Charles Kingsley ended his amazing Victorian tale of chimney-sweep Tom's underwater odyssey with the earnest wish that his child readers learn their lessons and wash themselves in cold water 'like a true Englishman'. Times have obviously changed, and any modern adaptation has to soft-pedal the pious author's whimsical allegories of spiritual and social improvement. Jeffries' film achieves this by plunging into tepid animation when Tom (Pender) plunges into water. But with the allegories submerged, the string of animated adventures involving the smiling band of pure, fearless babies and the gallery of talking (and singing) fish seem just idle amusement, lacking all the driving force of the live-action framework. There's no cute buffoonery in those scenes, which are replete with solid Yorkshire atmosphere, narrative tension, and excellent acting (even from David Tomlinson). It's really two films in one. (Animation directed by Miroslaw Kijowicz.
The Water Babies
Cast and crew