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DreamWorks presents
The Kite Runner (2007)

"Would you like to read one of my stories?"
- Amir (Khalid Abdalla)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: April 28, 2008

Stars: Khalid Abdalla, Homayoun Ershadi, Shaun Toub, Atossa Leoni, Saïd Taghmouji
Director: Marc Forster

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for strong thematic material including the sexual assault of a child, violence and brief strong language
Run Time: 02h:07m:43s
Release Date: March 25, 2008
UPC: 097361179742
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- CA-B+ C+

DVD Review

The Kite Runner brings with it such an amped-up literary pedigree, and its DVD case is so festooned with superlatives ("Surely one of THE GREATEST FILMS you are ever going to see!" "This is a MAGNIFICENT film!" Oh how I love the ARBITRARY CAPITAL LETTERS and the exclamation points!) that you immediately get the suspicion that the hard sell is on for a reason. I haven't read the Khaled Hosseini novel on which the film is based, so I can't speak to its literary merit; but the movie, alas, plays out like a bag full of shopworn clichés tied up with a bow of political sensitivity, making this a very tiresome and almost completely predictable couple of hours.

The film opens in San Francisco in 2000, when Amir, who with his lovely wife is celebrating the publication of his first book, gets The Call—an old friend on the other side of the world is in trouble, and the pull of loyalty and obligation reaches across the continents. We quickly jump back into Amir's childhood, to Kabul, 1978, with his stern father, Baba, an intellectual member of the Afghani bourgeoisie, and learn that Amir's mother died in childbirth. The boy's best friend is the son of Baba's manservant, and Amir thinks that his friend and not he is the sort of son his father wanted, that he himself isn't tough enough. The gauntlet is thrown down, then—he must prove his mettle to his old man.

It's hard to imagine a hokier setup, really, and simply relocating an overly familiar story to a new time and place just isn't enough. You watch the movie and start thinking that the book must be wildly overpraised and overhyped, or else that its cinematic incarnation isn't doing it justice—the fact that the movie has to lean so heavily on child actors for its first hour doesn't help the cause, either. In an ungainly temporal move, about an hour into the running time the film jumps ahead some fifteen years or so, and Amir and Baba have emigrated to America—on some level it's a classic immigrants' story with the promise of a new beginning, and on another it's awfully sad, to see Baba, a learned man and a highly respected one in his homeland, working at a gas station.

Maybe the best thing about the film is the glimpses it gives us of recent Afghan history, and it's been a brutal few decades—first the Soviets, then the Taliban, and now a seemingly endless American military presence in the ongoing war against terror. But the movie deals with current events only glancingly—it wants its politics without politics, to be taken as serious and important without actually having anything to say. The DVD opens with a public service announcement from Hosseini, imploring us to help the citizens of Afghanistan who are in such need and despair, and they're certainly worthy of our assistance. Watching a mediocre and self-congratulatory movie, however, doesn't really help anyone.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Good, saturated transfer, showing off the careful reproduction of 1970s Afghanistan to great advantage.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Maybe the bravest thing about the film is that the first hour isn't in English but in the Afghans' native tongue; it's all reasonably well rendered on the 5.1 track, though the soundtrack music is sometimes laid on a little thick.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Son of Rambo, Cloverfield, Stardust
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Marc Forster, Khaled Hosseini, David Benioff
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Hosseini PSA
Extras Review: The director and novelist are joined by screenwriter David Benioff on the commentary track, the premise of which is that Hosseini's novel is a masterpiece. There's some good chatter about issues of adaptation and fidelity, and your standard roster of stories from the set. In the same vein is Words from The Kite Runner (14m:25s), which is about transforming the book into the movie; and Images from The Kite Runner (24m:38s) is a typical making-of piece, with lots of cast members and production team members interviewed on the set, along with many clips.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

A relentlessly self-congratulatory project, which offers strongly felt humanitarian sentiments, but little else.


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