The Magic Pudding (2000)

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Released 11-Apr-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation DVD-ROM Extras-Game - Sink or Swim
Menu Audio
Featurette-The Baking Of The Magic Pudding (26:12 mins)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 75:27
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Karl Zwicky
Studio
Distributor
Energee Entertainmnt
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Sam Neill
Geoffrey Rush
Hugo Weaving
Jack Thompson
Toni Collette
John Cleese
Case C-Button-Version 2
RPI $34.95 Music Chris Harriott


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown 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

    The Magic Pudding has been a classic Australian children's story for a long time, although I do wonder if parents still read it to their children. Perhaps this disc will serve to introduce another generation of children to Albert, the magic pudding.

    This movie is not the story that has been read to generations of Australian children, because the original story was not really one suited to turning into a movie. It is a new plot, but one patterned around the familiar characters. The writers have taken only few liberties, and many of the lines are recognizable if you remember back to your childhood. This new story concerns Bunyip Bluegum's (Geoffrey Rush) search for his parents, after being raised by two uncles (one played by John Laws - a wonderfully hammy performance). As he sets out on his journey he is bowled over (pun intended) by The Pudding (played effortlessly, and perfectly, by John Cleese). He is then assaulted by Sam Sawnoff (Sam Neill) and Bill Barnacle (Hugo Weaving) - the pudding owners - who believe him to be a pudding thief.

    I was delighted to note that John Cleese is the only exception to an all-Australian cast. I was also rather impressed by the array of Australian talent they assembled for this production. My favourite was Mary Coustas as Ginger, even though she sounded a lot like Effie from Acropolis Now.

    I was quite impressed by how closely the animation stuck to Norman Lindsay's original drawings. I remember quite clearly what the characters looked like in the original, and every one of them is faithfully rendered here.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Overall, the video is bright and colourful. Unfortunately, it is frequently blurry, which detracts from an otherwise excellent effort.

    The movie is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. I am fairly confident that the original aspect ratio was 1.78:1 or 1.85:1, judging by the "making of" featurette. Because it is intended for children, the DVD mastering team may have chosen to pan and scan the image, believing that they should fill the screen of the home TV. I think this is an unfortunate choice, because this movie cries out to be seen in its original aspect ratio - it was made to be seen widescreen, with its wide landscapes. If they felt so strongly that they must present a pan and scan version, perhaps they could have taken the approach seen on Region 1 discs, and put the pan and scan version on one side, and the wide-screen version on the other side.

    The problem with this transfer is the variable sharpness. It is almost as if the picture wanders in and out of focus, but there are shots where one character is sharply in focus, while another is blurred - look at 4:30, for example, where Bill Barnacle is clear, but Sam Sawnoff is not. I fear this may be a problem with the source material, because I cannot see how it could be caused by a faulty transfer. Despite this flaw, I must say that this is far better quality video than, for example, The X-Men Phoenix Saga.

    There is no low level noise to be seen, the colours are bright but not oversaturated, and there are no MPEG or film artefacts. There are some minor aliasing issues, but they are not particularly troublesome.

    All in all, it is a shame that the sharpness is not well-controlled, because they did a nice job on everything else.

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

Audio

    The audio on this disc is delightful, and is the first reference quality soundtrack I have had the pleasure of reviewing.

    There are only two tracks on this DVD: an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track (at the enhanced 448Kb/s data rate), and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded track (at the enhanced 224Kb/s data rate). I listened to the 5.1 track, which is the default. It is unusual to see a 2.0 track recorded at 224 Kb/s, but it is nice to see, because it means that someone who is listening on a stereo system can get quite decent sound.

    The dialogue is clear and readily understood throughout the movie, despite the accepts of many of the characters, and despite Sam Sawnoff's speech impediment.

    Animation always makes it hard to judge audio sync. I didn't spot any problems.

    The score, by Chris Harriott, is quite pleasant, and well-suited to the film. The songs are cheerful, and bounce along nicely.

    One aspect of the soundtrack that really blew me away was the surround and subwoofer use. I've reviewed a number of 5.1 tracks where I've wondered why they bothered using a 5.1 track. No such problem here. Lots of ambience, music, and other sounds in the rear channels, while the subwoofer lent some decent oomph to the lower register, without making itself obtrusive. Good stuff!

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

Extras

    There is really only one extra on this disc for users of a DVD player, but it is a good one. If you have a DVD-ROM drive, then you get a second extra.

Menu

    The menu is static, but it has a nice piece of audio (in Dolby Digital, no less) behind it. It offers:

Featurette - The Baking Of (26:12)

    This is a bit more than a promotional fluff piece. They have tried hard to show some interesting snippets of the process of making this film. They show several of the actors recording their voices, including John Cleese. John Cleese mentions that one of the advantages of doing animation is that he doesn't have to shave! There is even a segment in black and white, showing Norman Lindsay in 1970 being interviewed about a previous production of The Magic Pudding (looks like that version used marionettes). This is well worth watching. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, including all of the included footage from the movie. This is what leads me to believe that the film was originally widescreen.

DVD-ROM Game - Sink or Swim

    I wasn't able to assess this game, but at least they included a single screen about it for DVD player users. They mention that it is taken from the CD-ROM game of The Magic Pudding. Should we be proud that Australian companies are catching onto the merchandising angle? Maybe not...
Ed. This is essentially Frogger, but with the characters from The Magic Pudding.

R4 vs R1

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

    As far as we have been able to discover, this DVD is not available anywhere else.

Summary

    I liked The Magic Pudding. I can't say if that's because of my fond memories of the book, or because of the movie itself, but I quite liked it.

    I was disappointed with the sharpness of the video, but it was otherwise well done. It may be that on a small to medium TV screen the sharpness won't be a problem.

    The audio was excellent and of reference quality.

    The extra was good - a bit more than I'd expect on a children's DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Saturday, March 03, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-737, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics matte white screen with a gain of 1.0 (280cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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