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Alpha and Omega(2010)
Kate and Humphrey are two young wolves from a National Park in Canada who find themselves shipped halfway across the country by the park's rangers. While Humphrey is a streetwise, fun-loving Omega wolf, Kate is a sleek and sophisticated Alpha wolf and considers herself Humphrey's superior. Thrown together in a foreign land, and faced with a journey of over a thousand miles to get back home and restore peace on their warring home turf, the two must overcome their differences and learn to look out for each other.
For more about Alpha and Omega and the Alpha and Omega Blu-ray release, see Alpha and Omega Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on December 31, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere, Dennis Hopper, Danny Glover, Christina Ricci, Larry Miller
Directors: Anthony Bell, Ben Gluck
» See full cast & crew
Alpha and Omega Blu-ray Review
If only Classical Greek had an F minus.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, December 31, 2010
The world of children's entertainment has exploded so dramatically over the past couple of decades that fare that once would have been thought of as at least passably charming and agreeable now looks like something akin to the cookie cutter cartoons that used to populate Saturday morning network broadcasts. For those who indeed grew up on the three major networks, with offerings largely from mills like Hanna-Barbera, the choices that exploded first with cable, and then with the renaissance of major animated films since the 1980's has been truly astounding. Cable and satellite television are literally stuffed to their animated gills with channels devoted singularly to the art of hand drawn and/or computer generated images, and everyone from Disney to Pixar to Dreamworks to numerous other studios has released a slew of often top rate animated fare over the past few decades. In fact, that's part and parcel of what ails Alpha and Omega. For audiences used to the almost guaranteed excellence of a Pixar release, Alpha and Omega comes off as a somewhat shoddy also ran, something that might appeal—albeit fitfully—to the youngest viewers in the house, but which will leave older kids and certainly most adults wondering when the final credits roll is going to start. Plagued by less than brilliant animation (something rather surprising, given that the film was released in 3D, where every jot and tittle would be visible) and even less brilliant writing, Alpha and Omega is the filmic equivalent to the Hanna-Barbera series that populated broadcast television around 40 or so years ago: pleasant enough time killers with virtually no redeeming artistic or literary merits.
I am the Alpha and the Omega.
Thus sayeth the Lord in the Book of Revelation, an allusion to the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. (A perhaps interesting bit of trivia for you language lovers, culled from my work on my Master's Degree, when I studied Classical Greek. There are two "o" letters in Classical Greek: Omega and Omicron. For those of you who like etymology and word roots, you may have noticed that those letter names can be separated as O-mega, i.e., "big O," meaning the long O sound, and O-micron, i.e., "little O," denoting the short O sound. Fascinating, eh?) In Alpha and Omega, the letters are used to denote various classes of wolf, in this case an Alpha female, Kate (voiced by Heroes' Hayden Panettierre), and an Omega male, Humphrey (voiced by Justin Long). The two wolves are childhood playmates, despite their class differences. Kate's father, Winston (Danny Glover), wants Kate to marry Garth (Chris Carmack), the son of a rival pack's Alpha male (the late Dennis Hopper, to whom the film is dedicated). Kate is about to agree to the marriage, despite her misgivings, when she and Humphrey are tranquilize darted by a park ranger and shipped from Canada's Jasper National Park, their home, to Idaho's Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The two mismatched wolves are then forced to work together to find their way home. Want to guess how it all turns out? If you need more than one guess, you haven't seen any Hanna-Barbera cartoons lately.
Almost everything about Alpha and Omega has the slightly musty smell of something that's been around a little too long and has outlived its expiration date. The starcrossed love of Kate and Humphrey hits every expected note, including a momentarily tragic climax, but there's neither enough humor nor romance to ever make the pair very engaging. Most of the supporting turns here are similarly uninspired, from preppy Garth, whose howl causes birds to drop from midair, to the lunatic golfing French Canadian goose, Marcel (Larry Miller), who seems to have wandered in from the final croquet match in the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland. This is really no fault of the voice actors, all of whom do at least creditable work here, but more a problem with lame, rote screenwriting, courtesy of Steve Denk and Chris Moore. Ever since the first Disney rebirth with films like Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, moving on through the Pixar and Dreamworks pieces of the past several years, audiences have simply become more and more accustomed to really fairly sophisticated screenplays in a lot of animated fare, and in that department Alpha and Omega falls noticeably short.
