Things learned from Mr Rice
1. Nobody puts Bowies in a coffin (‘made me feel so many things’, as they say)
2. Bowies is immortal (through music and strange druggy potions)
3. Bowies is the best thing in any film featuring Bowies
Well basically there is this film about a boy with cancer and some strange treasure hunt orchestrated by DB from beyond the (sniff!) grave, and in the end a wise lesson is learned by all.
I have chosen to watch it as a sort of weaker Labyrinth counterpart, in that the structures of the films are basically the same. It must be said that this structure is such a massive trope (coming of age ta-da) that these films are also basically the same as other such films. But what unites this pair and excludes other films, is, yes, Bowies’ wise presence. It must be also be said that Mr Rice does not show off his magic pants so blatantly in this film as he does in that famous Laby scene (what do you mean you have not seen it?), but with the protagonist being, we can presume, a hetero & Republican boy, Bowies cannot be quite so flash with his stash.
sparkly not so sparkly
So in both films there is a seamless blend of reality and fantasy aided by a suspension of our cynical frame of reference, magical gifts associated with wish fulfilment, journey and growth in the character of the adolescent protagonists, DB as a morally ambiguous mysterious presence, inconsequential parents (but influential on the protagonist’s character), weakly developed secondary characters, a puzzle (Labyrinth or Treasure Hunt), and finally, learning to do the right thing, be that taking care of a screaming baby or not being a dick to other kids with cancer, otherwise known as ‘coming of age’ or ‘growing up’ or ‘assuming responsibility’, take your pick.
In addition to the Bowie factor, Mr Rice is also worth watching for the neat little in-jokes, which were probably entirely unintentional. Such as (paraphrased for laziness):
‘Everyone should have a good blue suit.’ Um, yah, DB, love your suit.
The boys look through the deceased Mr Rice’s stuff and find pictures of him through the ages in different styles of dress and in different occupations. This is sort of like the looking back over the various kinds of Bowies, e.g. the 1972 DB from the Ziggy Stardust Era, or the 1980 DB from the music video Ashes to Ashes (thanks you Conchords guys).
DB turns out to be immortal, apart from that he dies. (This here be eventual truth - so much sadness, yet also music). Note also the similarities between his alien ageless self in The Man Who Fell to Earth, his vampire character in The Hunger and his Royal Goblin Highness in the aforementioned Labyrinth, as well as long-running themes in his songs, for example The Man Who Sold The World.
Other such pearls of DB wisdom and fandom feature plentifully.
So overall, Exhuming Mr Rice / Mr Rice’s Secret is a bit crap, but nonetheless entertaining, featuring some bliss DB flashback scenes totally worth it to see DB raking leaves (yes!), being excited about a birdhouse, and forging a friendship with a little boy, which, in this age of extreme sensitivity over strange men making friends with young boys, would be definitely frowned upon. Especially if the strange man in question has a legacy of singing about boys in his 40-year-spanning discography. But that, my friends, is another story for another time.