Indian in the Cupboard Blu-ray Review
I’ve said before that nostalgia is a powerful thing when it comes to pop-culture. But what does it mean when you know you’ve watched something, but you don’t remember much about it? I remember watching INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD in the movie theaters and getting the VHS tape that required a key to open the case. I even remember reading the book, and its paperbound sequels, that had seen better days after years in the school library. Outside of some other details, I honestly don’t remember my opinion or specifics about the movie or book. That’s an ominous premonition.
Omri’s (Scardino) birthday is stereotypical of any 90’s kids. His gifts range from the latest toy representing the popular kid’s show of the time and a “cool” skateboard. The strangest, and definitely most unique, is an old wooden cupboard. It’s not big enough to really fit a lot of his toys and there’s not even a proper key that goes with it. Coincidentally though, his mother has been keeping old keys and they find the perfect one to lock and unlock the aged piece of furniture.
Since none of his fancy toys fit, he instead puts a small Native American figure that he got as another bad birthday gift inside the old cupboard. He locks up the old present and goes to bed for the night. The next morning, when he awakes, he finds that inside his cupboard is a real life Native American. While he stares on in amazement and fascination, the living-breathing miniature human before him stands terrified. The Indian has pushed himself into a corner and with a tiny knife, fights at Omri’s outstretched fingertips. It’s a wonderful scene that captures magic and realism all in one. That’s the last time in the movie though.
While I’m glad that there’s not some overpowering social message, it seems warranted when we have a tall young boy who begins to treat this miniature human much like a person treats their guinea pig. He gives the man food, a place to stay, material for bedding, and enjoys playing with him. The social commentary doesn’t come until a cowboy enters the picture, another figurine brought to life by the cupboard. The only problem this time is that the cowboy is over the top and straight out of a forgettable 1940’s Western flick.
The most mature aspects of the movie are sandwiched between scenes of child-like amusement, but not blended well enough to feel balanced. INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD has some heavy themes of mortality as well as abuse of power. The scenes these themes arise in are handled with reasonable grace. As to whether or not they’re appropriate for the movie, is an entirely different beast to tackle. It makes sense that a child would eventually need to learn that not everything is fun and games, and there are consequences. As to whether or not a miniature human beings death is the best way to handle that, is debatable. It would further complicate things on your moral compass if you ever begin to wonder what the age of Omri is during those moments.
INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD was met with very little interest when it came out in 1995. They hired good actors, got a good director, and put forth some great production to get it made, but it just didn’t succeed. The only reason it’s on blu-ray now is to try and generate more interested for a GOOSEBUMPS movie due out in theaters soon. While it’s great to relive one’s childhood, INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD was better through my youthful eyes rather than being relived in my adult mind.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 1:85:1) The picture quality is hit or miss. At times it comes in clearly and vibrantly, but at other times it feels like I’m still watching it on my old VHS tape.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) While the picture may not be top quality, the soundtrack and sound is lossless.
Director’s Commentary: This is way more interesting than the actual movie. Director Frank Oz has a powerful direction to his voice. His constantly engages the listener and he discusses nearly every aspect of the movie.
Little Bear: A Return to the INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD (13:09): This is a really interesting reflective feature. The actor, Litefoot, looks back on his time on the movie, especially since this was his first time on the big screen.
Archival Theatrical Making-Of Featurette (3:19): More of a prolonged commercial without any of the real making-of aspects included.
GOOSEBUMPS Sneak Peak (3:01): A very long trailer for a movie I have no interest in seeing.
The cast of GOOSEBUMPS Reflects on the INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD (5:18): The cast does not spend five minutes reflecting on this movie, they spend two minutes slightly reflecting on a movie I’m certain they did not see as kids since they were born after this movie came out. The last three minutes is the GOOSEBUMPS trailer I just watched.
Original Theatrical Trailer 1
Original Theatrical Trailer 2