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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Indian in the Cupboard (20th Anniversary Edition) (Blu-ray)
The Indian in the Cupboard (20th Anniversary Edition) (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures // PG // September 22, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted October 15, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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THE FILM:

Click an image to view Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution.

There is something about Frank Oz's film adaptation of Lynne Reid Banks' children's novel that underwhelms. No disrespect to Oz, but he is not my favorite director. I find most of his films sluggish and a little dull, and The Indian in the Cupboard follows suit. It's not a bad film, but it lacks a magical spark that would make it truly memorable. A fantasy adventure about a young boy whose action figures come to life should be quick and exciting, but the film is instead clunky and repetitive. Part of the problem is the Little Bear character, played here by Cherokee/Chichimeca Litefoot. That character is woven into five novels, and I remember tearing through the pages on Little Bear's adventures. The character here is dry, and his conquests are overly formal. The child actors irritate, too, and the Omri/Little Bear relationship of the book is less compelling on screen. There are a few good moments, however, and there is still something to be said about watching toy figurines come to life. There is at least wonder in that.

On his ninth birthday, Omri (Hal Scardino) receives a wooden cupboard from his brother (Vincent Kartheiser). He soon discovers that the item has magical powers, and that his toy Iroquois literally comes to life after being shut in the cupboard. They quickly bond, but this film lacks compelling evidence to support a meaningful relationship between Little Bear and Omri. I suppose the filmmakers faced an uphill battle lensing a realistically tiny Little Bear, but it's easy to keep the drama at arm's length when it seems so trivial. Most of the conflict here is between friends Omri and Patrick (Rishi Bhat), who comes off as a smug little pain in the ass who is always tattling on Omri and trying to expose his secret. The book's magical bonding between Omri and Little Bear is largely absent here, and the film instead spends too much time on the kid-to-kid melodrama.

It is clear that Oz desperately wants to channel Steven Spielberg. But, unlike Spielberg, Oz's attempts at whimsy and fantastical excitement come off as forced. In E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial, Spielberg created a flawless bond between Elliott and E.T. Oz can't recreate this relationship between his kid protagonist and otherworldly buddy. Little Bear is less a father figure, savior or shepherd than an amusing plaything for Omri. The comedy does not work particularly well, either, as the Cowboy Boone character played by David Keith is more grating than witty. There are also abruptly dark moments, like the death of an elderly Native American, that feel out of place and disingenuous.

I cared deeply about the Little Bear of Banks' novels; not so much here thanks to the flimsy writing by Melissa Mathison. The film does do a nice job leveling the responsibility of creating life on Omri's shoulders. In several surprisingly deep scenes, Omri has to struggle with the unexpected power he discovers in the cupboard. These moments are the film's most successful. Perhaps this is a story better suited to the page. Where the book encourages imagination and internal elaboration, the movie serves up explanations without much spark. I know this review has been largely critical. I do not hate The Indian in the Cupboard. It has some earnest moments and a few exciting scenes. Mostly, I am just disappointed.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

For it's Blu-ray debut, the film receives a sparkly new 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image culled from a 4k master. The image is film-like, with a natural layer of grain and strong fine-object detail. Facial features, fabric patterns and set dressings are presented in crystal clarity. Wide shots are deep and crisp, and colors are bold and nicely saturated. Black levels are inky, and whites do not bloom. There is some light softness here and there, but this is a nice effort from Sony.

SOUND:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix excites, with immersive sound pans and strong effects presentation. Ambient effects are subtle and frequent, and action beats awaken the subwoofer. Dialogue is always clear, and the musical score is layered appropriately. A French 2.0 Dolby Digital dub is included, as are a plethora of subtitle options.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This single-disc release is packed in a Vortex case. A slipcover replicates the cover artwork. Extras include an Audio Commentary by Frank Oz and the newly produced Little Bear: A Return to The Indian in the Cupboard (13:09/HD), in which Litefoot reminisces on the shoot. Also included are an Archival Making-Of Featurette (3:19/SD); a Goosebumps Sneak Peek (3:01/HD); The Cast of Goosebumps Reflects on The Indian in the Cupboard (5:18/SD), a promotional tie-in to the upcoming film; and two Trailers (1:55 and 1:47/HD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

I wish I loved this film adaptation of Lynne Reid Banks' novel. Director Frank Oz's fantasy hits a few dramatic high notes, but lacks an adventurous spark to make it truly memorable. The Omri and Little Bear characters are much more involving on the page, and Oz's film ends up as passable, disappointing entertainment. Rent It.

Additional screenshots:

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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