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Case Number 17033

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Merlin And The Book Of Beasts

Anchor Bay // 2009 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 14th, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson cast a spell on his cat. They moved past it with some therapy.

The Charge

The darkest knights of all.

Opening Statement

James Callis (Battlestar Galactica) dons a wooden staff and a heavy smoker's voice to assume the role of Merlin, the legendary sorcerer who mentored King Arthur and made a bunch of mops dance by themselves. Or maybe I'm mixing my animated Disney wizards.

Facts of the Case

Here's where we stand: Arthur is long gone, having become a permanent worm farm in Avalon, leaving his daughter to fend for herself against the evil forces of Mordred, with just a bunch of losers who can barely swing a sword without hitting themselves in the ribcage as her backup. Mordred is already an imposing dark lord, but when he gets a hold of the legendary "Book of Beasts" and starts summoning insects to kill villagers, bigger guns will have to be called in. That's right, it's time for Merlin to get back in the game and open up a can of magical whoopass.

The Evidence

Before we get to the homicidal CGI insects, the Medusa twins, the Book of Beasts, and the fact that this movie kind of sucked, something has to be said of James Callis's voice. Yikes. I like the guy. Thought he was awesome in BSG, playing my favorite character by far. But for whatever reason, either by directorial mandate or his own unfortunate character development, he thought it was prudent to give Merlin a ludicrously gruff voice. Seriously, it's closer to a bark or a Wookiee mating cry than the voice of a human being. I tried to get past it, but any time Callis opened up his mouth to woof his next line, I was immediately drawn back into the dopiness of it all. It really is that bad.

If you happen to be of stronger constitution or more forgiving of Godforsaken acting, then beyond this shockingly surreal performance is…a dispensable SyFy Channel fantasy adventure, besieged by shabby visuals, a legion of dull lifeless characters, and a standard-issue bad guy story powered by a goofy plot device.

Besides Merlin, your main characters are: Mordred, an ill-tempered jackass who's your typical bad guy, after the planet-wide subjugation of the human race and so on; Avlynn, Arthur's daughter and the heir to the kingdom who wades into a lake, retrieves Excalibur, then swings it around and stuff. Neither of these people are interesting and, if it weren't for Callis's nutso voicework, his Merlin would have been instantly forgettable.

Finally, you've got the Medusa twins, Mordred's evil hench-ladies. Their hair can turn into snakes. Awesome.

The DVD is simple: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, 5.1 surround, and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

Closing Statement

I've got nothing else to say about this movie. It's your typical, underperforming made-for-TV fantasy movie.

The Verdict

Guilty. Where has the magic gone?

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Scales of Justice

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 70
Acting: 50
Story: 60
Judgment: 55

Perp Profile

Studio: Anchor Bay
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English (CC)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Fantasy
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurette


• IMDb

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