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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Joel Zwick
Cast:
Kenan Thompson, Kyla Pratt, Shedrack Anderson III, Jermaine Williams, Keith Robinson, Alphonso McAuley, Aaron Frazier, Marques Houston, Dania Ramirez, Omarion Grandberry, J. Mack Slaughter
Writing Credits:
Bill Cosby, Charles Kipps

Tagline:
Hey! Hey! Hey!

Synopsis:
Hey, Hey, Hey — you’re “gonna have a good time” watching Fat Albert (Kenan Thompson) and his pals in their first feature-length movie! The beloved animated characters from the ’70s make the leap to live action to help a troubled teenager (Kyla Pratt) as they experience the heartfelt emotions and hilarious absurdities of the real world. Comedy genius Bill Cosby (creator of the original “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” TV show) co-stars in this crowd-pleasing family favorite that’s bursting with fresh hip-hop music and tons of laughs!

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$10.021 million on 2674 screens.
Domestic Gross
$47.870 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 93 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 3/22/2005

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Joel Zwick and Producer John Davis
• Extended Scenes
• “Fat Albert: Behind the Band” Featurette
• Trailer
• Inside Look


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

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Fat Albert (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 8, 2005)

As a kid in the Seventies, I grew up with the Fat Albert TV show. That means I should be one of the folks who bemoans the series’ 2004 big-screen update. Whenever something like this appears, we hear comments about raped childhoods and whatnot. These make little sense to me; even if the new version stinks, it doesn’t eliminate the existence of the original. Heck, I hated the Flintstones movie, but it’s not like that clunker replaced the cartoon.

Happily, I can report that Fat Albert doesn’t bite. No, it doesn’t excel in any particular way, but it entertains for the most part. At the very least, it avoids the extreme crapitude of the big-screen Flintstones or Rocky and Bullwinkle.

After a quick introduction to the animated adventures of Albert (Kenan Thompson) and the Cosby Kids, we meet lonely teenager Doris Robertson (Kyla Pratt). Still depressed about the death of her grandfather, she has few friends other than her cute and popular foster sister Lauri (Dania Ramirez).

As Doris watches an episode of the cartoon, she weeps and a tear hits the remote. Somehow this gets into the TV and bridges the two worlds. Albert can see Doris, and he finds out he can escape the set. The other Cosby Kids - Mushmouth (Jermaine Williams), Weird Harold (Aaron A. Frazier), Dumb Donald (Marques B. Houston), Bucky (Alphonso McAuley), Bill (Keith D. Robinson) and Rudy (Shedrack Anderson III) - follow him.

Not surprisingly, this freaks out Doris, but she soon comes to terms with it. They learn they can’t go back into the TV until the show returns the next day. Against her better judgment, Doris lets them hang out with her, and they go to a class with her. There Albert meets Lauri and quickly falls for her. He also runs into problems with jerky kid Reggie (Omari Grandberry) and his stooge Arthur (J. Mack Slaughter). Reggie soon becomes jealous when Lauri shows romantic interest in Albert, so he’ll act in nefarious ways to subvert his rival.

Another problem arises: the longer Albert and the Kids stay in the real world, the more they deteriorate. They lose color and will literally disintegrate into celluloid dust if they remain too long. However, Albert doesn’t want to go, especially not until he solves Doris’s problems. The other Kids find reasons to stick around as well, and this leads to a dilemma.

No one will accuse Fat Albert of providing a rich plot, and it never touches on greatness in any way, shape or form. But you know what? It doesn’t need to do so.

Instead, Albert gives us a light, cute piece of family entertainment with just enough humor and spirit to make it enjoyable for the whole family. Okay, I’m assuming the part about kids liking it, since I don’t have any, but I can say that I had a pretty good time with the movie.

Part of the fun comes from the way the movie gently pokes fun at TV conventions. It’s amusing to see how out of place the naïve Albert and the Kids look in the modern world, as they boil down every issue to some easily-solved concern. The movie also jabs cheap TV tactics like the way cartoon characters never walk from room to room; they just appear in the new location so no one has to draw them. Here the Kids simply pop up without warning.

The cast definitely help make the material work. Thompson acts as the key. He makes Albert unassuming, charming and very likable. Most of the other actors also boost their roles. A few overplay things, but not too badly, and since Thompson acts as the focus, he really carries the day. He does a lot with a little in his delightful performance.

