When is a child’s imaginary friend NOT an imaginary friend? When it’s the star of Wilson Coneybeare’s woefully misguided coming of age comedy Gooby. Now, if you think that title sounds trite, or terrible, you haven’t seen this bad touch excuse for an ‘uplifting’ tale of believing in yourself and Great White North family values. Indeed, we have Canada to blame for this corrupt bit of kid vid dung, a drippy story about a young boy, a big move to a new house, and the lack of parental love and appreciate he gets from his way too upwardly mobile professional guardians. In order to compensate for the missing Mom and Pop affection, young Willy is visited by Gooby, the physical incarnation of a stuffed toy he played with as a youth. As you would anticipate, proposed warm and fuzzy life lessons ensue. What you don’t expect is how sappy, irritating, and downright creepy it often is.
You see, young Willy (the ‘so slap worthy he ought to patent his whining’ Matthew Knight) is quite the highly strung little boy - and to quote Fawlty Towers, he should be. Living in a fantasy world where his hyperactive imagination envisions aliens in the bushes, trolls in the teapot, and any number of hallucinogenic entities in the woodwork, he has developed a system of personal amulets and defense mechanisms to cope with his constant state of fear. The biggest of these is his comfortable old home - that is, until lawyer mom (Ingrid Kavelaars) and architect dad (David James Elliot) decide to uproot the brood and head out to the wooded suburbs of Toronto. There, Willy is so spastic, so caught up in a Don Knotts level of jitteriness, that it would take a miracle to get him through the day, let alone the dark and often stormy nights.