Plot: What’s it about?
In search of adventure, Kuki Gallman (Kim Basinger) joins her husband Paulo (Vincent Perez) and her young son on a journey into the heart of Africa. She lives a comfortable and pampered life as it is, but she seeks to explore and renew her life and this seems to be the perfect chance to do just that. She expects to find beauty and adventure in her new home, but she soon discovers there is much more danger and such that she ever expected. The vision of paradise becomes somewhat blurred as Kuki learns that this place has a different rhythm than her previous home. She sees the danger and destruction in many forms such as wild animals with bad tempers, the poachers who stalk the land, and even the forces of Mother Nature. In short, Kuki learns she has entered into a land unlike her dreams and now she is forced to deal with the negative aspects therein. Now Kuki has come to a crossroads in her life and needs to choose just how she will deal with this new life she has taken on.
This movie was panned by critics and movie goers and while I usually disagree with the masses, this is a case in which I am in total agreement. I saw this film at the theaters and I expected some terrific performances and dazzling visuals, guess which one I didn’t get? The cast seems to be well honed since most are veterans of the craft, but somewhere along the line here they just seem to almost give up. The performances are weak at best and even Basinger, who I normally like, is rather bland in this one. Perhaps the fault lies within the writing then? The basic premise is a good one and as such, some blame must fall on screenwriters Paula Milne and Susan Shilliday, who botch this one in every respect. So the core of the film is shaky, to say the least and there seems to be little to like with this flick. Is there a saving grace? Of course and that grace is the visuals, which look incredible and warrant a rental of this disc just to see them. Sure, you could nab the VHS tape, but come on you’d miss so much with that format. I recommend this disc as a rental to those who feel the need and while I don’t think the film is worth owning, fans will be pleased with this top notch disc.
This film was directed by Hugh Hudson, who has the talent to make an epic like this one work, but seems to falter in this case. I don’t place much of the blame of Hudson though, as even he can only do come with a bad script and actors who aren’t up to their usual standards. I think he makes the best of what he does have and delivers a visually brilliant film, despite the poor condition of the rest of the film. So in the end, Hudson does the right thing and tries to salvage some aspect of the film, so that there is at least a visual flair to draw folks to the flick. I hope Hudson chooses a project that deserves his talents next, as he can really deliver a spectacular film when given the chance. If you want to see more of Hudson’s work I recommend My Life So Far, Chariots Of Fire, Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan, Lost Angels, and Revolution. As I mentioned above, the cast doesn’t turn in solid performances and this could be due to the writing, but a good actor can always elevate a little above the material. Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential, Batman) and Vincent Perez (Snow and Fire, The Crow: City Of Angels) are the best of this lot and while they do decent turns, it is far too little in terms of carrying a motion picture. Basinger has the looks of course, but she needed to show more inner complexity with this role, which she doesn’t do. The rest of the cast includes Garrett Strommen, Daniel Craig (Elizabeth, Tomb Raider), Liam Aiken (Stepmom), and Eva Marie Saint (On The Waterfront, North By Northwest).
Video: How does it look?
I Dreamed Of Africa is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with a full frame version included on the disc’s flip side. I always recommend the original aspect ratio when available, but in this case it is essential to the film’s visual style, as so much image is cropped in the transition. So even if you hate those black bars, you’ll want to choose the widescreen version and the enjoy the whole spectrum of gorgeous scenery. This is an excellent transfer in all respects, with a clean source print and no evidence of compression slips I could detect. The colors are lush and vivid, with no bleeds at all and flesh tones appear normal and consistent also. The contrast gave me no trouble either, as detail is high and shadow depth is deep and complex. As usual, Columbia/Tristar delivers a picture perfect visual presentation.
Audio: How does it sound?
I wasn’t expecting a lot from this film audio-wise, but I was surprised with just how active the included Dolby Digital 5.1 track was. The musical score resonates in this mix and sounds amazing, which is good because it is an excellent batch of music. You’ll feel like the music is weaving itself around you, and that’s a cool feeling if you ask me. The dialogue is crisp and clean at all times, with no volume hiccups in the slightest. Where this track really shines though is the nature sequences, which are loaded with surround use that really puts you in the middle of paradise. The effects come from all directions and never cease to create a terrific atmosphere for the film. Another superb audio track from Columbia/Tristar!
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes an HBO original featurette, which gives a behind the scenes glimpse at the making of I Dreamed Of Africa. This is mostly promotional fluff, but the fifteen minute running time ensures some information can be drawn from this piece. You’ll also find the film’s theatrical trailer and some talent files on the disc, while the insert booklet contains some nice production notes. The final supplement is an isolated musical score and with a great score like this one, this is a wonderful inclusion.