Though Albert does introduce some modern world concerns into the Kids’ less-than-gritty world, it mostly focuses on the irony of the situations. It definitely avoids any of the smuttiness or smarminess typical of most fare these days. Some vaguely off-color notions appear, but they stay very subdued. Any jokes that veer toward dirtiness stay on the innocent side of things, such as when one character’s butt gets exposed.

After so much terrible recent fare like Thunderbirds and Garfield, I’d almost given up on material adapted for live-action. Though Fat Albert didn’t dazzle me, it proved that Hollywood can make an enjoyable movie of this sort. Bolstered by light comedy and charm, it manages to bring a smile.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

Fat Albert appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Only minor problems affected the generally strong transfer.

Sharpness failed to present many of those concerns. Some softness crept into wider shots at times. Otherwise the movie was detailed and crisp. I discerned no moiré effects or jagged edges, but mild edge enhancement popped at times. Print flaws remained absent.

As one might expect from a movie based on a cartoon, Albert presented bright hues. The palette went with lively primary tones and replicated them well. The colors were always vivid and dynamic. Black levels were adequately deep and rich, and shadow detail was appropriately clear but not excessively opaque. No significant problems marred Albert and the picture ended up with a “B+”.

Comedies don’t usually provide much in the audio department, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Garfield fell into line with expectations. The soundfield stayed oriented toward the front, where it presented a pretty decent sense of environment. Not a whole lot of action occurred, though the track offered nice stereo imaging for music and useful ambience. Surround material popped up sporadically and mainly reinforced the front. A few louder sequences added a little pizzazz, but don’t expect great activity.

Audio quality appeared fine. Speech remained natural and concise, with no signs of edginess or problems connected to intelligibility. Music showed nice range and clarity, and the bass response demonstrated a solid punch. With a lot of hip-hop influenced music, the subwoofer got a fair amount of activity. Effects were fairly bright and accurate, and they presented adequate range. A few louder bits - like the first stomps of obese Al - kicked the LFE into gear, but those were rare. The overall package warranted a “B“.

When we head to the DVD’s supplements, we start with an audio commentary from director Joel Zwick and producer John Davis. Both men sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. Their discussion covers the usual suspects. The pair talk about adapting the cartoon and the fantasy elements, casting and working with the actors, locations, sets, and the choice to depict a “clean” North Philly, visual effects and design, music, and story elements. Nothing revelatory appears, and we get a fair amount of happy talk, but those don’t mar the track. Both Zwick and Davis interact nicely and provide a lot of genial humor. This ends up as a generally engaging commentary.

On the widescreen side, two extended scenes appear. We get “Microwave Scene” (25 seconds) and “Bill and Mushmouth at the Fair” (50 seconds). The first is another “fish out of water” scene, as Dumb Donald doesn’t understand the concept of a microwave oven, while the second shows the downside of the newly-articulate Mushmouth: he won’t shut up, and he bores Bill. Both are mildly amusing.

In addition to the trailer for Albert, we get an ad for The Sandlot 2. A staple on the studio’s DVDs, Inside Look promises “an exclusive insider’s look at upcoming projects from Fox”. Here we find a quick teaser for Ice Age 2: The Meltdown plus a preview for Rebound with movie clips and a couple of comments from actor Martin Lawrence. The “Inside Look” appears on both sides of the DVD.

Exclusive to the fullscreen side, we find a nine-minute and 49-second featurette called Fat Albert: Behind the Band. It includes in-character comments from Fat Albert, Dumb Donald, Weird Harold, Bill, Rudy, and Mushmouth plus Zwick and a few supporting personalities. It discusses a controversy when Fat Albert apparently leaves the band, but in reality, he just went to find some new 21st sounds. We also see some recording sessions and behind the scenes clips. It also includes the music video for the Fat Albert theme; this simply shows alternate video shots from that scene in the movie. It’s cute but not terribly interesting.

Fat Albert borrows from many other movies and doesn’t present much inspiration. Despite the lack of real originality, the movie boasts nice performances - especially from lead actor Kenan Thompson - and just enough winning charm to make it entertaining. The DVD presents positive picture and audio plus a small set of supplements. Families who need a flick for the whole clan should give Fat Albert a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4285 Stars Number of Votes: 14
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