Underdog Blu-ray Review
PictureFramed at 2.35:1 and encoded at 1080P using the AVC MPEG4 system, the picture quality on Underdog is nothing short of reference quality. Coming from the same studio as The Santa Clause 3, Disney really seem to have raised the ante as well as the bit rate when it comes to their latest Blu-ray discs...however, this does pose a problem that studios are going to have to find a way around. In the movie write up, I said you'd never believe a dog can fly. Yes, the special effects are ropey. However, they are made to look worse by the excellent picture quality. It's a lot easier to pick out scenes now that use the green screen technique - and there are a lot of them in this film.
However, let's look at the good things. Sharper than a Beagles canine teeth, the picture oozes detail from every pore. Every tiny hair on Shoeshines body can be seen. The colour palette is fully represented and there's not a hint of colour bleed anywhere to be seen.
The few dark scenes in the movie are solid and the presence of detail continues in the absence of light. Look in every shadow and there's something to see. The disc also seems to be devoid of any nasty edge enhancement - though I did spot the odd speck of grain here and there - but not enough to detract me from this shiny example of a Blu-ray disc.
As expected from such a recent film, the print is in pristine condition and there are no marks or scratches to report.
Where Disney leads, we hope others will follow. Another example of what a High definition disc should look like from the House of Mouse.
SoundPresented with a Lossless PCM 5.1 soundtrack as well as a 640Kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 version, I spun the disc in my Playstation 3 and squirted the Lossless version into my Onkyo 875 amp via HDMI - and the results were just as impressive as the picture.
One could describe the soundtrack as “hectic”. But Home Cinema lovers everywhere will call it “brilliant”!
Just about every trick that the sound mixers have up their sleeves is shown. Starting with the laboratory accident scene, bottles crash to the ground and the glass tinkles all over your viewing room floor. Dogs bark from all five speakers as the score bursts into life - and as Shoeshine crashes through the lab wall, bricks and mortar come crashing down around you.
Bass is used in abundance and rattles the foundations with its depth. It's quick, tight and loud and there's tons of it.
As Underdog takes off to save the day again, there's a swish from your rear speakers and you'll swear blind you felt the wind rush past your face as he goes flying off into the distance.
If I have one gripe, it's the dialogue. At times, it's a little muffled and hard to hear. The centre channel appears a db or two lower than the other four for some reason. However, it doesn't really detract from the story because if you're over five, you really won't be interested in the story. But it certainly is a fun soundtrack...
ExtrasOK - so far, the only thing that's spoiling this disc for me is the film itself. Let's see what Underdog has up his cape in the way of extras...
Deleted Scenes (08.06). We have a selection of six deleted scenes - but with a difference. Instead of just throwing them on the disc and letting us guess why they were left out, each one is individually introduced by the director himself. And all are in VC-1 High definition. Good start eh?
Bloopers (01.37). A small selection of bloopers - mostly involving animals. Again presented in VC-1 High Definition.
Sit. Stay. Act: The Diary Of a Dog Actor ((05.52). This is a short vignette about animal actors (mainly the dogs that play Shoeshine/Underdog) and is voiced by Jason Lee to give you the impression that Underdog is commentating. Once again, it's in VC-1 HD.
Music Video - Underdog Raps by Kyle Massey. Bog standard music video in HD.
Two Original Underdog Cartoons. So that you can compare the film to the original cartoons, Disney has chosen to give us a couple of them to view. They are in 4.3 ratio as they were shown on TV originally. However, they are in VC-1 High Definition.
The downside is, is they haven't been re-mastered before authoring in HD and are in a real state.
The inclusion of the two original cartoons gives children of all ages a chance to see what the film is all about. But at the same time, I feel that it gives another clue as to whom this disc is aimed at.
The extras package isn't that bad and again, your kids will love it...
VerdictAs a Blu-ray disc package, technically this is another triumph from The House Of Mouse. With a picture quality that will impress all but the most critical of viewer, and a soundtrack that will make those new speakers worthwhile, it's a disc that I can recommend to show off your expensive Home Theatre system.
However, with the movie aimed squarely at the younger viewer, I believe the film itself will best be enjoyed when viewed with a member of the target audience - under fives in my opinion.
It's not funny and the plot is virtually non-existent. The special effects are sloppy and shown up a little by the clarity of the picture.
I can't actually remember seeing an original Underdog cartoon in my youth - but with the two available as part of the extras package, it seems that the makers didn't have a lot to work with in the first place. What's next, I wonder? Funky Phantom: The Movie...it's the spirit of 1766 even...now that I would watch!
Bottom line - can I recommend it? Hard one this. I've already harped on about the target audience. If you have an under five in your household and a decent Home Cinema system, click buy now. You'll have a great hour and a half laughing at the antics of Shoeshine and co. Those of you that don't have kids could still buy and marvel at the wonder of the reference picture and sound. Just don't invite your mates around - you'll never live it down...
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £21.69
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