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Gladiators of Rome DVD Review

Gladiators of Rome (2014) DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Gladiators of Rome

US Theatrical Release: October 17, 2014 / Running Time: 94 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Iginio Straffi / Writers: Iginio Straffi, Michael J. Wilson (screenplay); Luca Giarrettino, Timoteo Osella; Jim Hecht, Joanne Lee, Giovanni Masi, Marco Terenzi, Mauro Uzzeo (collaboration); James Daniel Wilson, Louis Elman (additional English dialogue adaptation)

English Voice Cast: John Schwab (Timo), Jo Wyatt (Lucilla), Flaminia Fegarotti (Diana), Tim Beckman (Cassio), Emma Tate (Circe), Jonathan Keeble (Domitian), Glen Wrage (Chirone), Stuart Milligan (Rich Man), Walter Lewis (Mauritius), Mickey O'Connor (Ciccius), William Hope (Fabrickius)

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
DVD Release Date: February 17, 2015 / Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Also available on Amazon Instant Video

Buy Gladiators of Rome from Amazon.com: DVD Instant Video

Foreign films often try to withhold the fact that they are foreign from prospective American audiences. From suppressing dialogue in their US trailers to disguising their nation of origin on the home video case, many foreign productions just try to look the part of American cinema. Animated films can go even further when they are presented in dubs that might not be easily recognized as such by some viewers.

Gladiators of Rome goes this route. The only indication that it is a product of Italy lies in the fact that the names of its creators all end in vowels. Watching the film, though, you'll notice that something is off, from imperfect synching of dialogue to mouth movement to clunky CG visuals more comparable to millennial video games than mid-Tens feature film.

Childhood besties Lucilla and Timo reunite as grown-ups in "Gladiators of Rome."

The film opens in Pompeii in 79 A.D. There right before the volcanic catastrophe, a boy named Timo is taken by a man, who raises him as his son. Timo forms a close bond with Lucilla, his stepfather's daughter. Their friendship/potential romance continues into adulthood once Lucilla returns home from time in Greece.
Lucilla is supposed to marry the Emperor's nephew to appease the main patron of her father's gladiator academy.

Despite his upbringing, Timo is not cut out for gladiatorial success. He's pudgy and hopeless in battle. He's even caught "juicing." But then he crosses paths with the curvaceous goddess Diana, a no-nonsense personal trainer who is determined to whip him into shape for the big tournament that will mark the opening of the Colosseum in 95 A.D. That tournament will pit our shaggy blonde hero against Cassio, a warrior with a receding hairline who has his eyes on Lucilla and isn't above taking illegal measures to win.

Gladiators does not possess nearly as much global appeal as it thinks it does. It tries to fit the mold of computer-animated comedy, even incorporating such standard elements as animal comic relief (a horse named Sparkles and a pet bunny) and a trio of mischievous babies. But apart from a few recognizable licensed songs (most aptly, Europe's "The Final Countdown", loudly summoned as Timo's Colosseum introduction music), the movie displays no knowledge of what material will please crowds around the world, despite no shortage of recent animated hits to model itself after.

No-nonsense personal trainer Diana transforms Timo into a gladiator with the instruction to Think More on his shirt.

Of the major studios, the third feature produced by Italy's Rainbow CGI most resembles the output of DreamWorks Animation, a company that has struggled to connect with audiences in recent years. But it's like a fourth-rate attempt that lacks even the modest technical sophistication of a decade-old movie like Shark Tale. While the environments and backgrounds of Gladiators are passable, the animation is far from it. The creepy character design --
bulging eyes, weird proportions, wildly varying levels of realism -- consistently disarms and in jerky motion, it is a mess.

After Viva Pictures' extremely limited November North American engagement resulted in a gross of just $8,201, the PG-rated Gladiators hits DVD this week from Paramount Home Entertainment. The major studio does not bother with a Blu-ray release, let alone a Blu-ray 3D one, although the film was exhibited in 3D at least in its native Italy back in the fall of 2012.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The visual shortcomings I have detailed above all appear to be the products of the film, not the DVD's 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, which lacks the detail of high definition but poses no problems. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix packs quite a punch, particularly in the Colosseum-set climactic combat. The lip sync issues seem related to translation, a language barrier, and an imperfect grasp on the art of animation.

The narrow cover art is expanded on the barebones Gladiators of Rome's static DVD main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Paramount's DVD includes no bonus features whatsoever, not even trailers for other properties. That can't be considered a surprise, given the film's under-the-radar status. Still, in light of how writer-director-producer-Rainbow founder Ignio Straffi bills himself prominently and repeatedly in both the opening and closing credits, one assumes he'd happily accept some on-camera recognition for this film.

The static, silent main menu adapts the cover art. There are no inserts across from the plain gray disc within the unslipcovered black Eco-Box keepcase.

Despite his training and slimdown, Timo still feels a bit out of his league at the Colosseum-opening tournament.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The unsightly Gladiators of Rome makes you appreciate the visuals and storytelling of even a mediocre American CG family comedy. This Italian cartoon is so devoid of humor, charm and entertainment that it's tough to imagine it winning over any person of any age in any part of the world. Paramount's barebones DVD disappoints for its failure to provide any context or an Italian language presentation of this catastrophic miscalculation.

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Reviewed February 16, 2015.



Text copyright 2015 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2012 Rainbow CGI Animation Studio, 2014 Viva Pictures, and 2015 Paramount Home Entertainment.
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