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The Road To El Dorado
Special Edition

review by Zach B.

 

Rated PG

Studio: Dreamworks

Running Time: 89 minutes

With the voices of: Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Rosie Perez, Armand Assante, Edward James Olmos

Written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio

Directed by Eric Bergeron and Don Paul

Retail Price: $26.99

Features: Audio Commentary with Eric Bergeron and Don Paul, Featurette, Color Script Feature, Read-Along, Elton John Music Video, Theatrical Trailer, Cast and Crew Bios, Production Notes, DVD-ROM: Games, Screen Saver

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, Chapter Search (28 Chapters)

Dreamworks is becoming a influential force in the movie industry, and are proving they are a force not to be reckoned with. Not only have they had a good number of smash hits, but their animation studio is a clear rival to the almighty Disney empire. Other studios have tried to compete, but Warner's attempts have been duds and Fox Animation is now out of business. For one thing, Dreamworks doesn't have it bad off... Jeffrey Katzenberg, once responsible for such Disney hits as "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Little Mermaid", is their leader (and co-founder of the studio as well). Still, Dreamworks first animated outing (which was also PG) was the nice Bible musical "The Prince of Egypt", which did gross a little over 100 million dollars and became an instant favorite. About 15 months after the film, Dreamworks released their second animated outing, "The Road to El Dorado". The film gathered some mixed reviews, and did not make as much money as one would think or hope. I thought the film was pretty good with gorgeous visuals, however, what brought it down was the weak script and lack of character development.

Tulio and Miguel are two con artists in Spain, circa 1519. They are the best of friends, scamming locals in bets with tricks and performing fake confrontations with one another to distract their audience. Yet one day, in a dice game, they win a map to "El Dorado", the lost city of gold. It just so happens they escape a local escapade and accidentally get trapped on Cortes's ship, and found on board and sentenced to punishment. However, thanks to Cortes's horse, the duo with the horse escape the ship and soon get washed ashore. However, it turns out this is island of El Dorado, and that map comes in handy and they find the city of gold. While it all seems like paradise, they are then mistaken as the almighty Lords of the city. A girl in their city knows their secret however, and a respected priest is vying to bring the duo down, but wackiness bounded with values about friendship come together in predictable family fare.

I must admit there were some parts of the movie which made me chuckle, but I did often find the story slow and pretty formulatic. Not that is such a bad thing, but jokes often fell flat and you feel the lines and happenings could be a lot better, what is presented sometimes is average. Don't get me wrong, I found some parts pretty good, but a lot did not live up to their full potential. If a little more time was spent giving characters more dimensions and if they improved the story arc as well as the script, this could have been a beloved classic.

"The Road To El Dorado" does have a lot of things going for it, however. The voice acting is well done. Kevin Kline, who is usually excellent in everything, is good here, but his performance really doesn't seem to bring the character of Tulio to life. It's not that he's so bad or anything... I was kind of hoping his performance would be better than his lines to make them better, but instead of going above and beyond, it just sorta evens out (which isn't terrible when you think about it). Armand Assante and Edward James Olmos however do shine in their smaller performances, and I wish there was more of them and that The Chief was developed a bit more. Rosie Perez is her usual self and Kenneth Branagh is fine, but my biggest problem was that I felt there was no chemistry really between him and Kline.

The animation in "The Road To El Dorado" is simply breathtaking, and easily rivals Disney. The opening titles are splendid with much artistic style, and El Dorado itself looks so real and heavenly. I have to say that during the first twenty minutes some parts are just a little jerky and could have been cleaned up, but I doubt so many people will notice. Also, there are computer animated props against the 2-D animation at points, and while some fit perfectly, some don't look so good. Take toward the beginning where Tulio and Miguel get trapped in the barrels, and the barrels are transported onto the ship. It just doesn't look natural, like the barrels are against a piece of cardboard. Still, vibrant colors and wonderful designs bring the sluggish story to life. And wait until you see the action sequences, where the animation moves so perfect, it is really a treat to watch and will delight any age.

Last time Dreamworks got Stephen Schwartz (of Disney fame) to do lyrics and music for "Prince of Egypt" (and was rewarded with an Oscar® for "When You Believe" from the film), this time they got an award winning duo to do the music. Elton John and Tim Rice, who did the songs for "The Lion King". Of course it's impossible to create the same success twice, but the music really did grow on me, and I enjoyed it a lot. I don't think it is as good as "The Lion King", but still very nice with catchy tunes and well written lyrics. I felt the songs were memorable, but I'm sure others will mainly disagree. Keep in mind though that the songs are of a much different flavor. What disappointed me though was that from listening to the soundtrack album, songs are cut a lot to fit in the movie, while in the soundtrack you hear it to the fullest. What also disappointed me was that it did not flow as well "Tarzan"'s music. Elton John serves as a narrator with the songs, just like Phil Collins and "Tarzan", who was like a narrator there. Also, while talking about the soundtrack, the soundtrack has songs not included in the film, which are good, but you can clearly see why they were not put into the film, because, they really have no place there. Another nice thing about the music was that the score is really grand and fits perfectly with the movie, and is catchy. Compliments of Hans Zimmer (another award winner, he did "Lion King" too) and John Powell.

It may seem like I really bashed "The Road to El Dorado", but it is a nice family movie with flaws, but in the end, it is still enjoyable. While adults may be bored, kids should enjoy this lighthearted tale about friendship. The music may not be what you expected, but still very good. I still can't get over those visuals and animated sequences... oh yeah, try to look for "Jaws" and something left over from "The Prince of Egypt".

