Go ahead. Ask me what 'Magic Journey to Africa' is about. I honestly wouldn't be able to tell you. It has something to do with a girl who wants to find a small pickpocket who runs off to Africa (from Barcelona) on his bike. In Africa there are magical tribesmen, winged horses, talking animals, books that fall from the sky, and a whole load of other things that don't make sense, even in the context of "It's all in her imagination." Made for IMAX theaters as one of those 50 minute movies that places usually show for free to kids on field trips, 'Magic Journey to Africa' promises to provide a as close to an acid overdose as children are likely to get.
Jana (Eva Gerretsen) is the young girl in question. She spends her time dreaming up imaginary worlds that would scare any normal child. One day, while out to lunch with her parents, Jana sees Kabbo (Michael Van Wyk) a young African boy turned criminal. He's resorted to a life of pickpocketing because he has no other prospects in life. Jana soon finds Kabbo again, in a hospital. How she ends up finding him, or why she's so obsessed with him, isn't really clear. But this movie doesn't really bother with clarity.
Kabbo says something about magical trees and how Jana should talk to them if she wants to find him again. So, Kabbo sets off to Africa on his bike – apparently his hospitalization wasn't that serious if he has the ability to ride a bike from Spain to Africa. Jana finds that she can't stop thinking about him and soon sets off on an imaginary – but maybe not? – journey to find Kabbo in his native land.
She ends up running into all sorts of crudely animated computer-generated talking animals that explain the story without actually explaining anything.
Now I wasn't too bothered with this fanciful disregard the movie had to any semblance of a coherent story. I kept thinking to myself that since this is being billed as a nature show that promises to display "…the lush splendor of Africa…" I felt that it was all a means to an end. When we got to Africa the anticipation was that we'd gander at beautiful African nature filmed for IMAX screens and forget all about Jana and her whacked-out wanderings. Too bad none of that transpired.
Instead the movie feels like Jana's story is actually something that people are interested in. I don't want to sound too mean about it all, but the movie ends up squandering its greatest asset. With all this beautiful nature to film in and around in Africa the filmmakers end up focusing much of their camera's attention of CGI characters that look like they were created for a mid-90s video game.
In the end, 'Magic Journey to Africa' feels like the last resort of a tired substitute teacher. A movie to show in class to keep all the kids occupied just so they can get through the day. It's nothing more than that, which is a shame because the promise of Africa nature visuals was promising. It just never panned out.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is an Image Entertainment release. Even though the case says absolutely nothing about it this release actually has a 2D and 3D version of the film on the same disc. It comes on a 25GB Blu-ray Disc and is packaged in a standard Blu-ray keepcase. It's noted as being a Region A release.
This review is for the 2D version of the film.
The visuals excel when they focus on the beauty of Africa's surrounding picturesque nature. It dive-bombs, however, when chintzy CG shows up and, which is a lot. The HD microscope really points out the flaws of the computer animation here. It ends up looking so horrid. I can't imagine what these CGI characters looked like on a proper IMAX screen. Yuck.
Whenever the camera sweeps over an African savannah or pans upward to capture the sun-drenched sky and nesting birds popping in and out of their homes, clarity is close to perfect. Colors are natural. Contrast is right on the money. Banding, aliasing, and any other anomaly really aren't a problem.
The computer animation looks really bad though. It produces jagged edges, flat colors, terrible black areas, just about the complete opposite of the nature photography. The difference between the two aspects of the film are night and day.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is decently put together. It doesn't feature any single mind-blowing aspect though. It gets you through the movie without a standout moment or anything memorable about it.
Dialogue is clear for the most part. There were a few times where I found Jana's narration hard to understand. Like it was mixed a little too low compared to the rest of the movie's dialogue. Rear channels had light ambient sound that did little to encompass the listener. Directionality was fine. Pans seemed a bit jumpy though. There's a point in the movie where CGI ravens dart from one place to another and their squawks and the whoosh of their wings doesn't quite seamlessly move from one channel to the next. Like I said, it'll get you through the movie, but that's about it.
I see absolutely no reason why someone would want to buy 'Magic Journey to Africa.' It serves no educational purpose for kids, it focuses far too much on worthless computer-generated content when the entire movie is surrounded by pristine African wilderness, and it doesn't make much sense at all. The video and audio are alright, but that's not enough to recommend someone to buy it. I suppose it's a rental at the very best. 3D owners may want to check it out to see if the 3D version is something that they'd like to see on their TVs. That's really the only reason I can think of for people to be interested in this.