You can't really expect much from a direct-to-video movie that proudly states on the front of its packaging: "Only at Walmart." The cover makes it look like a knock off of 'Rio.' Brightly colored birds clamoring for your children's attention as you pass the display full of copies of 'Adventures in Zambezia.' Since most people haven't even heard of this movie yet, it will most likely be an impulse buy, one of those movies that parents finally relent to getting because they just want their kid to stop throwing a tantrum in the middle of the store. Though, if you can, try to ignore whatever impulses arise. It's just not worth it.
'Zambezia' is a noticeably low-budget affair (as far as feature-length CG animated films are concerned) where the animation already looks like its five to ten years old. Colors are dull, textures are underdeveloped, and the story feels like it was slapped together without much thought.
Kai (voiced by Jeremy Suarez) is a falcon who lives in Africa. He lives on the edge of a great canyon with his father Tendai (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson). Kai is fed up with living a solitary life, but his father is constantly reminding him that the outside world is full of dangers. Kai isn't listening though. Thinking like a teenager, his father is wrong and he's right.
There's a well-known bird refuge called Zambezia where a large community of birds has built a huge society secluded from danger. It's located in a large tree, which is situated on a small island atop a huge waterfall. Since Kai has had enough of dealing with his dad's overprotective nature, he flies the coop and heads for Zambezia.
Meanwhile a dastardly plot is brewing. The Marabous are the only birds that have been banned from finding a safe haven in Zambezia. Whether it's because of their nasty attitudes, or because they're downright ugly, is never made quite clear. They're incensed that they've been shut out, but don't have the spines to think up a plan to get back at the birds of Zambezia. So, in slithers a giant rock monitor named Budzo (voiced by Jim Cummings). Budzo wants to get to Zambezia because he has a constant craving for bird eggs and there are a lot of eggs in Zambezia. He forms an evil pact with the Marabous.
I'm sorry, just going over the plot to this movie again is a chore. It feels like a half-dozen semi-finished ideas were thrown together to make a movie. Maybe in the hands of a capable animation studio this movie churns out a decent enough film. There's some promise for, at the very least, spectacular visuals. Although, those are pretty much squandered because of the budgetary drawbacks.
There are a few lessons to be taught here – like judging people too quickly and trusting others to make the right choices – but they're laid on so thick that I'd be surprised if the kids didn't catch on to how they were being manipulated. It's purposes are far too obvious to be effective.
Even with all the recognizable names providing voices (along with Jackson, Abigail Breslin, Jeff Goldblum and Lenord Nimoy offer up their services) the movie can't overcome its unbearable ho-hum-ness. There's absolutely nothing about 'Zambezia' that warrants a purchase. Even if your kid is crying for it at the store simply remind them that they have a whole collection of animated films at home that are much better than this Walmart-only exclusive.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
It does state that you can only find this movie at Walmart, although I did find a listing for it on Amazon. It comes in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack. Two standard disc hubs hold both discs. The Blu-ray is a 50GB Disc. It's noted as being a Region A disc.
As I said, the animation here already looks outdated. It's a flat, dull version of 'Rio.' The 1080p presentation does the best it can, but there are times it can't minimize the impact of the subpar source it's coming from.
Colors are dull and lifeless. This includes black areas, which appear flat. Shadows have a crushing effect on the animation. Any time there is a darker scene the birds, their feathers, and any other detail that might be had is completely dominated by the flat shadows in the scene. Some banding is also visible around the edges of the shadows, in the sky gradients, and in fades.
Detail is marginal at best since the animation itself doesn't lend itself to much detail in the first place. The problem is that textures just aren't there. Almost every surface, whether its bird or stone, seems to have the same kind of shiny, smooth texture. The whole movie lacks variety in its visuals.
The audio is pretty average too. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is surprisingly light for a high-flying action-centric animated title. There are a lot of scenes where birds are flying and whooshing by at high speeds, yet the mix treats each event more or less the same.
Wooshes, no matter the distance or speed, all sound about the same. Transitions as birds fly by are jumpy and don't seem to transfer smoothly through the sound field. The rear speakers have some ambient sound, like birds chirping and such, but it isn't overly impressive. Some light, hollow LFE is heard for the roar of a waterfall and accompanying the score at during the climactic scenes at the end.
Dialogue is hit and miss. At times it was clear and then other times it felt too soft and became obscured by sound effects and music. At no point does this mix sound well-rounded. I suppose that it gets the job done, but it has some trouble getting to its end goal.
There's no reason to own 'Adventures in Zambezia.' It's dull in story, in tone, and in animation. It just kind of sits there on the screen without coming to life. Even if the kids are begging for you to buy the movie with brightly colored birds on the front, resist. It's simply one to avoid.