 

I was really, really happy the way this transfer turned out. When I saw the film in the theater, I thought to myself "Will all the visual majesty look as beautiful on DVD?". The answer is "Beyond beautiful". As I mentioned in my review of the movie, "The Road To El Dorado" has some jaw-dropping animation and wonderful designs. The sparkling golds as well as the vibrant and bright colors are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, without any oversaturation. The extra resolution makes it look even more spectacular. The detail is excellent too, and great for freeze frame shots. The city of "El Dorado" looks so real it is scary, and I didn't notice any grain or blemishes. The film simply looks fantastic, as it should be. Check out a little bit after thirteen minutes into the film, and the trio in the boat. The ocean looks so crisp, and looks really nice. As the film goes on, it is sort of like a moving painting with all the exotic settings and blended colors. This is a top notch transfer with everything in pure digital glory.

Dreamworks has included a DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 track for "The Road To El Dorado", and I feel each track is incredible with great surrounds, but I prefer the DTS a little more than the Dolby Digital.

The 5.1 Dolby Digital is a wonderful track to choose. Each speaker is made to good use as well as the subwoofer. Dialogue is crisp and easy to understand, and surrounds can be powerful, sometimes overwhelming, especially during these action sequences I keep mentioning (such as the rock monster and the climax of the film). The song and score sound absolutley wonderful. I'm glad the film sounds so good.

I like the DTS 5.1 more because I think it's a bit more aggressive and tighter around the edges, and brings the movie to life even more. The dynamic range, like the Dolby Digital, is excellent, but I felt the directional fields and range were captured in closer. I felt the music had more depth to it, and the surrounds packed a little more punch, but not as much more than the Dolby Digital. Dialogue was easy to hear and understand as well. And the big finale simply blew me away.

It doesn't matter which track you listen too, you may feel like you're actually in the film with either. Each boasts with so much richness to create a great audio experience that everyone should be happy with making it reference quality. Also included is a Dolby Surround track and English subtitles.

Though not a huge "Signature Selection", and not a standard release either, "The Road To El Dorado" is a "Special Edition", similar in vein to Chicken Run. I can only assume that this is Dreamworks way of having a good amount of bonus materials but not enough as one would come to expect in a "Signature Selection".

Anyhow, what we have in this package is quite good, and is sure to please any fan of the movie. First off we have a Audio Commentary with Eric Bergeron and Don Paul, the directors of the film. The two discuss their thoughts and inspirations for the film, and the process they went through to get it made. They recall challenges they faced and talk a lot about colors, though some of this info is in the Color Scheme part of the disc. They point out some sound design aspects, the music and how it was developed as well as parts of the voice acting. Bergeron's accent is a bit thick at times. I found some of the comments a tad bit dull here and there, but this commentary is well done filled with good information. There is also some gaps here and there, but the directors praise their cast and crew. I felt this was worth a listen and lasts right through the credits.

The Making Of "The Road To El Dorado" is a nice featurette about the film. It features interviews with the voice actors, Jeffrey Katzenberg, producer Bonne Radford and some creative forces behind the film such as director Eric Bergeron and the sequence director. There is some footage from the film as well as behind the scenes work, footage from a trip with the design team, such animators drawing and the voice actors recording. There are also storyreels as well. I really enjoyed the part which focused on the computer animated portions. The origins of the film are explained and some inspirations too, and a nice portion focuses on the music with interviews from the likes of Elton John and Tim Rice. Also there's a tiny bit on the making of the music video. All this lasts 26 minutes, and while it seems on the promo side, I did learn a good deal about the making of the film, I highly suggest you watch it.

The Read-Along is strictly for kiddies, and is sure to please them. It features stills from the film as well as music and sound effects, plus some clips to further advance the story.

Color Script is an interesting program narrated by directors Don Paul and Eric Bergeron, as well as Raymond Zibach. This basically shows concept art and various stills from many key scenes of the film and how they were established and put together. I thought this would be a bit boring, but I was really surprised how interesting and insightful it was. It shows how the slightest choices can effect the film, check out the uses of color when Spain is introduced to us, and the colors in the jungle itself. If you are into animation at all and the whole process, this is a must watch. It lasts a good length of time too, about forty minutes.

A music video for Someday Out Of The Blue is included, in widescreen as is well put together. I really like this song, and the music video features animation and clips from the film, plus a fully animated Elton John. This is the kind of song that wins Oscar®s, and despite the mixed reception the music got, I feel this is the strongest song from the film and is really well put together with lovely lyrics and a good tune.

The Theatrical Trailer is included in widescreen as well as Dolby Digital 5.1. You got your extensive Cast and Crew Bios (for a good amount of people if I may add), as well as some detailed Production Notes and a nice insert in the package with notes about the film. Also included inside is three dollars off the video game (for Playstation, PC or Game Boy) and on the outside there's an instant win ticket where you can win one million dollars, stickers or one of 5000 Golden Razor Scooters to tie in with the release. I want a gold one, however I'm stuck with the blue one I got a few months ago :(

There are some great DVD-ROM features for younger ones to enjoy. There's a screen saver, a demo of the PC game, a trivia game, downloadable mazes, coloring pages and some learning activities.

The menus are wonderful animated with GREAT sound and great animation, and really fit into the theme with the film. Some of the best menus I've experienced.

While I felt the movie was a bit underwhelming, it's a good family movie and kids should enjoy it. The DVD is great though, with a dazzling anamorphic widescreen presentation and some booming audio. The features, though not really plentiful, are in a good amount and they all fit it all perfectly. If you enjoy the film, this is a great DVD for your collection. If you never seen it, I urge you to rent it before you buy, just to make sure it appeals to you.

(3.5/5, NOT included in final score)

(5/5)

(5/5)

(3.5/5)

(4/5, NOT an average)

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