation (of which I’m kinda part of) came of age. Back in the 60’s Walt Disney Studios owned the family film genre and they cranked them out to varying degrees of success. Being glued to the Disney Channel and frequenting my local video store when I was young I saw a lot of the lesser known Disney films.
Follow Me, Boys! was one film that slipped through my youthful grasp until recently and I’m glad it did. Not because I didn’t enjoy it – I did. No, it’s just that I think I can appreciate some of the themes more as an adult than I could have as a child not sure where life would take me. Now that I have a reasonable idea of what track I’m on, I responded a lot to the story of a nomadic guy that up and decides to settle down in a quaint small town (did Disney ever feature anything different?). A member of a traveling band, Lem (Disney favorite MacMurray), gets inspired to stick around the town to continue his law degree while at the same time wooing a bank employee (Miles six years after she met Norman Bates in Psycho) and becoming scout master to a pile of rag-tag boys.
It’s a classic Disney pitch that works in all the right places because of its veteran star, easy-going vibe, and its careful tug at your hearstrings. Also interesting was how many modern films borrowed some elements of the movie to inspire their story…you can see a bit of Troop Beverly Hills here, a pinch of Red Dawn there, topped off with a dash of SpaceCamp.
Along with MacMurray and Miles (who have a good rapport if little chemistry) there are a few notable supporting players like Gish as a dotty town grand dame and Russell in one of his first roles as the token troubled youth. Even at this early age, you can see why Russell would become a long-standing Disney player and star in his own right. The rest of the kids tend to blend together which isn’t entirely their fault…just a case of a lot going on.
The film has a strong opening and nice middle but unfortunately wears out its welcome around the ¾ mark. At 131 minutes it’s about 20 minutes too long and an extraneous and segmented story about a new crop of boys finding themselves in a mock army setting feels like overkill. Still, director Tokar gets control of the film and comes back strong to end on your typical Disney high note.
Overall Follow Me, Boys! is one of those films that you may let pass you by but should eventually check out if given the chance. Maybe not as classic as Disney features like Old Yeller, Pollyanna, Mary Poppins, or The Parent Trap, it still retains the zealous Disney charm that was injected into so many films of that era.