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Adventures in Zambezia(2012)
When a spirited young falcon named Kai learns of Zambezia, the fabulous city of birds, he leaves his remote country home against the wishes of his father. But when his dad is captured by an evil lizard who plans to attack the city, Kai must learn the importance of teamwork if he’s to rescue his father, save his new friends and help keep Zambezia lizard free.
For more about Adventures in Zambezia and the Adventures in Zambezia Blu-ray release, see Adventures in Zambezia Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 31, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jeremy Suarez, Abigail Breslin, Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Lewis
» See full cast & crew
Adventures in Zambezia Blu-ray Review
Adventures in Unoriginality.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 31, 2013
You're the hero now.
One glance at the movie release schedule shows that there's no dearth of digitally animated films. They come and go as commonly now as the raunchy comedy, the slugfest action film, or the special effect summer spectacular. That means the novelty is wearing a bit thin and that it's cheaper than ever before to put together a competent production that may not have the charm, technical merits, or story of the best from Pixar, DreamWorks, or Sony, but that at least delivers mild, satisfactory kid-centric entertainment at something of a budget production price. The South African-made Adventures in Zambezia may very well epitomize the midlevel modern digitally animated film. It borrows liberally from other, better films of the past few years, the animation is a tick or two below the current standard, and the plot is so cliché it's almost easy to predict specific dialogue, never mind broad plot points. Nevertheless, it's a serviceable little venture, hardly spectacular but a worthwhile watch that will satisfy the base cravings of the youngest viewers but probably put off adults who recognize the inherent flaws and budget constraints evident in nearly every frame and each syllable of dialogue.
A young falcon named Kai (voiced by Jeremy Suarez) lives life -- or what life his father allows of him -- on the edge. He enjoys performing daring feats of flight, much to the chagrin of his overprotective father Tendai (Samuel L. Jackson). Tendai would rather his son remain close to home, keep the area's fence maintained, and remain within the self-imposed boundary, a boundary in which they have everything needed to survive but nothing, Kai realizes, needed to really live life. One day, Kai runs into another bird carrying ducklings to Zambezia, a great bird city some distance from the only place Kai has ever known. It sounds like a dream come true. It's said to be bustling with birds and excitement, and there's even an elite guard unit known as "The Hurricanes" that sounds like just the ticket for Kai's aerial skills and daring. He sneaks away and finally makes it to the great tree city of Zambezia. Of course, little does he know he'll encounter all sorts of hardships, dangers, and personal challenges on his way to learning about life, chiefly his complex past and his extraordinary future.
Adventures in Zambezia will constantly remind its animation-savvy audiences of other, better films. Whether the colorful box art and characters that recall memories of Rio, music that sounds rejected from The Lion King, or a plot that mirrors that of Finding Nemo in terms of basic adventure structure and story arcs, the film certainly has its fair share of self-imposed obstacles to overcome in its brief 80-some minute runtime. Adventures in Zambezia never separates itself as its own film, working its cobbled-together pieces into a cohesive but oftentimes terribly bland final puzzle that will probably charm the youngest audiences who don't know any better but bore adults with its unoriginal content. What's more, the picture lacks the sort of dramatic subtlety of its peers. It weaves in a tired but still important collage of life lessons on a myriad of issues -- trust in self and others, self confidence, the importance of working together rather than alone, the positives and place of forgiveness in society, and the dangers of shielding loved ones from the world -- but does so with no dramatic power or structural subtlety, instead forcing them into the plot because, well, that's what these sorts of movies are supposed to do. Adventures in Zambezia has its heart in the right place, but original storytelling is most certainly not one of its strengths.
