The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland (1999)

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Released 14-Mar-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Childrens Introduction-Elmo & Bug (0:36)
Menu Animation & Audio
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 5.1
Featurette-Making Of-(4:19)
Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Trailer-Muppets From Space, Stuart Little, Fly Away Home
Trailer-Matilda, Madeline
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 70:08
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Aspect Ratio Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Gary Halvorson
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Kevin Clash
Mandy Patinkin
Vanessa Williams
Case Brackley-Trans-No Lip
RPI $39.95 Music John Debney


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
German
Dutch
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    One of the great problems approaching a film like The Adventures of Elmo In Grouchland is the fact that it is squarely aimed at a specific age group and is presented in such a way as to maximize its impact to that age group. Which means of course that this really comes across as an extended episode of Sesame Street and to hell with basically everything else. Still, there is not a d*** thing wrong in occasionally bowing to the inner child and indulging in something like this effort. Just remember that this is aimed squarely at the discerning young film buff between the ages of about 2 and 6. Where do you fall on that little time line?

    At least we can admit that this does derive from one of the best children's television shows in recent memory, and as a result it is not quite the usual condescending stuff that we have aimed at that discerning age group.

    Most of the favourite Sesame Street characters are here, including Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Grover and Oscar (the Grouch). But the star here is that little, bright red bath mat, Elmo fairly obviously - otherwise the title of the film would be rather misleading to our discerning young film buffs. Now Elmo (voiced by Kevin Clash) has a little tale to tell, which is introduced by the ever comical Bert and Ernie, about his favourite thing in the whole world - Elmo's blanket. Now Elmo and his blanket are virtually inseparable (shades of Mr Schultz here methinks) and so after being introduced to the audience and having a little mishap, Elmo takes his blanket out into the big world to be cleaned. But unusual events are afoot - well they would be unusual anywhere apart from Sesame Street - and after a rather wild little episode, the poor blanket ends up in the possession of Oscar, who neatly disposes of it into his trash can. Ah, but where does the trash can ultimately lead? To Grouchland of course, where Elmo resorts to chasing after his blanket when Oscar does not return home quickly enough. But Grouchland is ruled by Huxley (Mandy Patinkin - man, this guy's career is going nowhere) who has a nice philosophy - everything is mine! Including poor old Elmo's blanket. Naturally Elmo wants his blanket back and sets off in pursuit, with the help of various friends, including the Queen of Trash (Vanessa Williams - looking too d*** foxy for this children's flick, believe me). It may not be Di$ney, but the end result is pretty much the same.

    Okay, just how do you flesh out a Sesame Street episode into a rather short feature film? Well, adding a couple of songs helps, but having Bert and Ernie interrupting the show at regular intervals just to make sure that the discerning young film buffs understand what is going on really does the trick. Okay Elmo is not the world's best actor (although both Jean-Claude Van Damme and Keanu Reeves could probably learn something from him) but who cares about the acting? We just want to see Sesame Street characters on the big screen. For a singer Mandy Patinkin does a fair job as an actor, but hardly something dazzling to add to his resume (is there anything dazzling in his resume?). Similar complaints could be levelled at Vanessa Williams, but at least she looks a heck of a lot better! Production wise, this does not raise to any great heights, but the tunnel effect to Grouchland is quite cool.

    But at the end of the day, everything is subordinate to the need to keep the length short and the visual impact high, all to keep the discerning young film buffs interest level high. In that regard, the film succeeds admirably and I guarantee that after a couple of days of the youngsters bashing this through the old player with monotonous regularity, you are going to be seriously in need of a huge break.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    And so how do we again comment upon a fairly typical Columbia TriStar transfer? Well, by being really, really, really picky, that's how!

    We have here one of those rare animals in Region 4 - a dual ratio DVD, with both a Pan and Scan transfer (not 16x9 enhanced) and a widescreen transfer in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (which is 16x9 enhanced).

    Okay, to some extent the technicalities go out the window in this film, but in general this remains a sharp, detailed transfer that really has not too much wrong with it. The only real problems I have with the transfer are the fairly obvious blue screen effects (well at least I presume that is what they are even in Sesame Street) that results in just the wrong amount of edge enhancement to make the resultant picture as natural as possible. There are also just a few occasions where the background detail tended towards being a little diffuse, but now I am being really picky. Shadow detail is good throughout, given the style of film. There did not appear to be any problems with low level noise in the transfer, although there did appear to be at times a little bit of grain in the background which I am attributing to blue screen effects work that was not quite perfect.

