With all of the recent Hollywood remakes of foreign films, I applaud Disney for partnering with China Movie Company Ltd to bring Chinese movies over to the US. Hopefully this will instill a love of other cultures and film from other countries in our children and there will be less of a need to remake foreign films in the future. Well, one can hope anyway. The first offering by this new collaboration is the live action/CGI animated The Secret of the Magic Gourd.
Gourd is based on a popular Chinese childrens story by Zhiang Tian Yi. Raymond (voiced by Drake Johnston) is a grand dreamer, but doesnt have the determination to actually work for any of the things that he wants. One day, he catches a gourd while fishing and discovers that this isnt just an ordinary gourd. This gourd has a name Bailey (voiced by Corbin Blue, High School Musical) and is magic. He can grant Raymond any wish that he can dream of. At first, this has its advantages. That is, until Bailey gets out of control and grants every little wish of Raymonds and Raymond realizes that some of the best things are those that youve earned on your own.
If this is what is to be expected of the partnership between Disney and China Movie Company, then Im really excited to see what is to come. Visually, this movie is stunning. The CGI is flawless and works seamlessly with the live action. What is lacking at times is the translation. Unfortunately, the subtitles are exactly word for word what the dubbed track is on this US release. There are obviously some scenes that would make more sense if they were translated a little better. Hopefully this is something that is improved upon with time and future releases wont be so disjointed in their translations.
The story itself is very sweet, though. As a parent, Im always a sucker for a story that will give my kids a real-life moral without their even knowing about it. The moral of this story, that its always better to work hard for something, is a good one for kids to learn early on. And it doesnt hit them over the head with it. Raymond realizes this slowly and then in the end, his hard work pays off.
The addition of Corbin Bleu to the vocal cast seems a bit unnecessary, but I’m sure he was only a part of the project to help sell this new partnership to the youth of America. The original actor who played Bailey (Bao Hu Lu in the original Chinese) was an older man, middle aged. I think I like that idea better, that the gourd has been around for awhile and still hasn’t learned everything.
There were a few things that could have been better about The Secret of the Magic Gourd, but overall it’s still an enjoyable movie that kids are going to love. My kids have already watched it three times!
Like I’ve said previously, this movie is stunning. The colors are vibrant and the effects are breathtaking. This is a gorgeous looking DVD. It’s presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The sound is Dolby Digital and really highlights the imaginative score.
Bloopers – These are Pixar style CGI bloopers starring Bailey. Semi-cute. (1:27)
Games & Activities – Too Many Toys Game – A matching game
Behind the Scenes with the Gourd – I don’t know why the “with the Gourd” is tacked on to the title. I thought it might be a standard making of with the gourd as the narrator or as the guide or something. Nope, this is just a standard making of. It talks about the original story on which the film is based, the cast and the animation. (28:25)
Music Video – The music video for the song that plays at the end of the movie, titled “Worlds of Wonder”. Sadly, the music video doesn’t offer dubbing or any subtitles so I have no idea what it’s about. It’s a cute sounding song though. (4:08)
The Secret of the Magic Gourd is just a really great family film. This one is more for the kids, but only because of the flaws in the translation. The story is easy enough for them to understand and learn from, and the visuals are enough to keep the adults in their seats. I look forward to what’s coming next!
Walt Disney Video presents The Secret of the Magic Gourd. Directed by Zhu Jiaxin, Zhong Zhihang. Starring Corbin Bleu, Drake Johnston. Written by Zhaing Tian Yi. Running time: 85 minutes. Rated G. Released on DVD: <January 27, 2009. Available at Amazon.com.