Unfortunately, "strengths" of any kind are rather difficult to find in the movie. It does everything just well enough but nothing spectacularly. The voice acting -- even considering the talents of actors like Samuel L. Jackson, Leonard Nimoy, and Jeff Goldblum -- comes across with a rather uninspired cadence, tired, almost, lacking subtlety and the sort of real, dynamic, deep character understanding that's so evident in the best-voiced digital movies, like the aforementioned Kung Fu Panda. But that's just par for the course of Adventures in Zambezia. It's a movie of structural simplicity and dramatic predictability. The animation lacks the modern refinement of the best pictures and the story evolves with an alarming sense of inevitability. As for the former, any digital movie must be viewed as far greater than the sum of its digital pieces; it's the content that matters more than how the content looks on the screen, but Zambezia fails to support its midrange visuals with a top-shelf plot. As soon as the "daring" Kai learns of the existence of Zambezia and its Hurricane squadron, the story unfolds with nary a moment of unexpected drama or any sort of sudden plot twist. Even the villains are bland and include the usual lame-brained sidekicks meant to provide comic excess for the audience rather than dangerous foes for the protagonists. It's the ultimate in play-it-safe storytelling and, overall, a disappointment.
Adventures in Zambezia Blu-ray, Video Quality
Adventures in Zambezia's Blu-ray presentation looks about as good as the source material allows. The film is something of a lower end production on the scale of modern digital films; it lacks the in-depth detailing and shows some smooth, listless main textures that fail to display perfect distinction in feathers, for example. It does captures some good terrain details, but objects like a wicker basket show only the basic shape with no tactile sense of realism to them. On the other hand, colors can be, and most often are, quite good. Whether dusty terrain or the explosion of brilliant colors seen in Zambezia -- all sorts of signage and multicolored birds light up the screen -- the palette often appears even and accurate, displaying even the most subtle shade with relative ease. On the downside, there are a few instance of readily evident banding to be seen around the screen, and a few elements show a slight shimmering effect. Otherwise, this is a technically proficient image; it's not up to the standards of the best animated films, but that's because the end product just doesn't have the technical muscle of the newest major releases.
Adventures in Zambezia Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Adventures in Zambezia arrives on Blu-ray with a balanced, sometimes exciting, and always nicely supportive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Sony's sound presentation plays with a positive, effortless presence, delivering notes easily around the stage with full support of the rear speakers. The front carries the majority of the load, leaving the back channels to fill in a few gaps and create a pleasing sense of immersion. Bass is well balanced and effective in every instance; whether daring action scenes or the heavy presence of a large waterfall, the subwoofer will shake and rumble quite a bit but never to the point of exaggerated annoyance. Ambient effects are delivered evenly and crisply; the stage doesn't always spring to effortless, 360-degree life, but there's a positive and enjoyable sense of spacing to the entire area, whether Kai's first home or the bustling Zambezia that, upon Kai's arrival, comes complete with background intercom announcements meant to replicate an airport environment. Dialogue is focused in the center and comes through clearly in every scene, even heavy action moments. Overall, this is another very strong soundtrack from Sony.
Adventures in Zambezia Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Adventures in Zambezia contains four featurettes and a music video.
Adventures in Zambezia Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Adventures in Zambezia isn't likely to insult its audience even considering the complete transparency of its story, but it's sure to leave all but the most unexposed audiences rather bored. It's suitably colorful, fast-moving, and sure-to-be fun for the youngest of audiences, but most viewers who have watched all the bigger, better movies that influenced this will likely walk away disappointed. Adventures in Zambezia is a decent enough copycat movie with zero imagination and only fair-for-its-time visuals. The end result is a lackluster movie on every front, one with a good heart and honest intent but with lackluster-at-best execution. Sony's Blu-ray release of Adventures in Zambezia features good video and high end audio. A few supplements are included. Wait for the bargain bin sale.
Zambezia: Other Editions
Adventures in Zambezia Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Adventures in Zambezia Blu-ray - January 17, 2013
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has officially announced and detailed its upcoming combo pack edition of director Wayne Thornley's Adventures in Zambezia (2012). The movie features an all-star cast led by Abigail Breslin, Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy and Samuel ...
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