The Indian in the Cupboard: 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)

September 29, 2015 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Omri (Hal Scardino) has just turned nine and he received many presents, but two of them will be of more use than the others combined. His older brother gives him a small cupboard, which seems normal enough, but has more to it than Omri first thinks. He is also given a small Indian figure, which was a gift from his best friend. Omri is unsure what to make of the cupboard at first, but after he leaves the Indian inside and locks the door, he discovers the magic that resides within, which is amazing to be sure. When Omri unlocks the cupboard, the Indian has changed from plastic to flesh, from a child’s toy to a real person. He is small, but he can talk and as Omri learns, he is an Iroquois warrior named Little Bear (Litefoot). The two start off in total wonder of each other, but soon forge a friendship, which of course, has some trials and tribulations. Omri begins to understand and respect the power of the cupboard, which means sooner to later, he and Little Bear could have to part ways, in one form or another.

I remember being somewhat hesitant about this film, as I wondered well Lynne Reid Banks’ novel would translate to the screen. I liked the novel a lot and hoped for a suitable treatment, but I was still doubtful, to be sure. But when I heard Frank Oz was signed to direct, I was skeptical no more and in the end, I was right to assume the material was in the right hands. The Indian in the Cupboard retained all the emotion and magical atmosphere of the novel, but adds in the visuals needed to ensure an excellent transition, very impressive indeed. I love how the movie deals with magical subject matter, but never seems like a pure fantasy flick, which could have been easy to do, I’m sure. Oz and his crew keep the film based in the real world and not within a dream world, which enhances the magical elements and adds to the atmosphere, at least I think so. I give this movie a high recommendation and on this disc, it looks & sounds better than ever and even has a couple supplements tacked on. In other words, those interested should give this one a spin, as it is well worth the price of admission, to be sure.

At the helm of this picture is Frank Oz, whose work I always seem to enjoy, to be sure. Oz seems to work within comedic projects often, but he also includes emotion and complex characters also, which combine to make his film that much more memorable. In this case, Oz takes a very sensitive, literate storyline and weaves it into a magical experience, but never makes it too magical, always keeping it based in reality. This ensures it remains powerful and realistic, which is vital when it comes to the characters, in terms of emotion and reactions. Although this movie has less comedic material than Oz usually works with, he still delivers an excellent film and makes sure the emotional content is well presented. Other films directed by Oz include Bowfinger, The Muppets Take Manhattan, In & Out, Little Shop of Horrors, and What About Bob? The cast includes Hal Scardino (Searching for Bobby Fischer, Marvin’s Room), Litefoot (Kull the Conqueror, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation), Lindsay Crouse (The Insider, The Arrival), and Richard Jenkins (Random Hearts, The Mod Squad).

Video: How does it look?

The Indian in the Cupboard lands on Blu-ray with a newly and vastly-improved 4K transfer courtesy of Sony. The previous incarnation on DVD was a bit spotty and while the image quality is an improvement, it does still have a few flaws. That said the 1.78:1 AVC HD image has a dramatic upturn in contrast and black levels, detail has been improved and flesh tones retain their warm and natural presence. It’s a nice improvement and fans will certainly appreciate the time and effort it took to get this movie up to par.

Audio: How does it sound?

A new DTS HD Master Audio sound mix has been introduced which is a welcome addition to the previously-released 2.0 track. The score has some nuances that I’d not noticed before, a greater ambiance exists and it makes for a richer viewing experience. Vocals are faithfully reproduced with strong and well-balanced sounds out of the center channel. It’s an improvement, for sure, but nothing to get too excited about.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This new anniversary edition adds a few extras, though some remain from the previous DVD version.

  • Audio Commentary – Director Frank Oz (yes, the voice of Yoda himself) provides a fairly informative commentary track. Admittedly it’s been awhile since I last heard it and several things resonated with me, but for those so inclined – it’s not a bad listen.
  • Little Bear: A Return to the Indian in the Cupboard – Actor Litefoot who played “Little Bear” in the film recounts some of this experiences while making the film.
  • Archival Theatrical Making-Of Featurette – A “vintage” (odd when referring to something in 1995 as “vintage”) feature with some interviews with the cast and crew.
  • Goosebumps Sneak Peek – I can only assume that the reason this, Jumanji and Zathura were released was to promote this movie.
  • The cast of Goosebumps Reflects on The Indian in the Cupboard – The title says it all – it’s essentially a shameless promotion for the Goosebumps movie.
  • Theatrical Trailers

The Bottom Line

Some movies age well and others don’t. I’m not sure which category this falls into. While enjoyable at times, it’s a bit hit and miss and didn’t really resonate with me like it did when I first saw it.  Admittedly the Blu-ray offers up better A/V specs and has a few new supplements, so die-hard fans should snatch this up. As for the rest of us…maybe give it a rental first.

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