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  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
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    The Magic Sword

    Warner Bros./Warner Bros. . R4 . COLOR . 82 mins . G . PAL


    In short: Oh, what a massive disappointment.

    I'm a huge fan of animation, and Warner Bros really impressed me with The Iron Giant, which is one of the best traditionally animated features I've seen in quite some time. When Steve gave me this disc, I was really looking forward to it, especially considering the A-list voice talent.

    So what went wrong?

    First off is the pedestrian script (credited to four screenwriters), adapted from what I must assume is an equally bland novel. The magical sword Excalibur is stolen from King Arthur by the evil knight Ruber's pet griffon, and a teenage girl called Kayley must retrieve it from the Forbidden Forest before Ruber can get to it and take control of the kingdom. Why possession of the sword would do this, I'm not sure. Equally confusing is how such a pantomime-evil character became a Knight of the Round Table in the first place. In the Forbidden Forest, Kayley meets a blind squire named Garrett who helps her locate the sword, and of course they fall immediately in love.

    Cue singing.

    Though the plot's hardly original, the film so slavishly copies the Disney formula it becomes embarrassing to watch. There are so many songs that half-way through I quipped, "Were they trying for a double-album soundtrack? You look tired, Garrett, perhaps a song will help." The songs aren't particularly good, and the segues into and out of songs are forced, especially during the number sung by a two-headed dragon.

    Yes, the film copies Disney's formula of always including a comic relief character, but ups the ante by having two, and I'm not sure which is more annoying, the aforementioned dragon or the chicken with a magical blade beak. Neither match the atrocity of the excrable Jar-Jar Binks, but they're close.

    The animation is passible, but not great, and there are no standout set-pieces like the stampede from The Lion King or the cave escape from Aladdin. Even the decision to use CGI to depict an ogre seems to have been made because Disney used computer imaging, not because the ogre would only be possible digitally. In fact, the CGI ogre stands out like a sore thumb.

    Characters never grow beyond their stereotypes, the plot never twists, and the few good ideas (like the potion that mixes creatures and objects to make a living mixture of the two) are underdeveloped. I can't fit all my complaints into one review, and believe me, I have more. Thank God Warner took a good hard look at themselves and lifted their game.


    Ignore the details on the packaging, they're virtually all wrong. This is a 1.85:1 presentation, identical to the theatrical release. The print used for the transfer was immaculate - I didn't spot a single film artifact. Similarly, colour and detail are good, as are black levels (though animation is likely easier to get right in this regard).

    I didn't notice any video noise, and there are a few scenes with strong reds or blues which analog video sources like VHS or laserdisc would have struggled with. There's also no annoying aliasing to distract.

    Though the transfer is technically fine, it never grabbed me by the shirt collar and shouted, "I LOOK FANTASTIC!" Why? Answers on a postcard, please.


    The audio is decent, but not outstanding. It's a little safe and conservative, and seems to be harking back to the early discrete mixes rather than pushing at the boundaries of surround. The focus is generally on the front three channels, with sounds panning to the surrounds when appropriate, but a lot of opportunities to make a more enveloping mix were missed. In particular, the forest would have benefitted from birds and insects in the surround channel, but no dice.

    The soundtrack is well-recorded, but as I said, the songs are fairly charmless and won't have you running to buy the soundtrack album. Dialogue is clear at all times.


    No extras at all, and the R1 disc (entitled 'Quest for Camelot') has quite a few niceties, including animation tests and an isolated score. Bad studio, Warner, bad studio! Big smacks!


    As far as this genre goes (and let's be honest,the quality bar has been raised considerably since The Lion King revitalised Disney), this film really isn't in the running. In fact, it's the worst animated feature I've seen for many years. When a film takes as long to put together as this must have taken, it's inexcusable to put as many feet wrong as it does.

    Rent for the kids if you must, but spend your hard-earned on worthier titles. And do check out The Iron Giant.

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      And I quote...
    - Paul Dossett
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Rom:
          Pioneer 103(s)
    • MPEG Card:
          RealMagic Hollywood Plus
    • TV:
          Mitsubishi Diva 33
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha DSP-A1
    • Speakers:
          Richter Excalibur
    • Centre Speaker:
          Richter Unicorn
    • Surrounds:
          Richter Hydras
    • Audio Cables:
          Monster RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
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