Peace Arch Entertainment // 2007 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // August 19th, 2009
Every movie is as its director made it, and sometimes a great deal worse.
In this silly, nonsensical retelling of Part Two of Miguel de Cervantes' classic tale of the world's most confused knight-errant, a far too young and handsome Don Quixote and his embittered squire Sancho Panza have become respected folk heroes in their hometown of La Mancha. A local politician tired of living in Quixote's shadow convinces the knight that a festival in Barcelona may provide him the opportunity to win the hand of his mysterious love Dulcinea. Sancho wants nothing to do with the adventure, but can't seem to escape from the gravitational pull of his master's misguided obsessions. The duo heads for Barcelona with their steeds, the buffonishly fastidious stallion Rocinante and the hard-headed donkey Rucio, who believes that one day he'll blossom into a horse. Also along for the ride is Rocinante's scrappy, smart-mouthed pet chicken (don't ask). There's also a tacked on subplot about a villain in an iron mask and his sorcerer lackey who want to destroy Quixote...or something.
Despite its doorstop heft and narrative complexity, there's no inherent reason that an animated feature riffing on Cervantes' Don Quixote wouldn't work. The book has memorably outlandish characters, loads of surreal plot twists, and compelling universal themes about the nature of identity and the conflict between reality and the imagination. It's too bad then that Spanish director Jose Pozo's Donkey X (or Donkey Xote) is such a scattered, shallow mess. By failing to congeal around a focused theme, its plot is a baffling semi-episodic affair full of narrative dead-ends and non sequiturs. Worse yet, the characters are forgettable -- despite Quixote and Panza being two of the most distinctive characters in the entire history of literature. Angel E. Pariente's screenplay is so muddled and confused that I'm still not certain whether the movie's protagonist was supposed to be Quixote or the titular donkey.
The confusion might be forgivable (maybe) if Donkey X was a cartoon for adults, a wicked postmodern deconstruction and reconstruction of the themes and events from Cervantes' book. But it's not. It is neither intelligent nor literary. It appears to be a movie made by people who thought the title Donkey Xote was cleverer than it really is, and whose knowledge of the second part of Cervantes' novel is limited to whatever they could glean from a quick browse of Wikipedia. Quixote is reduced to an innocuously clueless but handsome dude with fine posture and a perfectly sculpted goatee (despite Quixote being a retiree at the beginning of the novel's first part). Worse yet, Sancho Panza -- one of the most likeable everymen in the long history of sidekicks -- is transformed into a cynical, mercenary douche bag. It's truly inexcusable. Rocinante is an effeminate, neurotic loser. And Rucio the donkey lacks the personality to pull off his leading man status, but is cynically designed to sell DVDs and Blu-rays by looking suspiciously (and by "suspiciously" I mean "exactly") like Donkey from the Shrek movies (on top of that, there's a lion that looks a lot like Scar from The Lion King, and one of the villains has the same up-do as Syndrome from The Incredibles; I'm sure there are other acts of grand theft cartoon that escaped my noticed). Perhaps something was lost in the film's translation from Spanish to English, but I seriously doubt it.
Phase 4 Films delivers Donkey X on Blu-ray in a razor sharp 1080p/AVC transfer that sports accurate colors, beautiful lighting, and no digital artifacts. The animation is blockier and less supple than the work of major American animation studios like Pixar and DreamWorks, but it's still impressive. Audio is another matter. The default English dub is presented in a DTS-HD lossless stereo mix that is surprisingly thin and out of balance. Dialogue and effects sometimes sit too far back in the mix and are overpowered by the score. The original Spanish track is given an equally disappointing DTS-HD stereo mix. A French dub receives a full-throated DTS-HD 5.1 mix that blows the other two tracks away. Optional English subtitles are provided.
There are no extras.
From its crapping all over beloved literary characters to its blatant thieving from better animated features, Donkey X is a wanton act of bad taste. A convoluted story and dull characters make the flick unsuitable for consumption by kids or adults. With so much CG animated fun to be had out there, there's not much reason to rent this one, let alone buy it.
Guilty as charged.
Review content copyright © 2009 Dan Mancini; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Peace Arch Entertainment
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS HD 2.0 Surround (English)
* DTS HD 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG