Madison (Madison Harris), accompanied by her stuffed bear and her Mom, visits her Dad at the office. While there, Dad slyly takes the stuffed bear she brought in with her and hands her a different one instead. Turns out the bear Madison had walked in with had a particularly messed-up face, and Mom and Dad wanted to give her one that was less ugly. As Madison leaves the office, she sees her Dad throw away the messed-up bear.
Distraught over the bear in the trash can, Madison convinces her best friend Ralphie (Noah Swope), an odd boy with a condition whereupon he smells with his butt and farts out his nose, to accompany her back to the office to rescue the bear. The two set out on their rescue mission, setting in motion a series of mishaps in Dad’s office.
Jon-Michael A. Brown’s short film Madison Harris is a cute tale, with an aim for the whimsical that’s a little rough around the edges. You never know what you’re going to get with child actors, but the ones here do a pretty good job. I also enjoyed the parallel between Madison’s wish to save the bear her parents found to be flawed (and therefore different) and her own friendship with the oddly afflicted Ralphie.
The film is shot predominantly with the compositional viewpoint of the children, so we never really see a grown-up’s head; this is a kid’s world, and everything that happens is seen through that filter. It’s a nice aesthetic choice that the filmmakers commit to, and it helps to give the piece a little extra charm.
I wish that the main conflict, rescuing the bear, was a little better set out in the beginning. Since the Dad swapping out bears happens during the open credit sequence, which is cut back-and-forth between title cards on a Lite-Brite and the action in the office, I wasn’t entirely sure if Madison was giving her Dad a bear, and he rejected it, and that’s what upset her, or not. Only when she mentions to Ralphie the bear being a gift for her did it make more sense, and even then I had to re-watch the beginning of the short again to be absolutely sure. For such an important set-up to the conflict, it’s a shame that it can be lost in the opening credits.
Overall, though, Madison Harris is a cute short film, which is probably what the filmmakers were going for. I do think there’s a message in there about looking beyond appearances and differences, and the benefit of seeing things through the innocent eyes of a child, but even if you miss the message (or it isn’t there), the short is still entertaining.
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