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Our review of Alpha And Omega, published January 12th, 2011, is also available.
Wolves Kate (Hayden Panettiere, Dinosaur) and Humphrey (Justin Long, Live Free or Die Hard) are star-crossed would-be lovers living in Canada's Jasper National Park. In the parlance of canines, Kate is a dominant Alpha while Humphrey is a submissive Omega. Kate's old man Winston (Danny Glover, Predator 2) is leader of the Western pack. She is supposed to marry Garth, the son of Tony (Dennis Hopper, Easy Rider), leader of the Eastern pack. The marriage is meant to bring unity to the two rival packs. Matters are complicated when Kate and Humphrey are darted by meddling humans and relocated to Sawtooth National Recreation Area in Idaho. Determined to make it back to their pack, the duo sets out on a road trip. Along the way, they team with an officious French-Canadian goose named Marcel (Larry Miller, A Mighty Wind) and his duck pal Paddy. Kate eventually falls in love with Humphrey, but realizes she'll be expected to marry Garth once she reunites with the pack. It's all vaguely Shakespearean—only with animated dogs and no poetry.
Alpha and Omega is the sort of underdog animated film that I hoped would surprise me with greatness despite its non-Pixar pedigree. No such luck. Co-directed by Anthony Bell (Rugrats) and Ben Gluck (Brother Bear 2), the movie was animated in India on the cheap. One would think that would be its fatal flaw, but it really isn't. Bell and Gluck wisely chose stylized, caricatured designs over photo-realism. The movie isn't dazzlingly beautiful (not even close), but the characters are pliable and expressive and the vast outdoor setting is pretty. Where Alpha and Omega fails is in its story, a hackneyed tale of mismatched lovers, poorly told. The movie sets up the wolves' rigid social hierarchy as the impediment to true love between Kate and Humphrey, but then makes the mistake of removing the would-be couple from that hierarchy. As a result the stakes of the film's drama never seem dire—or even all that coherent. Kate feels compelled to return to the pack because her marriage to a wolf from a rival pack is meant to prevent a war among the wolves. But the rival alpha wolf is aggravatingly low-key considering he's voiced by the late Dennis Hopper, who could certainly have crafted a scenery-chewing villain of epic proportions if that's what he'd been asked to do. Although a sort of political romance for kids, Alpha and Omega appears more concerned with delivering a constant stream of weak one-liners (many scatological in nature) than compelling characters or an iota of dramatic tension. It also has one of the worst titles in recent memory (when I saw it on the screener list, I figured it must either be about dogs or Jesus).
Alpha and Omega arrives on Blu-ray in a 1080p/AVC transfer that displays occasional minor artifacts, but is otherwise perfect. Color is bright and appealing, while detail is limited only by the budget animation. The DTS-HD master audio track is subtle and attractive, making fine use of the entire soundstage and even doling out some thundering LFE when appropriate.
Extras are thin and geared mostly towards kids. Making of Alpha and Omega (20:57) is a three-part featurette that covers the movie's character animation, voice acting, and the editorial process from rough animatics to final shots. The main contributors to the piece are directors Bell and Gluck, and producer Richard Rich, but other members of the cast and crew also chime in. Wolves In the Wilderness (13:10) is a brief nature documentary that explores the lives of wolves in the wild.
There is a deleted scene that runs a little over a minute in length and, unlike most deleted scenes for animated pictures, is a final rendering instead of a storyboard or animatic. The snippet involves Humphrey serenading Kate. "Animal Fun Facts" is an in-movie trivia track about wolves and other wildlife. A remote-control game allows young ones to select paths and waterfalls down which Kate and Humphrey ride a log in order to catch caribou for their hungry pack. "Are You an Alpha or an Omega?" is a questionnaire that lets kids know whether they're supposed to have a miserable life on the playground or make other kids' lives miserable on the playground, I guess.
The keepcase also houses a DVD version of the film, as well as a redemption code for downloading it from the iTunes store.
Alpha and Omega might be an acceptable way to kill 78 minutes if family entertainment was scarce. Considering there's a glut of all-ages animated movies out there, and that most of them are better than Alpha and Omega, why bother?
Guilty as charged.
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