It's not too bad if you don't pay attention to how crappy it looks.
Thus sayeth my youngest son as he watched the original Tron the other night, after my wife took him to see the new Tron Legacy. It was an instructive, if not incredibly poetic, commentary on how far we've come in the annals of computer generated imagery over the past couple of decades. I'm old enough to remember the incredible excitement over the "mind boggling" technology utilized in the original Tron, which of course now looks incredibly stilted and laugh out loud primitive. Unfortunately, while perhaps not at the nascent level of Tron, Alpha and Omega has a curiously underdeveloped animation style that completely undercuts the film at virtually every turn. Crest Animation Studios (it's never a good sign when a studio shares a name with a toothpaste) has had a fairly spotty history, starting life under the aegis of former Disney animator Richard Rich (it's never a good sign when an animator shares a name with a snotty comic book character). Rich started out well enough, with the nice looking The Swan Princess, but his subsequent work, which included the weird religious trifecta of Bible Stories, The Book of Mormon and Muhammed: The Last Prophet, has been increasingly bare bones and less and less appealing. The CGI of Alpha and Omega is barely competent at times, with blurry backgrounds, similarly inchoate character designs and an overall lackluster look that even kids may find less than entrancing. In fact in one of the supreme ironies of the film, the closing credits, which include what appear to be stills of hand drawn character sketches and background paintings, are more fully alive than the film itself.
Alpha and Omega Blu-ray, Video Quality
It's perhaps hard to give an even relatively objective view of Alpha and Omega's AVC encoded 1080p image (in 1.78:1), if only because the animation is often so disappointing. From a purely technical standpoint, this is an absolutely fine transfer, as one would expect of a product crafted completely in the digital domain. What is bothersome here is the lack of detail in the animation itself. Those used to the furry brilliance of the creatures in, say, Monsters, Inc., will wonder what the "fur renderer" in Alpha and Omega spent his time doing, for it certainly doesn't seem that much time was spent on actually rendering fur. Colors here are bland, often monochromatic, and backgrounds especially don't seem to have been given much thought or care. Maybe Crest was going for some sort of ultra-stylized look, but if so, they failed. This is one of the most generic looking pieces of animation in recent memory.
Alpha and Omega Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Much better is Alpha and Omega's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. One of the few elements which unquestionably works in this film is the charming score of Chris Bacon. While Bacon does have a tendency to "Mickey Mouse" (pun probably intended) his cues, his music is nonetheless largely charming and brings an added dimension to the often resolutely 2D emotional and storytelling world of Alpha and Omega. The entire mix here though is pleasing, with nice immersion in foley effects, dialogue and score. There's not a lot of bombastic, showy stuff going on in this soundtrack, but fidelity is excellent, surround activity above average for a relatively modest effort like this is, and all in all, there's a good deal to keep the listener engaged throughout the film.
Alpha and Omega Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Alpha and Omega gets a resounding Gamma (that would be a C in modern terms) with regard to its minimal supplements:
Alpha and Omega Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The fact is Disney and Disney/Pixar, and to a lesser extent DreamWorks, have set the bar so high for animated fare that "good enough" isn't, well, good enough anymore. Alpha and Omega is a slapdash affair with poorly realized animation and a predictable storyline. Tots and very young kids will probably be reasonably entertained, but everyone else would probably be more entertained by learning the Classical Greek alphabet.
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Alpha and Omega Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Alpha and Omega Blu-ray Announced - November 8, 2010
Lionsgate Home Entertainment has announced the animated movie Alpha and Omega for Blu-ray release on January 11, 2011, in a BD/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack. This road trip/adventure movie with undertones of romantic comedy centers on two wolves from opposite sides ...
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