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Sounder (2003) DVD Review

Buy Sounder on DVD from Amazon.com Sounder (2003)
Movie & DVD Details

Director: Kevin Hooks

Cast: Carl Lumbly (The Father), Suzzanne Douglass (The Mother), Daniel Lee Robertson III (The Boy), Peter MacNeill (Sheriff), Bill Lake (Deputy), Paul Winfield (Teacher), Marcus Johnson (Brother), Ashley Archer (Sister), Joshua Watkis (Boy, 7 years old)

Original Air Date: January 19, 2003

Running Time: 87 Minutes / Rating: TV-PG
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Aspect Ratio)
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned

Release Date: June 24, 2003
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5); Suggested Retail Price: $14.99 (Reduced from $29.99)
White Keepcase


Sounder is the story of a boy and his family living in America during the Depression Era. The book by William H. Armstrong was first adapted to the screen in 1972 in the critically-acclaimed film of the same name. Kevin Hooks, who starred as the young lead in the original film, directed this made-for-TV production for the Wonderful World of Disney, which aired January 2003 and arrived on DVD just a few months later.

The boy (Daniel Lee Robertson III) sees his father (Carl Lumbly) taken away for stealing a ham, out of desperation. Making matters worse, the boy's dog, Sounder, is shot and disappears. The boy goes off to find his father, searching prison after prison, with little luck. On his travels, he runs into a kindly teacher, played by Paul Winfield. Winfield, who played the father in the 1970s film, delivers his last performance with grace and energy.

In his dealings with the teacher, the young protagonist finally learns to read and sees an education as a way out of the difficult life of heavy labor and poverty his family has dealt with.

This remake of Sounder does feel like a retread of many things at its start, but fortunately, it is able to overcome this and deliver on an emotional level. There are some parts near the beginning where one sees the black-and-white clear-cut good/bad mentality that flaws many a film like this. The film doesn't pursue that direction, though, instead focusing on the small triumphs in the face of despair.

Though its subject material may not be particularly original, the film has its heart in the right place. Sounder is not very much about a dog, but about a boy and a family. It's a sad, moving, intimate drama which provides characters more than plot. It's nicely photographed, too.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The film is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio, 1.33:1. Video quality was nearly flawless, exhibiting a sharpness and cleanness that one would expect from a brand new TV movie. Some night scenes looked a bit grainy, but I'd think that's just the digital video it was shot on. Overall, the video quality was pleasing.

Sounder's audio track is Dolby Digital 5.1. The mix is center-heavy, and the dialogue is conveyed crisply. The bluegrassy score is vibrant and active. The surrounds come to life in outdoor scenes, during an animal chase and developing the ambient sounds of the summer nights.

BONUS FEATURES

Previews at the start of the disc are for The Lion King, MXP: Most Xtreme Primate, Air Bud: Spikes Back, The Pennsylvania Miners' Story, and "My Wife & Kids." These are also accessible from the "Sneak Peeks" menu. There are no other special features.

The menus are static 16x9 frames, accompanied by the film's score.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Sounder is given a satisfactory DVD for a benign TV drama. Though there are no bonus features, the audio and video quality were sufficient. So if you would like to own the movie, you'll be glad with this disc and at its new $14.99 SRP, it merits a recommendation.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Where the Red Fern Grows (2004) Little House on the Prairie (2005)
Eloise at the Plaza (2003) Old Yeller & Savage Sam (2-Movie Collection)
The Biscuit Eater (1972) Big Red (1961) Perfect Harmony (1991)

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Reviewed March 14, 2004.