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Paramount Studios presents
Andre (1994)

"We still couldn't convince Andre that he was a seal, and my father, that he wasn't one."
- Toni's adult voice (Annette O'Toole)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: May 02, 2002

Stars: Keith Carradine, Chelsea Field, Tina Majorino, Keith Szarabajka, Tony the Sea Lion
Other Stars: Aidan Pendleton, Joshua Jackson, Shane Meier, Shirley Broderick, Andrea Libman, Jay Brazeau, Bill Dow, Joy Coghill, Stephen Dimopoulos, Frank C. Turner, Kristian Ayre, Gregory Smith, Ric Reid, Duncan Fraser, Gary Jones, Teryl Rothery, Douglas Newell, Annette O'Toole
Director: George Miller

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: PG for teen mischief, mild violence and language.
Run Time: 01h:34m:38s
Release Date: March 12, 2002
UPC: 097360911640
Genre: adventure


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+B+A+ D

DVD Review

"It was clear Andre wasn't like other seals." - Toni's adult voice

Movies about kids and animals are in no short supply, and many tend to try to manipulate its audience with a series of near crises, the pain of separation, and an ultimate flowery end. And so they should. While it may not be anything new to make a film about the bonding of a child with an animal, it is the kind of story that needs to be seen once in a while, amidst high action thrillers about terrorists and evil-doers threatening to destroy life as we know it. Sometimes we just need to have our focus shifted onto creatures of the wild, and the marvel they bring. Such is the case with Andre, adapted from the book A Seal Called Andre by Harry Goodridge and Lew Dietz, based on a true story of a harbor seal who befriended a family in Maine in the 1950s. With a narrative voice over, the summer that changed their lives is told.

The Whitney household is the local zoo, where youngest daughter Toni brings home a collection of injured animals for her father, Harry, the local harbor master in Rockport, to tend to. There's a duck on the refrigerator, a goat outside the kitchen window, and Mrs. Whitney managing the mayhem with her two teenage kids, while her husband and nine-year-old Toni discover a bounty of wild creatures. It has been a hard year for the fishing community, and the seals are fingered for the blame, but when Harry finds an abandoned seal pup while out on his patrols, he is obligated to bring the creature home, trying to conceal this latest find from his wife. Like most moms, Thalice is not easily fooled, and soon the pup becomes the household pet, much to the chagrin of the family dog. But this is no ordinary seal, and soon his personality begins to emerge, as Toni teaches him tricks and he becomes a local celebrity. Billy Baker, one of the fishermen hit with declining catches, is none too happy about the harbor master's find, nor is he content with the job he has been doing in the local waters. Billy sets out to have the seal removed by whatever means possible, creating a conflict in the community with a young girl's heart and a seal pup's life in the balance.

One would not expect a seal (actually a sea lion—seals are very difficult to train) to have a lot of personality, but Andre proves us wrong. Whether growling at the bad guys while watching TV, dancing in the streets with his friends, or blowing raspberries at inopportune moments, Andre is a ham to behold. The interaction between human and seal is entertaining, with a levity that elevates the tone above the serious undercurrents brewing. Of course, there are a number of incidents that have us worried about Andre's fate, and the seal shows he is worthy of our attention through his heroic deeds. In the end things are resolved, but in a bittersweet way.

The biggest letdown with most animal films is stiff acting and a tendency to overstate the obvious, while trying to present a case for animal preservation. Andre does a pretty good job at remaining even-handed in this regard, and the conflicts, while not wholely justified by the film, aren't overdone, nor are the sentimental parts drawn out and syrupy. The acting is good, with Tina Majorino adorable as Toni, and Keith Carradine carrying the wide-eyed father role with ample humor. Chelsea Field is believable as the mom, and Keith Szarabajka plays a good bad guy, but the star of the show is Tory the Sea Lion, who steals every scene he's in. You'll laugh, you'll cry, but that's the way it''s supposed to be, and there's even footage of the real Andre in the credit roll. This is a fine family movie young kids will enjoy, and if your heart hasn't been hardened by the cynicism of the modern media, Andre will tug on the emotions for adults as well.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Presented in anamorphic 2.35:1, image quality is very good, but shy of excellent. Clarity is decent, fine grain is rendered well, and edge enhancement isn't an issue. Colors are solid though perhaps a little drab and not as vibrant as I would expect. Black levels are good, though contrast seems a little high. Better than average.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The English 5.1 track has good atmosphere, but is primarily focused in the front soundstage. Frequency coverage is good, and there is some directionality, but the rear speakers are used for ambience only. French and English 2.0 tracks are available, both having a smaller sounding presentation. No technical deficiencies were noted.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: None provided. It would have been nice to have some more background on the story that inspired the book this was based on. Twelve chapter stops are sparsely presented two to a page.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

Sure, you've probably seen stories like this in Free Willy or other movies, and some of them may be better, but Andre has its own charm, and a loveable central character, supported by a good cast of humans. It's nice to find a film with no profanity or explosions, where the appreciation of a wild creature can be both entertaining and and uplifting. Andre gets my "seal" of approval.

 


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