Alpha and Omega (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo & Samuel Scott (23rd October 2013).
The Film

I remember seeing the trailer for “Alpha and Omega” (2010) in front of “Toy Story 3” (2010). Aside from the fact that it looked truly horrendous, all I can remember is the constant reminder that you could experience the film in “EYE-POPPING 3D!”. It told me this, over and over and over until I wondered if they were putting more stock into reaping the (assumed) benefits of charging more for a 3D picture than in actually crafting a worthwhile story. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m convinced it’s the latter. What happened to kids movies? When I was growing up, it seems like we had all the coolest live-action films and cartoons that people still heap tons of praise upon today, even without the added benefit of viewing them through rose-tinted glasses. The majority of kids’ films today feel devoid of emotion, produced only to cash in on the undisputable fact that parents will likely be dragged to anything that’s animated and/or features some cuddly, fluffy CGI creations. Whatever happened to giving kids a truly fantastic ride when they go to the movies? Seems these days, those behind the movies know kids are usually easy to please, so they aim for the lowest common denominator. Luckily, there’s a bit of a backlash being felt via parents’ pocketbooks, and a lot of these unworthy films (this one included) aren’t performing as well as distributors are undoubtedly hoping for. Maybe they’ll start to get the message that just because a film is animated and presented in 3D, that doesn’t preclude it from sucking a big one.

According to the film, there are two distinct classes of wolves: Alpha and Omega. Humphrey (Justin Long) is an Omega wolf who’s in love with an Alpha wolf, Kate (Hayden Panettiere). The problem is that Kate is set to marry Garth (Chris Carmack), a wolf who’s part of the enemy Eastern pack. Just before they’re set to mate, however, Kate runs off, runs into Humphrey and the both of them are shot with tranquilizers and shipped off to Idaho, where researchers are attempting to rebuild the wolf population there. Miles from home, and with no assistance in sight, the two wolves set out to get back home, falling in love in the process… yadda, yadda, yadda. Honestly, anyone with kids who watches this (because I can’t imagine anyone other than parents or reviewers would voluntarily sit through this) will be able to telegraph the plot and character moves well in advance. I suppose I could let it slide a little more if I look at this as a film for toddlers and young children who need to learn the basics of life, but on the same note I don’t think I’d want my children to have fond memories of watching something so patently terrible that it killed Dennis Hopper.

Ok, ok… maybe (and I stress that word) this film didn’t kill one of Hollywood’s greatest actors, but it stings like a shot to the gut that this was the last film he left us. At least it was only his voice doing the work, so he doesn’t have to be facially shamed in this final outing. I wish I could say his pipes lent some gravitas to this underwhelming production, but even the great Hopper couldn’t do anything to salvage this wreck. I’d say I’m amazed at the voice cast a production like this was able to secure – Danny Glover, Christina Ricci, Justin Long - but I don’t think it’s such a hidden fact that actors love doing this kind of work. They usually get a big pay day, and they don’t spend more than a week or two shuffling around a soundbooth in their jammies. There isn’t much to it. I’m in the camp that still has a minor problem with big, recognizable celebrities lending their talents to animated movies. It tends to take me out of the film in the sense that, when I hear Danny Glover’s wolf speak, all I can picture is Danny Glover sitting in an ADR booth somewhere. Unless you’re someone like Christopher Lee, who has one of the best voices in cinema, then I think many of these productions would be better off using no-name actors who have great character voices. They’re out there – lots of ‘em – and these are the people who should be bringing these characters to life. Not a tired, old Danny Glover who sounds like he really is – to quote his most famous character - “too old for this shit”.

Video

Lions Gate Home Entertainment have released Alpha and Omega in the United Kingdom in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The transfer is 1080p and uses an AVC MPEG-4 codec. Unfortunately, we are provided with a 2D version only, even though it played in 3D during it's theatrical run back in 2010.

Now, as to be expected, there is nothing particularly wrong with this transfer in a technical sense. There is no edge enhancement, no aliasing, no dirt, no scratches and no compression artifacts. Being a recent animated movie from a big studio, I expected nothing less. What is annoying, is that the animation isn't of the highest standard. It looks okay, but never reaches the level of detail that we have come to expect thanks to DreamWorks, Disney and Pixar. The animation is occasionally blocky, which even causes it to feel a little outdated. Still we cannot blame the flaws in the animation on the transfer.

The feature runs 87:55.

Audio

Just a single audio option here:
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

This track is good, but rather basic, never utilising the surrounds to their full potential. The LFE is used on occasion, most notably for the shotgun shots when Alpha and Omega are outside of a remote petrol station. There is also a scene where the wolves get caught up in a stampede of caribou, and this also provides a boost to the LFE. Dialogue is clear at all times, and there is no damage to the audio by way of dropouts, scratches, or background hiss. Although the track is a perfectly capable and technically sound affair, one can't help but feel underwhelmed at some of the missed opportunities.

Optional subtitles are provided in English for the hard of hearing.

Extras

We start off the extras package with “The Making of Alpha & Omega” (1080p) featurettes:
- “The Alpha of Animation” (7:23)
- “Voicing the Wolves” (8:02)
- “From Alpha to Omega” (6:26)
These are interesting segments, but ultimately too short to be in-depth enough to appeal to adults. Granted, it must be hard to garner an extras package for a kids film, that can also appeal to adults, and these do manage to almost find that ground, but it just fails reaching where it needs to be due to the length. We see how a lot of the facial expressions were animated, behind-the-scenes footage of cast members doing their voice roles, and how the characters made the transition from the pre-development phase to the screen.

Next up, the “Wolves in the Wild” (1080p) featurette (13:10) is a closer look at how wolves act in their natural habitat. It's aimed at children, and the woman from the California Wolf Center who talks about the wolves obviously knows what she is talking about, and it sounds as though she is used to talking about the subjects to younger children in her day-to-day work. There is footage of wolves in the wild, interspersed with film clips. I'm sure everyone who watches this will learn something; personally I was surprised to find out that wolves are only successful at hunting 10% of the time.

A single deleted scene (1080p, 1:06) shows Alpha and Omega in a playful discussion about howling at the moon.

An “Animal Fun Facts” interactive feature, is basically a trivia track chucking out animal facts as you view the movie. I turned this on for a little while during my viewing and it's a nice little feature, but not one that I would view for the duration.

We finish with a couple of interactive games:
- “Log Sliding Game” has you selecting one of three paths for Alpha and Omega to slide down in an attempt to catch caribou.
- “Are You an Alpha or Omega?” is a personality test to see which character you resemble more.

Overall

Film reviewed by Anthony Arrigo.
A/V and extra features reviewed by Samuel Scott.

The Film: D- Video: B Audio: B Extras: C Overall: C

 


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