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Hugo the Movie Star DVD Review

Buy The Hugo the Movie Star from Amazon.com Hugo the Movie Star
Movie & DVD Details

Directors: Stefan Fjeldmark, Jorgen Lerdam, Flemming Quist Mřller

English Dubbed Voice Cast: Bronson Pinchot (Hugo), Holly Gauthier-Frankel (Rita), Mark Camacho (Conrad), Terrence Scammell (Zig), Rick Jones (Zag), Arthur Grosser (Dr. Loongkoffer), Jennifer Seguin (Barbie Turner)

Theatrical Release (Denmark): December 20, 1996 / Running Time: 69 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

1.33:1 Fullscreen, Dolby Stereo (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: September 27, 2005
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
White Keepcase


Review by Aaron Wallace

Miramax is best known as a powerhouse for award-winning films and for a rocky relationship with its parent company. Under its former heads, the Weinstein Brothers, it also developed quite a reputation for its ability to uncover obscure film properties produced outside the Hollywood studio system and acquire them for US release. One of those especially obscure titles is a Danish animated feature by the name of Jungledyret 2 - den store filmhelt, which in the US, goes by either Amazon Jack 2, or, as Miramax Family presents it, Hugo the Movie Star.

The movie is actually a sequel (and its predecessor is included on this same DVD, but more on that later) and saw its original Scandinavian theatrical release in 1996. It makes its way to the US with a dubbed English audio track (and English only... the original Danish isn't to be found, I'm afraid). The US release runs four minutes shorter than does the Danish edition, perhaps due to translation-related issues or differences in the opening and closing credits.

Simba, is that you? Hugo receives some advice on fame.

Hugo is a rare breed of animal that defies classification, no matter how bear-like he may look. His uniquity makes him a prime target for hunters and Hollywood executives, a problem that seems to drive most of his adventures, which include a recent Denmark television series and an upcoming sequel.

In this second theatrical excursion, the jungle-romping Hugo (voiced by Bronson Pinchot of "Perfect Strangers" fame) is kidnapped by a pair of filmmakers who are hungry for a hit. His long-lost best friend, a fox named Rita (Holly Gauthier-Frankel), is determined to set him free, but by the time she gets there, Hugo's grown accustomed to the spotlight and has decided that caged celebrity isn't so bad.

The story is every bit as simplistic and conventional as it sounds. The dubbed English track's voice acting is excessively cartoony and extremely annoying, while the animation is rather basic and unimpressive as well. Both Hugo movies are musicals, but their songs are bland and instantly forgettable. At best, this is the kind of thing that kids might dig at an early age only to look back on with puzzlement later. It certainly doesn't measure up against the abundance of finer entertainment made available to that same demographic.

Rita hears news of her friend in the sequel. The millionaire from the first movie is back as a movie-maker in "Hugo: The Movie Star" and he sees merchandise potential in the rare animal.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Information on Hugo the Movie Star is very scarce (a standard Google search turns up more results for Agent Smith than this), so it's difficult to determine the accuracy of the DVD's 1.33:1 "fullscreen" transfer. A rough translation of various foreign-language
reviews suggests that at least its predecessor (which again is also included as a bonus feature, also in 1.33:1) has been released in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen outside the US. The fact that it was a theatrical release and Buena Vista Home Entertainment is no stranger to panning or scanning makes it entirely possible that this is a crop job. If so, that's a disappointment.

The transfer is decent in terms of cleanliness, but the poor animation makes that not matter too much. It is a little too soft, however, and even though Hugo is repeatedly referred to as "yellow" and promotional artwork from overseas depicts him that way, he's a brown-ish shade of orange on this DVD and its packaging. That might mean it's considerably darker than its source, which given its overall appearance, wouldn't be much of a surprise. The "bonus movie," which is profiled in the next section of this review, is given the same treatment, but looks even rougher and more worn than does Movie Star.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is dull and grating, often sounding condensed. Dialogue is understandable, so there aren't any complaints to that end, but the track is by no means a pleasing one. The inclusion of the original Danish audio track would have added a tiny bit of value to the set, but it's English only.

The "Programs" screen is a sort of select-a-movie section. At least the menus are 16x9. Go, Hugo, Go... or just sit there.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and DESIGN

Hugo's first appearance on the big screen came in Jungledyret, an animated musical released in Denmark in 1993. In America, that's been titled Go, Hugo, Go. It's exactly the same length as Hugo the Movie Star, so its inclusion on this disc really makes this a double feature DVD. Buena Vista's chosen not to market it that way, for one reason or another, and it's relegated to a back-cover "Bonus Movie" label. It's the only "bonus feature" on the disc.

In it, the eccentric bride of a millionaire is determined to find Hollywood stardom and decides that the possession of a unique animal is just the kind of signature that will make her stand-out in the movie world. She demands that her husband deliver such an asset, and Hugo, who is introduced in his natural jungle habitat alongside some forest friends, becomes the target. The movie feels quite a bit like Movie Star and is even less enjoyable, with the exception of a few semi-clever allusions to the Hollywood industry. The feature runs five minutes shorter than its original theatrical release overseas.

The still, silent main menu features the same image used on the DVD cover and the simple title of "Hugo." There's a "Play All" option at the top that will play Go, Hugo, Go, immediately followed by Hugo the Movie Star (but not until you've watched the disc's opening previews first). A screen called "Programs" allows the viewer to select either movie, which leads directly to a chapter selection screen (presenting eight and nine chapters, respectively) and a "Play" option.

The disc opens with previews of Chicken Little, The Adventures of Sharkboy & Lavagirl, Bionicle 3: Web of Shadows, and "Power Rangers S.P.D.": Volumes 4 & 5. The second page of sneak peeks that can be reached via the main menu adds previews for My Scene Goes Hollywood: The Movie, Kronk's New Groove, and the "Special" Edition DVD of Tarzan that turned out to be only a single-disc release, despite the ad's claims of a 2-disc set.

The villainess of the first movie Hurricane Hugo didn't have anything on this guy.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

It's rather curious that something like Hugo the Movie Star found a place in Buena Vista's DVD release schedule. It's unlikely that many will be won over by this release, even if it has had some success in parts of Europe. Go, Hugo, Go, its predecessor that is oddly packaged as a bonus feature on the same DVD, is no better. A weak story, annoying voice acting, and poor animation, and a shoddy audio/video treatment make this DVD one to avoid.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed February 19, 2006.



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