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MTI Home Video presents
"You'd better get me that koala."
DVD ReviewWhat kid hasn't fantasized about an animal learning to talk? That fantasy comes to life in this New Zealand production, which combines silliness and a solid kid hero to make for an amusing little adventure.
Aborigine Ngundi (Steven Riley) has taught a koala to speak: Ozzie (voiced by Steven Kynman). Cranky and voraciously hungry, Ozzie is kidnaped by Tank (Ralf Moeller) and Buzz (Peter Rowley) to be taken back to the United States at the behest of the owner of Wondertoys, Maxine ('Max') Happy (Joan Collins), to be used as a prototype for a race of talking koalas. But on the flight to the states, Ozzie escapes and substitutes himself for the stuffed koala of young Justin Morton (Spencer Breslin), whose mother Beth (Rachel Hunter) is a flight attendant. Max is not at all happy to discover that the talking koala (not a bear, as the movie persistently reminds us) has escaped her clutches, and she sends Tank and Buzz after Ozzie to retrieve him from Justin's home. Soon it's up to Justin, with the help of his friends Darryl (Anton Tnnet) and Caitlin (Rose McIver) to rescue Ozzie before his brainwaves are wiped out.
Although the puppet work on the koala isn't very convincing, through the voice work of Kynman it ultimately works well enough to get by. The movie is fairly cartoonish in any event (there are even periodic animated segments scattered throughout), and many of the characters are buffoonish to an extreme. Almost all of the adults other than Beth Morton are presented as ridiculous, with the kids being the heroes and decisively taking charge of the situation. They're inspired by Justin's friend, comic book artist Charlie Foster (Bruce Allpress), who writes Justin into his comics as the Young Avenger. Some of the gag work is pretty entertaining, particularly the inept efforts of Tank and Buzz to try to capture Ozzie. Tank is rather like an even more dimwitted Arnold Schwarzenegger, while Buzz comes off as a Bob Hoskins imitation, so they're an appealing and oddly familiar teaming.
But the most entertaining part of the film by far is the way-over-the-top presentation of Max Happy by Joan Collins. She's in full-on Cruella de Vil mode here, right down to the makeup and hair, and Collins, always one to chew scenery with a vengeance, has at the part with a crazed gusto. She's a lot of fun to watch being allowed to run riot. Young Spencer Breslin (who is also in the remake of The Shaggy Dog as well as the second and third installments of The Santa Clause) gives a much more restrained performance as Justin, and is quite appealing as the put-upon youngster who has both an active fantasy life and a good grasp on reality and the right thing to do.
The movie slows down to a crawl when the weak songs start up, but they're thankfully few in number. That's kind of odd, because the music is otherwise engaging and has a nice ethnic air to it. Otherwise the picture snaps along at a reasonably good pace and there's plenty of fun with Ozzie causing trouble (though there are about six too many fart jokes). There's also an interesting look at aboriginal life in the modern world, where ancient customs exist side by side with the Internet. On the whole, Ozzie, like its namesake, is pretty cute, and the moral is solid but isn't overly labored.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: Although letterboxed, the movie is presented in nonanamorphic fashion, resulting in plenty of artifacts, aliasing and loss of detail. There are tons of jagged lines throughout, and the animation, which has an anime influence, doesn't look nearly as good as it should. On the positive side, colors are vivid and the source print looks flawless.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Surround English track has a nicely enveloping quality to it, especially during the scenes set in Australia. One feels highly immersed in the sounds during those sequences. There isn't a lot of range needed but what's here is transferred cleanly and without any notable problems. Music tends to be reserved for the surrounds.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Lost Treasure of Sawtooth Island, 587 The Great Train Robbery, Bike Squad, Horse Crazy
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Extras Review: The extras are limited to a trailer (plus four other unrelated trailers) and brief bios and filmographies for Hunter (whose main claim to fame is being the ex-Mrs. Rod Stewart), Collins and Breslin. Oddly, Spanish subtitles are included, but no English ones. Chaptering is thorough.
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsWho doesn't love a koala? A fun and engaging kidcentric movie that suffers a little from a low budget, but gains immeasurably from a no-brakes-applied Joan Collins. The transfer could be a lot better, though, and there's precious little for extras.
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