Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme (1990)

Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme (1990)

Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme was directed by Jeff Stein and stars Shelley Duvall as Little Bo Peep and Dan Gilroy (not the one married to Rene Russo) as Gordon Goose, son of Mother Goose. Buckle up, because this film is quite a ride. Here’s what The Hollywood Reporter has to say about it and its co-stars: “Gilroy was briefly romantically linked to [Madonna] but has been with Duvall since 1989, the two having fallen in love while co-starring in the Disney Channel movie Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme. Produced by Duvall, it featured an all-star cast (including Duvall’s former boyfriend Paul Simon) and has become an abiding cultural touchstone among millennials.” There you have it, folks. A real-life love story brewing behind the scenes on the Disney Channel.

Dan Gilroy and Shelley Duvall in Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme

I wasn’t born yet when this film came out, but I’m sure my elder millennial pals might remember it. If you’ve seen it even once, I don’t think you could forget it. It’s the kookiest envisioning of Mother Goose’s world, called “Rhymeland” in the film. But the cast! In addition to Duvall, Gilroy, and Paul Simon (who plays “Simple Simon”), we’ve got Bobby Brown as the Three Blind Mice, Art Garfunkel as Georgie Porgie, Woody Harrelson as Lou the Lamb, Cyndi Lauper as his Mary, Little Richard as Old King Cole, Howie Mandel as Humpty Dumpty, Cheech Marin as Carnival Barker, Katey Sagal as Mary Quite Contrary, Garry Shandling as Jack and Terri Garr as Jill, Jean Stapleton as Mother Goose, and scores of others! If you’re a fan of Blank Check, you can catch Brian Bonsall as Michael, the little boy who is reading this Mother Goose story to begin with. We don’t see Michael until the very end of the movie, when he must help restore his storybook characters so that they can find Mother Goose.

Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme movie art, featuring Howie Mandel, Jean Stapleton, Paul Simon, Little Richard, Harry Anderson, ZZ Top, Shelley Duvall at center

I’m not sure what I was expecting. Probably a more tame nursery rhyme story with the music updated to some standard of ’90s “cool.” This was so much more than that. Classic nursery rhymes are so literally depicted, with the irony of Jack and Jill’s relationship problems as they keep falling down and tumbling after with their pail of water. The set design reminds me of Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland, very maze-like at times, and an often confusing place for Gordon Goose to search for his missing mother. The characters stand out with eye-catching costumes designed by Patricia Field, whose work won the film an Emmy. There’s rhyming, singing, dancing, and even an appearance from The Del Rubio Triplets (they were Renee, Esther, and Martha in an episode of Full House), who sing “Hop to It.” Little Richard also pulls out all the stops for his musical number, “Party with the King.” There’s a very dark scene when Gordon is temporarily sent to a dungeon, so this movie has its nightmare fuel moments, too.

Honestly, this is one of those times when I marvel at how versatile the Disney Channel has been from age to age. Years before finding the rhythm of the DCOM, this zany Mother Goose adventure entertained (and maybe scared?) children back in 1990. I’d hate to send you to YouTube for a feature film, but unless you’ve got it on VHS, you might need to hop over there and see this film for yourself. Cheers!

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