You know how Disney animated movies always have songs that almost assuredly are headed for an Oscar? Mesmerizing tunes that the kids sing along to and the parents can’t get out of their head? Alpha and Omega doesn’t have any. None. It tries sure, but if these songs capture your kids attention, they’ll howl them out.
No, seriously, every song here is, uh, “howled” instead of sung. That saves money on the writing, since there’s no need to hire a songwriter, just a composer. Lionsgate obviously had no intention on spending funds to produce this one, so it’s a wonder why they would expect an audience to return the favor.
This is as awful as modern animated theatrical fare can become, direct-to-video efforts the only thing on a lesser scale. Animation is tremendously stiff, the visual style boring, the plot predictable, and the characters as typical as they come. Alpha and Omega wants to be that Pixar movie for all, filled with jokes that will go over the little ones and smack the adults in the face like a mud slide. When you try this hard though, this blatantly (it’s not just in the dialogue, but the animation too), kids are going to ask questions.
There are two main character here, Humphrey (Justin Long) and Kate (Hayden Panettiere), the alpha and omega of their respective tribes, the latter apparently relating to class or something. It’s never very clear, but what is forced onto the viewer is that law states those two shouldn’t be married. Will they end up romantically entangled? Will Kate push away the other man in her life? Will the rival wolf pack stir up trouble?
Yeah, you guessed right on every one of those, and you probably added in the two quirky side characters all on your own. You would be correct there too. Alpha and Omega isn’t even trying, almost casually ripping off Lion King with its final stampede sequence, the second round for that action because it would have been special in 3D. Let’s face it: Alpha and Omega exists to pull in an extra $4 per theatrical ticket anyway and for no other reason. At home, it’s only more painful.
The low quality animation is done no favors on Blu-ray, one of those rare computer animated features that fails to completely wow the HD audience it’s intended for. The AVC encode itself is fine. There are no glaring compression problems regardless of how heavy the action may become and the constant presence of the night sky presents no banding either. Those shots of the bright moon hanging there are quite impressive.
Many of the scenes have this light, minimal haze over them, especially discouraging early. Forest locations contain scattered tall grass that when in focus is clear, the individual strands quite visible. Towards the edges, the intended effect blurs those fine lines ever so slightly. The wolves themselves have minimalistic fur, more like solid blotches that wave around. Detail is relative here. There are hairstyles though (!), one of the few defining characteristics of these critters, and that looks fine.
All of those digitally created mountain views are static, taking away from their potential beauty. The color doesn’t overwhelm, sticking with two bland palettes. The earth-like hues, staying warm in browns and oranges, are marginally appealing. Everything takes on this same look, the greenery of the land diluted. At night, the cooler style takes over, the glow of the moon typically casting a bright contrast onto the characters, giving them some desperately needed depth.
Black levels certainly fail this one, nothing really hammering home the dimensionality. With the lack of saturation and dim blacks, the image never takes on the life it should. It’s a combination of things though really, the bland animation, reluctant detail, and the flat shading, all working together against the film’s visual punch. The qualities of typical animated fare, even those Tinker Bell video efforts, have more pizazz than this. It’s not the encode’s fault, but Lionsgate attempt to milk a 3D market as cheaply as possible.
Sound design is nothing special either. With hundreds of elk stampeding through the forest, their hooves slamming into the ground should pack in the impact. They don’t. This is actually quite boring to listen to, the ridiculous howling songs included.
The DTS-HD mix assuredly presents this as was intended, but that’s hardly an excuse for a soundtrack that matches the visuals: cheap. Generic ambiance is about as intense as the surrounds have to work. Those stampedes fail on this level too with barely any tracking as the animals pass overhead.
The closest thing to a highlight is a thunderstorm, the light rain sticking to the fronts before a downpour kicks off and finally comes to life. Thunder cracks in the rears for a slight layer of ambiance, the effect gunning for a minimalist record. Nothing here will scare the kids, so maybe that’s the intent, but it’s not doing the father/mother home theater enthusiast any favors when they get stuck watching it either.
Extras begin with a three-part making-of, running about 21-minutes with the usual animation rundown (storyboards, design, voice actors). Wolves in the Wild introduces people to the real animals, and dispels the myths. A single deleted scene is included, along with a pop-up track during the film. A game, personality test, and trailers remain.