Race to Space (Rental) (2000)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Rental Version Only
Available for Rent

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Menu Animation & Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Rating ?
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 100:17
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Sean McNamara
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring James Woods
Annabeth Gish
Alex D. Linz
William Atherton
Case ?
RPI Rental Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format ?
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

   I'll admit right from the start that I enjoyed this film despite the many plot holes, some of which are large enough to launch a Mercury rocket through, and the predictable storyline. What we have here is a pretty standard story placed against quite a novel backdrop. That being said I think this is a particularly good example of this type of story and had fun watching it.

    The backdrop for the story is the early days of the Mercury space program just as they are about to launch the first chimpanzee into space. Our story revolves around the Von Huber family and in particular Billy, a young boy (Alex D. Linz). The father (James Woods) is one of the German scientists that was brought to the US from Germany at the end of World War II to kick start the American space program. In this version of the story he has a son that he is somewhat isolated from because of his dedication to his work, and because his wife had died about three years earlier.

    The son is having some problems at school, both because of the isolation at home, and because the other children tease him about being German. Thanks to a call from the headmaster, the father decides that his son should come to the NASA base each afternoon to do his homework.

    After becoming bored one afternoon, the son takes a walk around the base. He comes to a door marked 'Keep Out'. This is, of course, an open invitation to a 10 year old boy. Inside, he discovers the training centre for the chimpanzees that are going to be the first Americans in space. The head of the training centre, Dr. Donnie McGuiness (Annabeth Gish), decides that Billy has a bond with the chimps and that she needs his help in preparing the chimps for their mission. Along the way, Billy also makes friends with Alan Shepard. Initially, Billy's father is not too happy about these new friends, particularly when Billy risks his life to save his favourite chimp. One final piece of the story is a highly improbable sabotage attempt on the rocket that will launch the chimpanzee into space.

    From here we go through a number of disasters and recoveries and along the way Billy and his father are reconciled and the chimp successfully launches into space with an exiting ending built around whether the chimp will get home safely.

    There is a little something for everyone in this story. We have elements that look at prejudice, both racial and sexual, there are some quite good comedic moments and there is the sentimental story of a boy and his father. All in all, a very good night's family entertainment.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This is pure speculation on my part, but I think that something has changed in the process of putting 90 odd minutes of video onto a single layered DVD. Up until recently, a single layered disc meant that there would be some MPEG artefacts visible, the amount varying depending on many factors such as the source quality, grain, detail in the original, and so on. It is hard to be completely definite when you only get to see the end result, but I suspect that they are now using a high frequency filter on the source before compressing. Fine detail is present in the signal at the highest frequencies, and if a filter is applied then the fine detail is removed. This means that the MPEG encoder has far less to worry about and does not need a high bit rate to successfully compress the image. The flip side is that the image has reduced detail and appears soft. I may be jumping to conclusions and the source material for this film was already soft, but this is not the first disc that I have seen recently that is a little soft and is on a single layer.

    We are presented with a 2.35:1 image which is 16x9 enhanced.

    As mentioned above, the sharpness of this film is not good. It varies from average to downright blurry. As an example, there is a sign on a door at 14:08 in quite large lettering. I think that I should be able to read this sign and I cannot. Shadow detail is good and there is no low level noise.

    Colour is excellent throughout with good saturation and no noise or colour bleed. Skin tones are spot on.

    There are no MPEG artefacts, no pixelization or blocking, no posterization; and the scene changes, always a danger spot for single layer discs, are clean. I personally find a soft image more distracting than the occasional burst of pixelization but others may find the reverse to be true. There is no aliasing or telecine wobble present. The film source is in excellent condition with only a few flecks and no scratches, and there is little grain in the transfer.

    There is a very small amount of edge enhancement present, an example being the left shoulder of Billy's father at 8:38.

    This is a single layered disc.

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

Audio

    There are two audio tracks on this disc, both in English; Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 with the surround flag set. The 5.1 track is the default track and the one to which I listened.

    Dialogue quality is excellent. I had no problems understanding everything that was said. The audio sync was also spot on.

    I enjoyed the music that accompanied this film. It worked well with the on-screen action, building tension or emotion as required. Some may find it a little blatant in its emotional manipulation.

    The surrounds are used mostly to expand the front soundstage but they do get some good use with planes flying overhead and even some split effects when the chimpanzees invade your home theatre.

   There is some quite good use of the subwoofer. In particular, the LFE channel is used for the rocket launches. While the whole room was not shaking, the LFE channel was nonetheless very well integrated.

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

Extras

Menu

    The menu features a simple animation with the moon revolving in the background. It is accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack with the surround flag set. The menu loop runs for 59 seconds.

Theatrical Trailer

    The trailer is our only extra and is presented at 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.  The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 with the surround flag set. I found the trailer did not do the film justice and gave the wrong impression of the true nature of the film.

R4 vs R1

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

    There does not appear to be a Region 1 version of this disc at this time.

Summary

    While this kind of film is not for everyone, for those searching for something that the whole family can watch, this G rated film fits the bill perfectly.

    The video is soft, sometimes very soft.

    The audio is surprisingly good for a family film.

    This is the rental version so we shouldn't judge the extras yet.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Monday, January 14, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252Q CRT Projector, 254cm custom built 1.0 gain screen. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

Other Reviews
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Dale M

Comments (Add) NONE