Awfully Good: Balloon Farm
If you didn’t catch my guest appearance on Super Marcey's Super Podcast a few weeks back, then you missed the planting of a seed, a seed that would slowly grow in to a burning desire that would encompass my life—BALLOON FARM.
Balloon Farm (1999)
Director: William Dear
Stars: Mara Wilson, Rip Torn, Neal McDonough
Is there a plot?
A small town learns a valuable lesson about faith and water conservation from a magical balloon farmer.
What's the damage?
It was love at first sight when we saw the above poster for BALLOON FARM. That's all I needed to know before renting it. (The fact that it had silken-haired god Neal McDonough and the director of ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD was just a bonus.) This movie must be conquered.
I have no idea why you'd say Rip Torn is a pedophile.
Even with literally no idea what to expect going in, BALLOON FARM still blew me away with its weirdness and constant failure, proving to be possibly the weirdest kids movie we've seen in a long time. Even stuff like the unbelievable POCKET NINJAS was low budget, fringe material not meant for the masses. BALLOON FARM, by comparison, was a mainstream film made by Disney that aired on TV. And it's about a very creepy Rip Torn using magic and balloons to help crops grow and touch children…’s hearts.
Seriously, no clue…
A small farming town is struggling with a water shortage and the fact that its inhabitants are all stock characters from 1950s. As everyone is about to do the smart thing and sell their land to move to the city and stop subjecting their children to abject poverty, a mysterious farmer named Harvey Potter (Rip Torn) drives his
rape van pickup truck in to town. Things will never be the same. You see, Harvey loves children and he immediately sets his eye on one child in particular, Willow (Mara Wilson), and begins to tantalize her by baking magic pies, plowing magical fields, magically farming without water and growing balloons. And not just any balloons, but living balloons that sprout out of the ground! Soon the entire town is obsessed about Harvey’s special garden of rubbers.
"I WILL TOO have an acting career when I get older! Pbbbttthhhhh!"
You might fail to see how growing balloons is a sensible plan to help a poor community during these tough times. Sure, it may be magical from a scientific point of view, but these people have no food or money. (Unless they’re happy food stamp balloons, Harvey Potter can suck it.) Thankfully though, these are no ordinary balls of helium. Potter’s balloons are alive and more akin to pets than to decorations. Willow’s balloon snuggles in bed with her, waits by the window when she leaves, and receives a disturbingly sensual bath from her. Hell, the balloons even “talk” with weird bouncy, gurgling sounds. To really drive this plot home, the movie has cliché moments from a standard pet drama, where the dad heartlessly wants the balloon out of the house, only to slowly discover that it's part of the family.
Neal McDonough farting.
And the father isn’t the only one touched by a balloon. We see balloons cure a man’s arthritis, fix someone’s broken down car, help a fat women lose weight, convince everyone to conserve water, and most important of all—give them something to believe in. It’s truly a feel-good story of the highest order (and the entire time not one person is surprised that balloons are alive). That is until we get a taste of the balloon’s vengeful side. They exhibit an alarming amount of strength, know how to pick locks and even attack an old man who’s trying to steal from Harvey. (It's also important to note that there's no special effects used to do any of this, just balloons tied with fishing wire and moved around.)
Neal McDonough sharting.
Eventually everything goes wrong, and the townsfolk become convinced that Harvey Potter swindled them out of their money. Betrayed, they turn on the balloons and go around hitting and popping them, which is really messed up when you think about it. (Imagine BEETHOVEN where Charles Grodin went around shooting St. Bernard's in the face.) But soon, in one beautiful act of self-sacrifice, the remaining balloons float themselves in to the air and make it rain, just in time to stop the evil land developers from buying out the town. And how exactly do balloons make it rain? Because it turns out they were water balloons, silly! (Excuse me while I vomit in amazement.)
What the live action version of Pixar's UP lacked in heart it made up for in special effects.
It takes a very special cast to pull of something like this, and thankfully BALLOON FARM’s group of actors could definitely be considered special by most school systems. Mara Wilson (the adorable little girl from MRS. DOUBTFIRE and MATILDA), is clearly too old for this. The gap-toothed preteen can no longer use cuteness to cover up her complete lack of acting skills. (Just cringe and look at the Best Lines video below.) FREDDY GOT FINGERED star and frequent DUIer Rip Torn is a revelation as Harvey Potter, playing him like Harry Potter’s wacky child molesting uncle from the States. He uses his supernatural powers to seduce both young and old for no discernable reason except to stare at them and smile creepily.
"Now let's go celebrate in Uncle Rip's Candy Van!"
And finally there’s M. Bison himself, Neal McDonough, who preposterously gets last billing as a retarded over-enunciating sheriff who is obsessed with pie. That’s his entire character. A cop who loves pie and is so goofy he has his own sound effects. He’s almost like a live action version of Officer Barbrady from South Park.
And that's the magic of BALLOON FARM!
Pedophile Rip Torn talks to Mara Wilson about how she started life as a seed and has grown nicely. A nice mix of creepy and atrocious acting.
1) The best of Neal McDonough's goofy, pie-obsessed sheriff character.
2) A "magic balloons" greatest hits, from attacking the old guy from HOME ALONE, getting run over by Dr. Kelso from "Scrubs," getting a "bath" from Mara Wilson, and curing the townspeople of their ailments and teaching them the importance of water conservation.
I wonder what Mara Wilson looks like now… Oh wait, what? No I don't. Screw you.
Play Along at Home!
Take a shot or drink every time:
- Rip Torn does something remotely pedophilic
- Somebody wastes water
- Weasel Mayfield is a jerk
- Neal McDonough enunciates weirdly
- A balloon picks a lock
- Rip Torn says something wise and inspirational as soon as someone leaves
Double shot if:
- The movie goes to commercial break
Thanks to the super Marcey Papandrea, terrible Bede Jermyn and vivacious A.J. Hakari for suggesting this week's movie!
Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.