He's creepy and he's crawly: he's Judge William Lee.
Large and in charge.
Not everyone is scared to death of bugs, but most will agree there's something a little unnerving about those creepy critters that inspire us to flee from or flatten them. Spending my childhood in front of the television watching radioactive ants, kingdoms of deadly spiders, and swarms of vicious bees probably contributed to my unreasonable fear of them too. Luckily there are people like Ruud Kleinpaste to set the record straight on these amazing animals.
Ruud is a Dutch-New Zealander entomologist who simply loves the bugs. A television celebrity in his home country, he's also Animal Planet's resident bug expert and host of the series Buggin' with Ruud. In The World's Biggest and Baddest Bugs, viewers are introduced to 16 remarkable bugs along with an accompanying lesson or stunt featuring Ruud. It's a little shocking at first how enthusiastic Ruud is to handle these animals. He gets stung and sprayed plenty but he simply shakes it off as a successful demonstration. If I'm ever trapped in that bug-infested tunnel from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, I hope Ruud is with me.
The show is divided into two parts: the first half features large bugs (giant cockroaches, millipedes, goliath spiders), followed by a focus on the most deadly ones (scorpions, black widows, army ants). I haven't seen Ruud's series on Animal Planet so I was surprised how much he dominates the show here. The bulk of the time is spent on his demonstrations so, for example, we watch him exercise in a low oxygen environment (to show how oxygen levels affected damsel flies) and negotiate an obstacle course on a wooden plank on wheels (to compare the slinky speed of a centipede against the clumsiness of a beetle). Ruud's also an eager sport when it comes to getting bitten by whatever bug. His friendly, casual manner certainly helps get across the message that these scary bugs don't mean harm to humans and the information he provides is well suited to younger viewers. However, I would have liked to see a bit more screen time given to the bugs. Each animal gets about a minute's worth of introduction followed by five minutes of Ruud's antics.
On the visual front, both the creative and technical aspects are disappointing. Compositions do not show off the various bugs and a lot of the time it feels like the camera is barely keeping up with them. There is a general lack of action when we see the bugs, which might be easier on young viewers but it makes for some dull viewing. Viewers craving some fine photography of animals in their habitats will find that this title is far short of the standard set by Planet Earth. This Blu-ray disc features a 1080i picture that is merely passable. The picture is clean and stable but the improved resolution does little to enhance what is on screen. Certainly, there's slightly better sharpness to the image but it doesn't bring out any depth of detail that would impress viewers seeking bugs in high definition.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital in a choice of 5.1 Surround or 2.0 Stereo. The surround mix gives some extra dimension to the background music but either audio presentation works fine. The soundtrack is dominated by Ruud's narration.
At the time of this review, The World's Biggest and Baddest Bugs is exclusively a Blu-ray title. That's an odd marketing decision, since the program doesn't have the high-def goods to show off visually and doesn't even attempt an uncompressed audio transfer. Fans of the "Bugman" might enjoy his showcasing of these formidable creatures, but it's disappointing that the headliners are treated like background players.
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