    Colour? Put it this way, you are very unlikely to see anything even remotely close to the huge range of garish colours on offer here. This makes some of those graffiti murals you see look muted in comparison. This is a seriously, seriously vibrant transfer. But guess what the most impressive thing was about the transfer? Plain old black and white: when Elmo goes into the cave, all you have is two very white (ping pong ball) eyes in a sea of black. And this is impressively black - very, very black and very, very uniform black at that. This is as good a rendering of black as you will ever see. Overall, a stunningly vibrant transfer, although they must have had a serious problem ensuring that it did not tend to oversaturation of the colours - and to be honest they almost failed because Elmo at times seemed just a little too saturated. There also seemed a couple of occasions where they had problems balancing the vibrancy of the foreground with the background - in the opening scene in Elmo's bedroom for instance, the background tends to be a little washed out colour wise. But I am being very, very picky here. I would advise against watching this whilst under the influence of any stimulant - you may not survive the groovy colour trip.

   There were no apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There were no apparent film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. I think that there may have been one film artefact in the transfer.

Audio

   The audio transfer is a very good one too.

   There are two audio tracks on the DVD, both being Dolby Digital 5.1 efforts: English and German. I listened to the default English soundtrack, but also sampled the German track, which seemed to be a little more forwardly mixed than the English track.

   Elmo and clear dialogue - an oxymoron surely? Anyone under the age of ten, or over the age of twenty five who is regularly forced to watch Sesame Street, probably will not have a problem here, but at times I had a few minor problems picking up on what was being said.

   There did not appear to be any audio sync problems with the transfer.

   The musical score comes from John Debney, and the usual Sesame Street style it is - nice and bright but without too much substance.

   This was a well thought out soundtrack, not only in detail but how it was used to keep the interest level high for the discerning young film buffs. Whilst it is a 5.1 effort, the use of the bass channel has, by design I suspect, been kept quite restrained. I guess it was a deliberate choice to avoid heavy bass effects when the opportunity did arise, in order to avoid upsetting the expected viewing age group? The use of the surround channels is restricted too, mainly to the clever use of children's participatory noises out of the rear channels (as an aside, I would hated to have seen this in a cinema full of kids, all joining in as directed by Bert and Ernie and Elmo). Overall though the soundtrack is given a nice spacious feel to it, which does help convey the impact of Elmo's voice in particular a little better than I was expecting. For what it was designed to do, it was a very effective soundtrack.

Extras

    Okay, two 70 minute films on a dual layer disc gives lots of space for extras. Well, we get some, but they are rather underwhelming in quality if not quantity. Somewhat perversely for the style of the soundtrack of the film, Columbia TriStar have included the Dolby Digital City trailer in all its 5.1 bass resonating glory. If there was one time when they should have gone with a 2.0 version of the trailer, this was it.

Menu

    Some nice animation and audio enhancement here to keep the kids amused as you move between menus, but nothing much beyond that.

Theatrical Trailer (2:10)

    A rather nice effort and presented in a full frame ratio, not 16x9 enhanced and, rather unusually, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.

Theatrical Trailers - Muppets From Space (2:16), Stuart Little (1:40), Fly Away Home (2:41), Matilda (2:21) and Madeline (1:46)

    Whilst this sort of rather blatant captive advertising is relatively common in Region 1, it is not so common in Region 4. And despite being a little blatant, it is nice to see some effort to let people know what else is out - or what is coming - on DVD that may be suitable. At least, we can now presume that the most eagerly awaited release, Muppets From Space, will be forthcoming on Region 4 in the near future (otherwise Columbia TriStar may have some serious questions to answer from hordes of disappointed fans). Oh yes, presumably Stuart Little will also be out in Region 4 soon. All are presented in a full frame format and are not 16x9 enhanced. The sound is either Dolby Digital 5.1 (Muppets From Space and Madeline) or Dolby Digital 2.0 (Stuart Little, Fly Away Home and Matilda).

Introduction by Bug and Elmo (0:36)

    Rather short and of dubious worth really - I would have thought it would make better sense being placed immediately before the film, not buried in the special features section of the disc. Presented in a full frame format, not 16x9 enhanced and in Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Making Of (4:19)

    Your fairly typical short promotional film, taking the trailer and extracts from the film and interspersing them with interview extracts from the main cast members. Barely worth while and I am beginning to wish that these things be forgotten about completely. Presented in a full frame format, not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 release appears to be, for all intents and purposes, similar to the Region 1 release - except in one big way: the Region 1 release is apparently a Pan and Scan version only! Once again, Region 4 is the way to go.

Summary

    Okay, it is not a film that I will probably ever watch again, but then again I am outside (marginally) the target audience. If you have young children in the house, you better get it pronto, otherwise the first time they see it at the local store, you will be nagged unmercifully. Mind you that may be a better fate than having to endure this on endless repeat for a few days. About the only thing against the package, other than the fact that with some thought it could have been so much better, is the price: $39.95 to my mind is a bit on the nose for a 70 minute film without any really worthwhile extras.

    A very good video transfer.

    A very good audio transfer.

    A decent enough bunch of extras, but where is the audio commentary from Elmo and Oscar and Bug ....?

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Friday, March 03, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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