Judge Gordon Sullivan still has the saddle sores.
Our review of IMAX: Ride Around the World (Blu-ray), published January 7th, 2010, is also available.
The amazing global journey of the cowboy.
There's very little doubt that the cowboy holds a special place in American mythology. The lone figure riding west has influenced countless books, paintings, films, and lives. Although many pages have been written about the death of the West and its denizens, the cowboy survives in numerous places around the world today. Ride Around the World takes the viewer to four distinct geographic locations and shows how the traditions that began in the Moroccan desert centuries ago were filtered through Spain before arriving in North and South America. The film begins with a discussion of the distinct horses found in North Africa, and how they were well-suited to herding large animals, like the cow. This tradition was brought over to Spain, were the cowboy proper originated. The Spanish conquest of the New World brought both cows and horses, along with their tenders and riders, to America, Mexico, and Argentina. The bulk of the film examines the cowboy tradition in America, the vaquero way in Mexico, and the gaucho life in Argentina. Although this is a fascinating area of history, this disc suffers from a lack of depth and a poor transfer to DVD.
I'm no expert on cowboys; far from it in fact. However, I've spent my time in a saddle and paid attention during the cultural portion of my high school Spanish class. Between these two things, I was up on about 95 percent of the "history" discussed in Ride Around the World. In many ways the film acts like the existence of vaqueros and gauchos are some great mystery, a lost link between the American cowboy and their past. This may be true for many viewers, but if so a deeper exploration than this 40-minute feature allows is necessary to give viewers a solid understanding of the relationship between traditional cowboys and their Hispanic counterparts. I enjoyed a few bits of new trivia here and there (like the fact that cowboys south of the border train their horses to line up like soldiers), but overall the content of this disc was painfully superficial.
IMAX, however, isn't known for its attention to historical detail. No, the IMAX experience is really all about the big visuals spreading across that huge screen. Ride Around the World has an abundance of those visuals. We are treated to numerous shots of horses galloping across the green landscapes of the New World, the wide shots of American, Mexican, and Argentine vistas, and even some spectacular shots of the North African desert. I have no doubt that on the big screen all of these visuals were breathtaking, but here we come to the disc's most serious problem: this DVD is intended for the small screen. This means that the visuals simply don't have the room to overwhelm the reader like they do on the big screen. In the case of this DVD in particular, the image is entirely too soft, which pulled me out of the feature several times. Initially I thought it might just be me, but then the credits rolled, and the names look like gibberish they're so poorly rendered. This is far from the worst-looking DVD I've reviewed, but from an IMAX feature, I expected more.
As a DVD, Ride Around the World is otherwise okay. The audio mix is fine, capturing both the thundering of hooves and the snippets of dialogue with the cowboys. The lone significant extra is a making-of featurette that was recorded for a television show. The content is interesting because we get a peek at how an IMAX movie comes to life. However, it's sourced directly from the show with no editing, which means commercial break moments and sponsorship details. It also appears sourced from a derelict VHS tape. It's watchable, but the video quality is again surprising from an IMAX product. There's also a trivia quiz and trailer to round out the disc.
Ride Around the World is a superficial documentary that gives only the barest overview of the cowboy lifestyle, instead relying on its stunning visuals to carry the day. That might have worked in the theater, but on home video the transfer isn't impressive enough to make up for the lack of depth in the details concerning how cowboys survive in the modern world. I can imagine this disc being a godsend to high school Spanish teachers (or other educators), but unless you're an obsessive fan of all things cowboy, either check out the Blu-ray disc or ignore this release entirely.
Guilty of never quite getting into the saddle.
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