In the pantheon of great explorer names like Ponce de Léon, Ferdinand Magellan or Sir Edmund Hillary, the name Tad is nowhere to be found. It certainly can't hold a candle to fictional explorers like Indiana Jones or Alan Quarterman. To be honest, it's not much of a name amongst regular folk either. Tad. There's bound to be tens of thousands of folks out there with that name, but no matter what, it simply doesn't inspire men or women to greatness.
That's undoubtedly the running gag with the incredibly retched animated feature 'Tad: The Lost Explorer' from director Enrique Gato, who has done two other 'Tadeo Jones' animated shorts: 'Tadeo Jones' and 'Tadeo Jones and the Basement of Doom.' The animated Tad Jones (known in this version as Tad Stones, for reasons not completely known) is essentially a riff on the 'Indiana Jones' franchise, with a bit of Stephen Sommers' 'The Mummy' series thrown in for good measure.
The story concerns the titular Tad, a construction worker who has always dreamed of being an "explorer" – though he probably means archaeologist – since he was a small child (with the head of a 32-year-old man, sadly). Even though Tad has always dreamed of being like his hero Max Mordon – famed explorer and television star – he's apparently never bothered to learn what it means to be an archaeologist and has spent most of his adult life picking up garbage found at construction sites in the hope that it would be worth a fortune. See, no one ever bothered to tell Tad that archaeology is a science; it's the study of material remains of past lives and cultures, and clearly Tad never bothered to pick up a book on the subject either – despite it being his life's ambition. No, when it comes to exploring, Tad's all about the glory and the riches – the kind of stuff that'll land him on TV like his hero, or will put his name in the history books. Tad's not interested in learning about what interests him; he's only in it for the fame and possibly the money – which is a great set of values for what is ostensibly a children's film.
The basic plot of 'Tad: The Lost Explorer' mostly happens by circumstance. Tad sees his friend Professor Humbert to the airport one day and after the professor has a nasty spill Tad mistakenly causes Humbert to OD on sleeping pills, because he's not the kind of guy who reads the labels of things. So, assuming his friend's place, Tad heads down to South America in search of Professor Lavrof to combine Humbert's half of a sacred key with the one Lavrof has in his possession. The combined key will allow them to uncover the countless treasures of the Lost City of Paititi and possess a legendary statue that many say is cursed. Upon his arrival, Tad is introduced to a low-level criminal/guide name Freddy (Cheech Marin) and Professor Lavrof's daughter Sara (Ariel Winter, 'Modern Family'), both of whom believe Tad to be a professor and one of Humbert's peers.
As the trio (actually, it's a foursome, if you count Tad's dog, Jeff, and Belzonie the mute parrot that communicates with signs he apparently pulls from his nether regions), embark on their journey to find Paititi, they are soon interrupted by a group of evil treasure hunters led by Kopponen, a man with a miraculous mechanical hand who was probably intended to be a riff on Arnold Schwarzenegger, but comes off more like a poor man's McBain. At this point, the movie turns into a run-of-the-mill chase flick as both sides race to be the first to find Paititi and uncover its riches (and horrors) that lie in wait.
What could have been a fun storyline, winds up being one that's full of automatic gunfire, saw blade hands and treasure hunters falling to their death or otherwise being tossed like rag dolls by construction equipment. 'Tad: The Lost Explorer' has all the staples of a children's movie or fun family film, but it has no idea how to be for the audience that will most likely want to see it. What's worse, the movie is completely unimaginative and unnecessarily violent; it's filled with bland, uninteresting characters from Tad all the way down to McBain, and it features an incredibly shallow plot that's essentially warmed-over Indiana Jones fan fiction – complete with German (maybe Austrian) bad guys. If you're looking for an engaging family film, you might find it here, but I suggest you look elsewhere; like the title character, whatever you find here will wind up being worthless.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Tad: The Lost Explorer' is a Wal-Mart/Sam's Club exclusive two disc 50GB Blu-ray 3D + DVD combo pack that comes in the standard keepcase. There are no previews or special features on the film.
While it is miles away in animation quality from Pixar or any other studio effort, 'Tad: The Lost Explorer' still manages to maintain an incredible picture quality that is rich with detail and brimming with vibrant colors that really pop, no matter if you're watching in standard or 3D. What's most astonishing about the AVC/MPEG-4 transfer is the way it manages to maintain a constant high level of detail in all objects, whether they're in the foreground or background. Characters' skin tones are very consistent, too, and tiny details like the weave of fabric on Tad's shirt are always present, regardless the situation he finds himself in. There's really nothing to complain about with the image here, as it was likely taken directly from the digital source.
The same can also be said for the 3D version of the film, which is delivered via an MVC encoded 1080p transfer. The 3D effect is actually quite good with a consistent level of immersion that can sometimes be a little overstated – as in the times an object is blatantly placed in the middle of the foreground, for the sole intended purpose of creating an effect. But when the imaging is subtler, and involved in an action sequence, it seems to come alive and really show what the 3D can do, rather than just look like a cheap parlor trick. There are a few instances with noticeable ghosting in the image, but they are few and far between.
All in all, this image benefits from the animation's love of bright colors and the fact that it made a fairly easy trip from digital source to Blu-ray.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track has a nice dynamic range that plays up the myriad sound effects constantly on display in the movie. Whether it's Tad in the back seat of a van, on a train or running through the Peruvian jungle, there's always a great deal of sound effects along with him. For the most part, dialogue is pushed through the center speaker, which provides clean sounding voices that (for Marin, anyway) manage to be instantly recognizable. For everyone else, they'll just have to settle for being easy to hear.
Rear channels do a great job of picking up directional sound and atmospheric effects – which really come into play near the end of the film where bats and the echoes of a long-dormant underground temple put the mix through its paces. Additionally, if you needed another reason to hate this film, it features a song by none other than One Direction – which actually manages to sound pretty good when played through this disc.
Since 'Tad: The Lost Explorer' has its roots in the action adventure genre, it's nice to see the audio doing a great job in making the film sound so good in that department.
'Tad: The Lost Explorer' is mercifully free of special features.
It may sound curmudgeonly, but 'Tad: The Lost Explorer' is the kind of film that passes for children's entertainment, when it just doesn't have any redeeming quality that would make it worthwhile for a child to watch. Its story is trivial, the characters are superficial and it all revolves around a propensity for violence that's just not befitting the intended audience. While the movie itself is a massive disappointment, the disc is gorgeous and presents a nearly pristine image in 3D or standard versions. With no supplements, however, this disc can be skipped completely.