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|Kevin Krock, editor|
You'll laugh, you'll cry - you'll wonder how the hell this one got away from Warner Brothers.
This is a great movie folks - full of beautiful animation, a wonderful story, and a remarkable commitment to quality that we used to see only at Disney in the past. It's a darn shame that people stayed away in droves upon its theatrical release (Warner's marketing department sort of threw this one away / the public won't go to see non-Disney animated films, you pick which excuse you like best) - thankfully the home video has done better. I get the feeling with this one that it will be finally acknowledged as a classic in the same way It's A Wonderful Life was after many years - it just has to sink into the public's mindset.
The story is simple - little boy befriends huge robot in the rather uptight sputnik era of the '50s. Of course no one understands what is going on - and that nasty government of ours only seems to think bad things can come of this friendship. The beauty of the movie comes in how well the characters are developed - how sensitively they are handled - and with the beautifully tailored script. There isn't a word uttered that doesn't ring true, nor a moment wasted in telling this charming story. It's a tribute to the people involved that a moral can be delivered without seeming condescending or self serving.
The hardest job here fell to the actor Vin Diesel, who did the robot's voice. With what few words he has - he wrings a performance out of this that a lot of flesh and blood actors in real movies over entire careers can't even come near to. Harry Connick Jr. and Jennifer Aniston do solid work also - never once letting their own personalities overshadow the film, as some of the more recent Disney movies tend to do. Eli Marienthal is the child actor in the lead - he does some terrific voice work here.The Goodies...
There isn't a whole lot here compared to some other special editions - but after how bare many of the recent Disney titles have been lately, it's a feast. ;)
The documentary is only fair, it's obviously a syndicated TV special just dumped onto the disc. [It even has blackouts where commercials are to be inserted.] The music video is pretty much just filler, and filmographies are nice when you have major actors like Richard Burton, but are really kind of silly for people like Aniston or Connick. A way too weird trailer is included, as well as links to the movie's website [which you can also access via the link in the column to the right here].
The nice thing offered on this disc is both the full-frame and widescreen versions - each viewable by just flipping the disc to the one you want. This is a great feature for when the kids want to watch it, or when you do, as each gets the version best for them.The Video, Audio and Interface...
The video looks stunning - it's a short film so the compression is kept to a minimum on the disc. This movie is beautifully art directed - with a lovely sense of design and distinctive color pallet. They really captured a retro [and somewhat subdued] classic '50s look - each scene has plenty to look at with the generous sense of design on display here. The transfer keeps all that in mind.
Audio is showcase quality - as you may know in animated films they literally have to build the soundscape from scratch since there are no "location" recordings or dialog tracks as with conventional films. Good mixing on animated films will have you believing they really did shoot a movie with real actors and they didn't just slap a bunch of different voice tracks together. The soundtrack's music mix sounds rich and full - and the surrounds are very effectively used all through the film.
The interface is easy to use, nicely animated, and compliments the program quite well. Sometimes Warner Brothers DVD menus can tend towards the garish [Cabaret with Liza Minelli comes to mind here] but this one is a model of what should be done on a simple release like this.
The Final Evaluation...
Pick up this disc and enjoy one of the better non-Disney animated movies you'll ever see. Who'd have thought after Space Jam, the animated King and I, and Quest for Camelot that Warner Brothers could actually make something of this high a caliber? Sadly they've retrenched when it has come to their animation program - so this may be the last we'll see from them for a long while.
I only wish some of the more recent Disney films were this good. ;)
• Theatrical trailer(s) • Region 1 encoding
• Theatrical trailer(s)
• Region 1 encoding
Full Frame Edition:
Website is still up, well worth a visit.
The Official Website is still up, well worth a visit.
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