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The Indian In The Cupboard

review by Ren C.

Rated PG

Studio: Columbia/Tri-Star

Running Time: 96 minutes

Starring Hal Scardino, Litefoot

Written by Melissa Mathison
Based on the novel by Lynne Reid Banks

Directed by: Frank Oz

Retail Price: $24.95

Features: Commentary, Photo Gallery, Trailers

Specs: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, English subtitles, French subtitles, Spanish subtitles, Chapter Search

Released: July 10th, 2001

When I first heard that the "Indian In the Cupboard" was coming to theaters, I had mixed emotions. While I was thrilled to learn that one of my favorite books as a child was going to be made into a movie, I was also curious how such an innovative and imaginative story would translate to the big screen. For the most part, I needn't have worried. "The Indian in the Cupboard" is a sweet, funny, and very enjoyable movie for the whole family.

The movie tells the story of Omri, who has just turned nine. We open on his birthday party where he receives two presents that on their own aren't all that significant: a wooden cupboard, and a plastic figure of an Indian. Omri's mother finds a key that fits the lock of the cupboard, and Omri innocently puts the figure in the cupboard over night, having no idea that something magic is about to happen. Omri wakes the next morning to the sound of a scraping within the cupboard. He opens it to a very large shock-the small plastic figure is now a flesh and blood human being. The cupboard somehow has the power to make turn plastic figures and toys into their real-life counterparts. This leads into one of the greatest scenes in the movie, which is taken almost directly from the book and expanded into something even greater. If you ever wanted to see Darth Vader fight a dinosaur while Robocop looks on, here is your chance.

Little Bear (Litefoot), as we come to know him, at first thinks that Omri is some sort of higher power. It is only when Omri turns another plastic figure to take his weaponry, causing him a heart attack, that Little Bear realizes that Omri is only a child. Omri too quickly begins to realize the responsibility that comes with this essentially god-like power. As a result, he tells no one else about his secret, with the exception of his friend Patrick (Rishi Bhat), who is adamant that he be allowed to turn a figure of his own. This results in Boone (David Keith), a Texas cowboy from the late 18th century. Boone and Little Bear are immediately at odds, and things go even further awry when Omri's brothers steal his cupboard. Can Omri and Patrick recover the cupboard and key before someone finds out about Little Bear and Boone, or before something else goes horribly wrong?

I think what surprised me the most about this movie was how very faithful it was to the book. Many movie adaptations have either only been loosely based on the book, or disregarded it entirely. However, having read the book at least ten times over the years, I found myself looking on with amazement as this story that previously only played out in my mind was on the big screen. The special effects, done by ILM, work especially well in getting across the point that these are nine-year-old boys lording over three inch people. While there were points in the movie that were a little schmaltzy, overall the movie had the mood of the book very much at heart, and was successful in getting it across. Although the movie was not a box office smash, I would definitely like to see the book's several sequels adapted as well. This movie seems like it may have been overlooked, and I would definitely advise anyone looking for a film the whole family could enjoy giving it a look.

It looks as though there was no new work done on the prints of the movie before it was transferred, and it shows through in several places. There are some noticeable flaws on the transfer in places with scratches and flaws. However, these small imperfections are certainly not enough to detract from the enjoyment of the movie, and the rest of the transfer looks very good with the colors looking very natural, if slightly subdued.

I was disappointed that there was no 5.1 option available, however the Dolby surround track was more than adequate. This certainly wasn't a loud effects movie by any stretch, so the track more than conveyed the dialogue, and the wonderful score by Randy Edelman.

Not a special edition, but not devoid of features either, I must admit to being a little disappointed with the features that were provided. The first "feature" that has been provided is the ability to watch the movie in either full frame or its original widescreen composition. I've long since converted to being strictly a widescreen fan, although I'm sure that full frame would be nice for parents who don't particularly feel like explaining the black bars to their children.

Next is an audio commentary with director Frank Oz. I'm normally a fan of commentaries, but this track did little to engage me. It seemed like Oz spent most of his time simply describing what was happening on screen, only occasionally lapsing into information that was somewhat relevant and interesting. This was definitely not a memorable commentary, but as always it was nice that it was provided.

A fairly sparse photo gallery is provided, with about ten pictures of on-set action and the cast provided. I was slightly annoyed that after the pictures cycled through, the disc did not return to the menu, but started cycling through again. The same is true of the filmographies, such as they were, considering that they were only provided for three individuals involved with the movie.

The disc wraps up with five "bonus trailers" for "Hook", "Jumanji", "Fly Away Home", "Madeline" and "Muppets in Space". However, no trailer is included for "The Indian in the Cupboard" which is quite possibly the biggest annoyance that a disc can give me. I don't care if the disc is the most feature-loaded in the world, if the trailer is not provided, it is not a perfect disc. Also, I couldn't find the production notes listed on the disc case, as the menus were some of the most boring I have ever seen, and the insert is nothing more than a listing of the chapter stops.

While I appreciate the effort that Columbia put into this disc, I was left wanting more after I finished the movie. A few special effects featurettes would have been nice, or something of that nature. However, the relative lack of features doesn't prevent me from recommending the movie just on sheer enjoyment value.

(4/5 - NOT included in final score)




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