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Case Number 08278

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Long Way Round

Goldhil Home Media // 2004 // 350 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // January 9th, 2006

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All Rise...

Judge Ryan Keefer thinks that Obi-Wan Kenobi had it easy on this trip. Try putting Yoda and Jar Jar Binks on motorcycles or in situations where they'd have to deal with the Russian mafia.

The Charge

Two friends. One extraordinary journey around the world.

Opening Statement

Enter one recognizable actor (Ewan McGregor, Robots, Black Hawk Down, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) and his friend (Charley Boorman, The Serpent's Kiss, The Emerald Forest), who met on the set of a film and have stayed close ever since. Both are motorcycle enthusiasts, and talk about taking the ultimate bike trip, starting in London, and going East, through Europe and Russia, before arriving in New York, 12 weeks and 20,000 miles later. Does Long Way Round provide for fun times?

Facts of the Case

The two-disc set of Long Way Round contains seven episodes, with the first three on one disc, and the remainder on the other. I'm going to assume that a lot of you have seen Episode III by now, and can presume that McGregor is, in fact, alive, so you can't really consider any of these descriptions as "spoilers." Either way, put your hands over your eyes and scroll down if you don't want to read anything about the trip.

The episodes are as follows:

• Episode 1
The boys go through preparations and planning for the trip. They court sponsors for bikes, equipment, anything that one can think of, down to the requisite inoculations. They say the obligatory goodbyes to friends and family (Yes, Charley's father is the John Boorman, of Hell in the Pacific and Excalibur fame). The trip is laid out to have just the two of them on bikes, along with a third rider/cameraman. The cameraman, Claudio von Planta, arrives with no passport (it's in Switzerland with his mother) and with a motorcycle license not recognized by England. The details get finalized in the last 24-36 hours, including a second production crew who travels at a distance from McGregor and Boorman in Land Rovers, but the boys head out from London still missing a complete crew.

• Episode 2
The boys managed to get out of London, and go through France and Belgium before stopping in Prague. Claudio does manage to pass his driver's test and meets up with the boys in Prague, and they continue through the Ukraine, where they are given an unusual night by an interesting host. After a night of good food and drink, the host goes upstairs, and returns downstairs, a guitar in one hand, and an AK-47 machine gun in the other. Ewan sums things up rather obviously when he says there are a lot of guns in the house. They also stop at a UNICEF program being held in Kiev, one of several similar stops they make on the tour.

• Episode 3
Upon leaving the Ukraine and entering Kazakhstan, they are met warmly by a receiving group of dignitaries and policemen. It's the start of a somewhat exploitative trip through the country, as the government seems to think that Obi-Wan Kenobi motorcycling on their roads will inspire people to summer there. In one instance where they refuse any sort of motorcade, someone actually waves a pistol at them, which sobers them up rather quickly. They also notice that the roads start to degrade. When I mean degrade, I mean that there are no more signs of asphalt, and using the word "roads" to describe them may be somewhat generous.

• Episode 4
Well, they may have some good food, but the driving conditions in Mongolia are nasty. The boys frequently get stuck, and make very little headway in terms of distance. At one point, Ewan and Charley debate bailing out of Mongolia and back into Russia, where roads are better (or plentiful), but decide against it, for fear of missing out on the experience that they envisioned. Things take a serious turn when one of the support vehicles has an accident and rolls on its side.

• Episode 5
The boys' decision to stick things out in Mongolia proves to be a wise one, as not only do paved roads finally re-emerge, but they enjoy a lot more of the culture and experiences within the country, as well as making a stop in a UNICEF center in the Mongolian capital. They cross into Russia and get on a train, as they prepare to go down the Road of Bones in Siberia.

• Episode 6
The struggle through the Road of Bones is hard. Basically, the road was constructed by Stalin, but actually built by the prisoners and enemies of the state. Those enemies died due to the conditions, and some of their remains are supposedly under the road. The roads are sometimes impassable, due to high waters and destroyed bridges, but they use the help of the locals to get the bikes across sometimes. The problem is that so few people use the roads, there's a lot of waiting. So much waiting, that at one point, they only travel 12 miles in one seven-hour stretch. There are a lot of bears that run around too, and there is one pretty graphic instance where some of the Russian crew gets out when seeing a bear, and shoots (and eventually skins) it, so be prepared for that during this episode.

• Episode 7
Yahoo, North America! Yahoo, nice roads! Despite some brush fires in Alaska that don't provide for as much pleasant viewing of the landscape as they'd like. They make separate stops in the Midwest, once in Minnesota, as a favor to an American they met in Mongolia, and another in Illinois, to meet the family of one of the crew members. They stop in upstate New York and meet Paul Teutel Sr. and Jr. (of American Chopper lore), and meet up with their families just before the final ride into Manhattan.

The Evidence

One can't really appreciate the kind of logistical nightmares that you can run into when scheduling a 20,000 mile road trip I guess. But the overall feeling that you get as you watch McGregor and Boorman travel in various locales is that they have a tremendous joy about what they are doing, and are ecstatic in doing it. It's nice to see that there are friendly people in the furthest reaches of the world, or perhaps it's because I've been subjected to so much antipathy here, that I'm stunned when any two strangers shake hands. And to the boys' credit, they try to talk as best to the locals of each country how they can, even if language barriers are present.

The visuals that Long Way Round provides are amazing, there's no doubt. But sometimes after awhile, the same beautiful landscape can be annoying. Maybe it's because those who are industrialized sometimes have a yearning for McDonald's and Starbucks, and if that's the case, it's a shame. But overall, the experiences that the pair had, the food that they ate, and the roads that they traveled will be experiences worth remembering.

Goldhil Home Media has included some extras on this two-disc set, starting with almost 40 minutes of additional footage, most of which did not appear in the final cut. Some of the material is actually pretty good. For instance, McGregor snores like a bear, and he relays a funny story about being mistaken for Jude Law. There's an all too brief post-trip interview with the two that lasts just over five minutes, and there is no additional material on the second disc.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

There are two things that annoy me when viewing Long Way Round on DVD. The first is that while the shows are uncensored, so McGregor and Boorman are free to utter whatever obscenity they please, some of them do have the beeps. Why? What's the point? That's not the bigger issue though. The bigger issue is that this set only has seven episodes, when other regions have 10. Sorry, to release an abridged version of the trip makes no sense whatsoever. And not to get McGregor and Boorman back together for anything longer than a five-minute interview, without any episode commentaries, are foolish.

Closing Statement

McGregor and Boorman managed to accomplish something that people only talk about, and that is an admirable feat. However, Goldhil's presentation of the trip leaves a lot to be desired. If you are a fan of the show, order it from Canada or from the UK, as the more complete version of the show is featured there.

The Verdict

McGregor and Boorman are found innocent. They have done the impossible, and are fortunate enough to have a video document of it. Goldhil is found utterly guilty for releasing a shorter version of the show in some areas, while releasing a complete version in others. You'll have to do better than that if you want to get an acquittal from this court.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 76
Audio: 73
Extras: 22
Acting: 72
Story: 81
Judgment: 83

Perp Profile

Studio: Goldhil Home Media
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 350 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Documentary
• Reality TV
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Additional Footage
• Stills Gallery
• Post-trip Interview

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site








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