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Fox Home Entertainment presents
"Hey, hey, hey!"
DVD ReviewHollywood continues to churn out movies based on old TV shows. Unfortunately, for every Starsky & Hutch there's a The Beverly Hillbillies, in that the former was a box-office hit, and the latter a huge dud. Regardless of the uncertain nature that these projects bring to the table, every year brings a few more TV adaptations. Late 2004 (Christmas Day to be exact) saw the release of Fat Albert. This was one of those box-office duds, though, taking in a mere $47 million in theaters.
The Fat Albert animated TV series was basically a cult hit. Aimed at young African-American boys, the show was a surprising crossover success, appealing to kids regardless of their race. The brainchild of pre-Cosby Show Bill Cosby, the series told the story of the titular character and his group of friends, including the colorful characters Rudy, Mushmouth, and Donald. Airing for a whopping 12 years in various incarnations, the show became a Saturday morning cartoon staple in the 1970s and early 1980s.
When it came to finally making the film version, the producers tapped somewhat popular actor/comedian Kenan Thompson (of Good Burger, TV's Kenan & Kel, and now Saturday Night Live fame) to play Fat Albert. Along with a supporting cast of relative unknowns, Thompson is pretty much given free-reign to make this beloved portly character his own, without completely imitating Bill Cosby's voice interpretation from the TV show.
This live-action version begins with an animated segment of Albert and friends in action. Teenager Doris Robinson is watching this animated show on TV, when she cries and one of her tears hits the remote control. This magically brings Albert and all of his friends out of the TV and into the real world. They soon discover that they can't get back to their world until the TV show is set to air the next day. Deciding to make the best of it, the gang decide to hang out with Doris, wreaking hilarious havoc with each and every step they take.
After a couple of hours of fun, Albert realizes that the longer he stays in the "real" world, the more his body will deteriorate. However, when the time arrives for him to return to TV, Albert must decide if that's more important than helping his new friend Doris solve her teenage problems.
One of the best aspects of Fat Albert is the fact that Bill Cosby's not only in on the joke, but he's literally in the movie as well. He actually plays himself, and the scene that has Fat Albert ringing Cosby's doorbell features a priceless reaction from Bill when he opens the door to see his pseudo döppelganger.
Not that Fat Albert is a great movie by any means, but the idea of this great TV series being made into a feature film had disaster written all over it. In fact, it has no right to be as entertaining as it is, since the overall plot is very thin and the look of the film is nothing spectacular. Still, these actors do an amazing job transforming the familiar cartoon versions of these characters into live, human beings right before our eyes. Not only is Kenan Thompson good as Fat Albert, but Jermaine Williams does a fantastic job embodying fan favorite, Mushmouth. Aaron A. Frazier is also noteworthy as Weird Harold, but the fact that Williams could pull off as popular a character as Mushmouth is, and not be universally hated by Fat Albert fans is a feat in itself.
Hopefully, those behind future TV turned movie projects will take something out of Fat Albert, as it's a great way to revisit an old character, while showing creative restraint at the same time.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: This disc features both an anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen version of Fat Albert and a pan-and-scan version on the flip side of this DVD-18 disc. Fortunately, both versions are equally impressive, aside from the loss of information you'll experience with the cropped transfer. Images are incredibly sharp, and the way that the bright color scheme is handled is remarkable. Aside from a bit of edge enhancement, there weren't any noticeable blemishes to speak of.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: There is a rather lively Dolby Digital 5.1 track here, but the mix never really has the chance to open up as much as a mix for a more action-heavy film. The standard comedy-oriented sound effects and music are allowed to branch out to all speakers, aided by a wide dynamic range. Tight bass accompanied by crisp, distinct dialogue round out this above average track.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Drumline, The Sandlot 2, Like Mike
2 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Joel Zwick and producer John Davis
Packaging: Keep Case
Fat Albert: Behind the Band is a look at the making of the film, in the form of a parody of VH1's Behind the Music series. It focuses on the musical performances in the film and the "auditions" that were held of auxiliary singers and performers.
The only other extras are an Inside Look at a couple of new Fox theatrical releases, a few trailers, and some Extended Scenes, which wouldn't have added much to Fat Albert had they been included in the theatrical version.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsAfter a brief, barely three-month turnaround, Fat Albert makes its DVD debut, courtesy of Fox Home Video. Fortunately, the film looks and sounds as you would expect for such a recent project, making it that much more enjoyable to discover this underappreciated work.
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