Monday, May 20, 2013

Delhi Safari Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
A wacky pack of mismatched animals takes on the human race as they travel to the big city to protest the destruction of their jungle.  How can a leopard cub and his mother, a peace-loving bear, a mischievous monkey, and a wisecracking parrot present their ideas to a bunch of humans?  You’ll find out in this hilarious and heart-warming adventure that will have you cheering at the end.  Delhi Safari was released in both a Hindi version and an English version.  Bollywood stars voice the Hindi version while the English version, reviewed here, is voiced by notable small and big screen actors. In addition, the English Blu-ray version of Delhi Safari is a Walmart exclusive.

Film (2 out of 5 stars)
Yuvi is a young leopard cub voiced by Tara Strong.  The film opens as Yuvi play-fights with his father Sultan (Cary Elwes). Yuvi’s mother Begum (Vanessa Williams) looks on disapprovingly at their rough-housing.  They are a happy family until their jungle is overrun by men with construction equipment, bulldozing the area to make room for a new housing project.  Sultan is shot and killed but Yuvi and Begum escape.

After Sultan’s death the jungle creatures gather and a monkey named Bajrangi starts a call for war.  A pigeon (Christopher Lloyd) says he knows an animal who speaks human.  The gang set off on a mission to find Alex the parrot and have him talk to the humans so they will stop the destruction of the jungle.  After freeing/kidnapping Alex, the group heads to the capitol.  A bear named Bagg (Brad Garrett) and the others have their hopes set on a discussion with the humans, but Bajrangi seeks to get rid of Alex and go to war.

The journey takes the group on a freight train, where they meet an old show-biz couple voiced by Jane Lynch and Jason Alexander.  They also have a dangerous encounter with wild hyenas, a run in with a nasty hive of military bees.  Finally they arrive in the city where they cause panic amongst the humans. Alex the Parrot amazes the humans when he sings a song and then delivers a statement to the television cameras.

I don't know why it is that so many kid-oriented movies make you sad.  Why couldn't Bambi be a cute little deer story where no one dies?  Why does the Up kid’s dad have to be a deadbeat?  Can't anyone make a heartwarming little story without tragedy?  In Delhi Safari, the dad isn't just killed offscreen – he’s gunned down diving in front of his son.  This was overly violent for a kids movie and had my son looking at me like “why are we watching this, mom?”

As the film continued, it began to bother both of us that the animators didn't make a good enough attempt at making the animal’s mouths match the words.  They open and close their mouths at the right time, but based on other films my son is used to he quickly noticed that “it didn't really look like they were talking.”  I recently watched The Lorax and thought it was too preachy for me but this film takes preachy to a whole new level.  It completely turned me and my son off and it just wasn't enjoyable.  There was too much drama for an animated family flick. 

The music, the cultural aspects and much of what makes this film different from other animated film about a group of animals, will be lost on an audience of children.  As a Wal-mart exclusive, I expected more of a Madagascar type film.  With a five year old, we're looking for entertaining films and I don’t mind a positive or instructional message.  My son would respond well to a small nudge to introduce him to big issues like deforestation and over-construction.  Delhi Safari goes overboard and neither one of us enjoyed most of the film.

Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Delhi Safari has an above average 1080p avc encoded presentation, with bright colors and a sharp picture. Specifically the detail on the main characters (fur, feathers) is done well.  I noticed often that there was significantly less detail in the background, though.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars)

For a film of this type, the audio packs more of a punch than you’d expect.  The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack includes powerful gunfire, construction, traffic and environmental sounds.  As with the typical western animated film, the soundtrack also consists of songs to reinforce and carry the storyline along.

Extras (1/2 out of 5 stars)

Surprisingly, the only special feature included on the blu ray is the theatrical trailer.  I expected a film with this much to say to have lengthy features discussing the film’s message as well as the differences between the Hindi and western versions.

Summary (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)

When the film listed the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) as a special partner, I started thinking that this was going to be too focused on the message for young children to enjoy – and I was right for my family.  It’s certainly different from all the other cute little animal movies you've seen but that’s exactly what my son and I were in the mood to watch.  We didn't want to be preached to, we wanted to be entertained.  This is a hard film to review because it’s got a good message, it’s just not done in the right way for me.  I wouldn't say I don’t recommend it, but I would recommend parents watch it first without the kids, or be ready to pause it and talk about it often.  Maybe for a family with an older child that’s looking for a film that will generate a lot of discussion, this is a good purchase.  Looking for entertainment, it just missed the mark for us.

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