The Wind in the Willows (1996)

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Released 5-Apr-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Audio Commentary-Director
Storyboard Comparisons-From Sketch To Screen
Featurette-The Costumes
Featurette-Making Of-Go Wild In The Country
Song Lyrics-Sing-Along-Songs (4)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 84:08
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (60:33) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Terry Jones
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Steve Coogan
Eric Idle
Terry Jones
Antony Sher
Nicol Williamson
John Cleese
Stephen Fry
Bernard Hill
Michael Palin
Nigel Planer
Julia Sawalha
Victoria Wood
Robert Bathurst
Case ?
RPI ? Music John Du Prez
Dave Howman
André Jacquemin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Dutch
Arabic
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hindi
Hungarian
Norwegian
Polish
Swedish
Turkish
French Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    There cannot be too many people who are not familiar with the happenings in Kenneth Grahame's delightful children's tale The Wind In The Willows. The adventures of the almost human Mole, Ratty, Toad and Badger as they live the peaceful existence on the riverbank until the evil weasels move in to Toad Hall and shatter the tranquillity has delighted several generations since it was first published back in 1908. In addition to a book that has sold millions of copies it has also been turned into a number of movies, of differing lengths, style and quality. Animated features abound of course, since the tale of animals with human characteristics would be quite difficult to perform as a live-action offering.

    In 1996, Monty Python stalwart Terry Jones did try to bring the tale to the big screen using real actors, and the result was a bit of a mixed bag that will unfortunately not delight everyone due to a few changes to the basic story. Taking on the difficult roles of the animals was always going to be a challenge and probably only Eric Idle as the urbane Rat, who just loves messing about on the river in his boat, brings off the role with any charm. Director Jones takes on the role of the dopey yet wealthy Toad with aplomb, while Steve Coogan is Mole.

    The film starts with Mole's house suddenly knocked down by the rampaging weasels who are planning some new land developments. Rescued by Rat, the pair set about righting the wrongs and getting Mole's house back. Aided and hindered in equal measure by the irrepressible Toad, who is obsessed with the new motor car he just bought, the film plays out as the peace-loving animals set about getting their land back.

    In addition to Jones, other original Python members do make fleeting appearances. John Cleese is the lawyer defending Toad in court, while Michael Palin must have been busy with his travel documentaries and manages to make just a very brief appearance as the sun.

    The charm of the book and the earlier animated films is simply missing in this live action film filled with cheap special effects and an almost pantomime feel to the whole production (right down to the extremely cheesy song and dance numbers). The kids will probably love it, but the young at heart will be better suited looking up the delightful 1995 made for television animated version with Michael Palin providing the voice of Rat, Michael Gambon as Badger, and Rik Mayall an outrageous Toad. That version sticks much more closely to the original story and is much better for it.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is also 16x9 enhanced.

    The video transfer exhibits a more than acceptable level of sharpness with no hint of edge enhancement. Shadow detail is also excellent. There is minimal scattered grain, but it is not disruptive. There is no low level noise.

    Colours are lovely, capturing the warmth of the English countryside to perfection. There are no problems with the colours in terms of bleeding or the like.

    No MPEG artefacts were noticed. There are a small number of film artefacts present, but these are not too disruptive.

    There are several subtitles available and sampling the English variety I found them excellent in terms of accuracy and placement on the screen

    This is a dual layered disc with the layer change at 60:33.



Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three soundtracks on this disc. All are Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo tracks, with English and French the languages for the film and an English commentary track rounding out the selection. They are all encoded at the lower bitrate of 192 kb/s.

    The main film track is rather excellent considering it is anchored in just two speakers. There's plenty of crash and bang and it's all handled with aplomb. Plenty of directional use across the front speakers and a generally wide dynamic range make this a pretty decent two channel effort.

    Dialogue is clear at all times and I witnessed no audio sync problems.

    There is no surround or subwoofer activity.



Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary - Terry Jones (Director)

    Sadly, for anyone expecting a Monty Python-style comedy commentary track, this is a rather dull effort from director Terry Jones. There are plenty of technical and story aspects covered, why certain things were changed and the like, but nothing to really make this commentary track stand out from the hundreds of average efforts I'm sure we have all listened to.

Storyboard Comparisons

    This is a rather dull 4:12 featurette called From Sketches to Scene. Shows very rough sketches of the train ride scene and how the finished product looks on the big screen. Without any sort of context or explanation it is fairly pointless.

Featurette - The Costumes

    A brief 2:58 look at the costumes featured in the film.

Featurette-Making Of - Go Wild In The Country

    Running for 25:08, this is a lengthy though quite dull making of featurette that is completely ruined by the narrator. The guy has THE most annoying voice you have ever heard.

Song Lyrics

    This featurette shows the scenes which contain four of the songs from the film -  Messing About On The River (0:49), Toad's Song (1:29), Weasel's Song (1:39) and Riverbanker's Song (1:39) and adds subtitles so you can all sing along.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Oddly, the Region 1 disc was released some time ago under the title Mr Toad's Wild Ride (apparently to tie in with the Disneyland ride of the same name). It is a disc completely bereft of extras and also comes with a non 16x9 enhanced video transfer. Best avoid it from the sounds of things.

    The Region 2 disc is identical to the Region 4 version, so for obvious reasons both of those are considered the versions of choice.

Summary

    This particular version of famous The Wind In The Willows tale is a visual treat, but something is decidedly lacking. With real actors playing animals some of the charm of the many previous versions where the animals took on a life of their own is simply not here.

    The video and audio quality are excellent, and there are a few extras to keep you entertained.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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