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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Prancer
Prancer
MGM // G // October 2, 2001
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted October 3, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

The "family film" has been a genre that offers less and less in the way of new releases in the past few years. Animated fare like "Rugrats" (good) and "Pokemon" (not good) have taken control of the rental shelves when it comes to children's products, but there's few offerings that both adults and kids can watch together and enjoy. Although "Prancer" certainly won't rank among some of the best titles like "Fly Away Home", it's a subtle and sweet movie.

The film stars Rebecca Harrell as Jessica Riggs, a young girl who lives outside a small town with her father and brother. Things aren't going too well, and Jessica's father announces what they'll likely be eating for the next several months, as he goes down a list of about every way to prepare apples. One day, she's walking home through the town when one of the reindeer in a Christmas decoration falls down into the middle of the street, nearly hitting a car.

Later that night, she's walking alone in the snowy woods (which look like something out of "The Blair Witch Project") and comes upon a reindeer whose leg is hurt. She thinks that it's one of Santa's lost reindeer and names it "Prancer". Unfortunately, things are getting tougher and tougher with Jessica's family - her apple-farmer father (Sam Elliot) is mean-spirited; he wants to put the hurt animal out of its suffering, but before he can, the reindeer's dissapeared.

"Prancer" is sappy and rather predictable - it's obvious that Jessica and "Prancer" are going to turn around the minds of the town and warm everyone's spirits by the end. Still, I liked the way that the film went about going from point A to point B. It never turned too sappy or manipulative and it stayed grounded, with Maurice Jarre's score careful not to underline the emotional moments too heavily. Unfortunately, that grounding may be a little scary for some children, as Elliot's character is depressed and faces tough-times ahead in the cold Winter. Rebecca Harrell's performance really carries the film well, though. Resourceful and emotional, she plays the character just right, never overdoing what could have been another irritating child-actor performance. Last, but not least, Misha Suslov's cinematography captures the snowbound scenery beautifully.

If anything, "Prancer" could have picked up the pace a bit. At nearly two hours, the film does begin to noticably drag at times. Still, I found it an occasionally charming picture with a winning lead performance from Harrell.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Prancer" is presented by MGM/UA in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Although I'm pleased that the studio decided to offer the title in anamorphic widescreen (as they've overlooked this for some of their catalog product), the results are still just okay. Sharpness and detail are generally pretty good, but can occasionally be somewhat mediocre as sequences occasionally appeared somewhat on the softer side in comparison with the rest of the picture.

The opening of the film didn't exactly make a wonderful first impression, but things cleared up after some rather obvious print flaws (a couple of scratches) were seen very early on. Some other speckles and light marks appeared during the rest of the movie, but they were very infrequent. I didn't see any instances of pixelation and only a few very light hints of edge enhancement. The film also looked mildly grainy on occasion, especially in some of the darker sequences.

Colors were never really much of an issue, as many sequences took place in crisp, snowy outdoor areas. Interior scenes presented a subdued color palette, which looked nicely rendered.

SOUND: "Prancer" is presented in Dolby 2.0. There's little going on in terms of sound throughout the picture, as Jarre's score and dialogue are really the only two elements. Ambient sounds are only lightly presented and subtle at best.

MENUS:: Basic, non-animated menus that essentially use film-themed images and cover art.

EXTRAS:: The trailer - that's it, that's all.

Final Thoughts: "Prancer" is cute and enjoyable, but may occasionally be more "PG" than its "G" rating. MGM's DVD presents the film with average audio/video, but no real supplements of note. At MGM's low $14.98 price (and lower at most stores), "Prancer" may be worth considering.

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