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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Full Frame
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
  • None
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • 2 Featurette - Dog Training, The Making of Paws
  • Photo gallery
  • Interviews

Paws

Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 83 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Why are baddies always so spookily queer? Take a look at Cruella Du Vil from 101 Dalmations or Pablo from The Lizzie McGuire Movie - I mean how ugly was he?! Anyway, Paws is a pretty decent Australian kids movie that has the same production values and themes as one of the weekday after school television shows. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just means it's lacking substance and an original story, but hey it passed the afternoon. Ooh, um, hmm it’s a kids film so scrub that last comment.

This 1997 film stars Nathan Cavaleri – yeah, the guitar player. It’s a kids’ film so it’s no award winner, and the acting by the entire cast is fitting for the genre of the film. Yes, even Cavaleri. Funnily though, the slick advertises “Heath Ledger in one of his first film roles”. That’s all good and proper, but he has two scenes. Wouldn’t you include that statement on a film which he is the lead star in? Hmm, but anyway. The voice of the pup, PC, is provided by Billy Connolly and this reviewer just kept waiting for the pup to say, in the true Billy accent of course, “for f*ck’s sake”. But alas, this did not prevail. Instead I had to entertain myself with the PG-rated antics. Ooh, hmm, scrub that comment too.

Zac (Cavaleri) is a bit of an angry teenager, having just moved to Sydney (and hating it), he doesn’t like his stepfather, his sister is a real pain in the *ahem* and it doesn’t help that his social tendencies are towards his PowerPC. His time in Sydney also isn’t helped by him being persuaded into helping the next door neighbour, Samantha (François), with her production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Anyway, the story starts with a bit of a mystery including a blonde spy, old man and a steak and kidney pie. We soon find out that this blonde bitch has followed the kind old man home, after the pie of course, and kills him by pushing him over the stairwell, as you do. Before she struts in with her abysmal blonde locks, the old man saves some data to a disk, sticks it in his dog, PC's, backpack and hides him in a cupboard. As soon as Anya, the blonde bitch, has left, PC runs off to deliver the disk to Susie. But alas, on the way he gets hit by a car and taken in by a family. Lucky for PC, this family is Susie’s next door neighbours. This is where we meet Zac, part of the dog-hitting family, and Samantha, Susie’s daughter. With PC’s master being an ex-software programmer, he knows his way around a computer, and uses Zac’s voice software to talk in none other than a bold Scottish accent. With a personal PC attached to his backpack, PC, Zac and Samantha are now on the mystery of who killed Alex, and just who is that blonde bitch.

The story is fairly simple, contrived and of course predictable, but for the kids, who cares? It’s good entertainment for them, fitting nicely above the baby kids films but still below the young adult arena. With the school holidays looming, if you’re done at the movies and the new release section is worn out, give this one a try.

  Video
Contract

The video is presented in a full-frame 1.33:1 aspect, obviously not anamorphically enhanced. It is unsure of whether this is the original aspect of Paws, yet given the theatrical release the film received, it is probably been pan and scanned. Colours are natural and clean, giving that true blue Aussie feel, with solid blacks and no sign of bleeding or discolouration. Film artefacts are minor, as is a slight wash of occasional grain, with some rather corny special effects leading to some nastily defined edges. The clarity of the image is great, with a consistent sharp focus. Now give us widescreen and we’d be set. At just over 5GB, this has to be a dual-layered disc, however no noticeable pause was noted during the film.

  Audio
Contract

The sole Dolby Digital 2.0 English is well-worked, yet has a few problems which all stem from the dialogue. The dialogue sounds as if it has been re-recorded after production, or at least reworked during post-production, as the synch is not 100% realistic. Also stemming from this are some unwelcome volume restrictions, with outdoor sequences often having a rather deep and loud vocal track, and indoor scenes a little more subdued and realistic. This sort of problem really doesn’t make the film unwatchable, but is just apparent for those with an ear for perfection. Or rather lack thereof. Separation of the two channels is fairly minor, with pretty much a central soundtrack throughout the whole film. But thankfully, the bass levels are quite nice, suitably supporting the effects and Mario Millo’s score.

  Extras
Contract

As with a few Universal discs in the past, a copyright warning from the UK is presented before the menu, and can only be skipped by fast-forwarding. This time, however, Australia and New Zealand has been added making it more relevant for Region 4 viewers. Anyway, the menus feature some background audio, and are not anamorphically enhanced. The menus are aesthetically well-presented, and fitting for the mood of the film. The only real gripe is that there are no clear menu icons, making navigation rather like guesswork which young children may not be able to cope with.

Up first is a 2:04 theatrical trailer, presented in a full-frame aspect, that does a pretty poor job of telling the story, even after it starts rather ideally. Running for 10:03 in total are a series of cast and crew interviews with Billy Connolly, Nathan Cavaleri, Emilie François, Sandy Gore, Rachael Blake, Joe Petruzzi, Karl Zwicky, Geoff Burton and Paul Prince. Luckily these can be skipped using the next chapter button, and feature some trivial information but are too brief to be too detailed. Funnily though, Paul Prince talks about how seamless the effects are. Well, hmm, that was one of the funniest points of the film, how seamless that are... not.

Next up is some dog training footage which is made up of several clips including a 2:11 interview with Luke Hura, the animal trainer, to get the ball rolling. Each of the following clips are presented in-set in the menus for Backing Up, Close Your Eyes, Ashamed and Skirt Pull, each of which feature footage from the training process and the finished film sample. For pooch fans, this is a great featurette, but still running a little on the short side.

The Making of Paws is a 7:24 look at the making of Paws, funnily enough, and features interviews from the producers, cast and crew of the film. This is a fairly reasonable summary of the making of the film, even if a little paper-thin, yet is a little repetitive after watching the interviews. Completing the collection of extras is a small photo gallery running for 2:58 and featuring 12 photos with captions. The audio of this slideshow is by Billy Connolly as PC, makes what would be a tedious extra and turns it into a mildly entertaining photo show.

  Overall  
Contract

The kids are gonna love this – it’s like a modern day Milo and Otis. OK, not really, but if they love cute little pups and a funny Scottish man then they’ll love it. The transfer is acceptable given the target audience, but nothing technically groundbreaking, and the extra features are entertaining for the kids but hold little in the way of weighty content. But at least this talking dog is far more entertaining than that talking pig. “La la laaaa!”


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      And I quote...
    "101 Dalmations goes down under. Minus 100, of course... oh, and the dalmation bit..."
    - Martin Friedel
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS530
    • TV:
          Sharp SX76NF8 76cm Widescreen
    • Receiver:
          Sony HT-SL5
    • Speakers:
          Sony SS-MSP2
    • Centre Speaker:
          Sony SS-CNP2
    • Surrounds:
          Sony SS-MSP2
    • Subwoofer:
          Sony SA-WMSP3
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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