Once upon a time, Canadian postal authorities turned to Montreal-based producer Rock Demers to help promote stamp collecting. Demers' consistently high-quality output of children's films earned him the sobriquet "Disney of the North," though shamefully few of his features filter down to US
audiences. One that did (thanks mainly to home video) was the resultant TOMMY TRICKER AND THE STAMP TRAVELLER (1988), glorious all-ages entertainment that envisioned a spell allowing a person to shrink and enter the two-dimensional face of a stamp. Tommy Tricker was an Artful-Dodger troublemaker
somewhat peripheral to the first movie, but he takes the spotlight in this encore.
Tommy (Michael Stevens) snatches the vital stamp from neighborhood kids before they could release (via simply opening the letter) a timefrozen English boy named Charles Merriweather. Tommy wants Charles' rescue to promote his new get-rich-quick scheme, a tiny island in the Quebec marshes with its
own mail service and unique postmark. Tommy's henchman, Cass (Joshawa Mathers), has a change of heart and brings the Merriweather stamp back to the good guys. But the stranger who finally materializes in their midst isn't Charles at all, but his sister, Molly (Adele Gray), who traveled by stamp
when Charles felt too ill for the voyage in 1930. The kids try to make their bewildered, homesick visitor feel welcome in the 1990s, but a ghastly side effect rapidly ages little Molly more than 60 years. Tommy finds a note from Charles and a dart that will somehow bring the doddering girl to her
brother, but it unexpectedly teleports both Tommy and Molly to a tropical paradise, the Cook Islands in the Pacific. Here, too, kids collect stamps, and Tommy is delighted to find his Canadian dinosaur commemoratives in great demand. He trades for a fortune in rare island issues, but a native
healer tells him the only antidote for Molly involves plastering her body with stamps. For once, Tommy acts selflessly, and donates all his acquisitions for the ritual cure. Molly is restored to youth and reunited with Charles (Oliver Morgan Varlow), still a child himself, dwelling among the
islanders. They try to send Tommy home via a Cessna aircraft submerged, fully intact, at the bottom of a lagoon. Tommy sits in the cockpit in scuba gear, and boats tow the plane until it launches out of the water. Suddenly it changes into an airmail stamp, assuring further complications for Tommy.
THE RETURN OF TOMMY TRICKER starts off shakily (suffering in comparison with the original's quicksilver narrative), with an abrupt urine gag in terrible taste, but finds its footing when it finally gets down to the serious business of stamp traveling. There's a real sense of discovery about this
newly-minted brand of magic, with its own rules and pitfalls, that gives the formidable imagination of Demers' crew free reign. Stamp-travel special effects are once again accomplished by whimsically dovetailing live action with cartoon animation, but what really stays in mind is poor Molly's
mutated metabolism (echoing works by a very different Canadian auteur, David Cronenberg), a transformation with as much spooky brio as the bad boys becoming donkeys in PINOCCHIO (1940). Newcomer Michael Stevens (replacing Anthony Rogers) makes a properly rascally Tricker, and his own metamorphosis
from incorrigible sneak to hero is most satisfying. Australian-born writer-director Rubbo (VINCENT AND ME) continues his fascination with faraway and exotic places, while convincingly pushing the notion of philately as a mind-broadening discipline that ties together young people all over the
world. The two films indeed encouraged the hobby among junior viewers, with "Stamp Traveller" clubs formed across Canada.
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- Released: 1994
- Review: Once upon a time, Canadian postal authorities turned to Montreal-based producer Rock Demers to help promote stamp collecting. Demers' consistently high-quality output of children's films earned him the sobriquet "Disney of the North," though shamefully few… (more)