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FLY AWAY HOME: SPECIAL EDITION

Review by Alex Haberstroh

Stars:  Jeff Daniels, Anna Paquin, Dana Delany, Terry Kinney
Director:  Carroll Ballard
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese)
Video:  1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Subtitles:  English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai
Studio:  Columbia Tri-Star
Features:  See Review
Length:  107 minutes
Release Date:  August 7, 2001

Film ****

When Fly Away Home debuted in theaters, I intentionally avoided it.  The premise sounded nothing short of sugary-coated family fare that would only make me contemplate beating myself to death with the arm of the movie seat.

The story centers on fourteen-year-old Amy Alden (Paquin), who in the first five minutes of the story suffers through a violent car crash when her mother somehow loses control of their car, leaving her mother dead and Amy mentally/physically traumatized.  When her estranged father Tom (Daniels) shows up in New Zealand shortly thereafter to take Amy back to his home in Canada, she resists, as she has not seen him in ten years, and feels she doesn’t need him any more.

What results is a series of awkward attempts by Tom to bond with Amy, yet it is not until she discovers some abandoned goose eggs, left by the carnage of the local developers’ bulldozers, that he is finally able to connect with her.  Raising the geese as their surrogate mother, Amy is able to find new strength and love that the fatal accident had almost burned out.   

Unfortunately (and this is where the actual point of the story comes), as the Canadian geese grow older, they have an instinct to fly south before winter hits.  But since geese, just like most mammals, learn much of what they need to know from the previous generation, Amy is ill-equipped to teach them about flight and migration paths.  Thus, if the geese’s wings aren’t clipped they could fly into power lines, fences, or be turned into a tasty meal…mmmmm.

Not wanting to clip their wings, Tom, who has quite the talent for invention and a love of flying, decides that he can get the geese, who follow Amy everywhere, to follow them in a gyrocopter down to the coast of southern America.

As I mentioned in the beginning, this was something I thought would be akin to putting my head in a meat grinder.  Knowing that Canada geese are typically highly territorial, cantankerous birds, I thought it would be hard to shed a tear over them.  Going in with low expectations, though, I was quite surprised.  The acting is quite good, particularly the performances of Daniels and Paquin, who seem to bring life and honesty to a story that could have otherwise drowned in sappiness.  Instead, the film seems like an honest feel-good movie rather than a cheap one, which tries to manipulate our feelings through music cues.

This one is a great title to get for, or to watch with, your kids.  Check it out!                   

Video ****

Columbia once again proves why they are one of the premier DVD companies.  This is an eye-opening anamorphic transfer that is bright and crisp.  Especially impressive were the close up shots of the geese that were so clear, I could even distinguish their pupils. 

Overall, colors are lively and satisfying, especially as shown in Caleb Deschanel’s Oscar nominated cinematography of the splendid geese in flight.  This one should be a delight to patient fans who waited for a better transfer.

Audio ****

The audio is another pleasing treat as well.  Not only has Columbia included a vibrant Dolby Digital 5.1 track, but also Dolby surround tracks in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. 

In terms of performance, the 5.1 track is a winner across the board.  The opening music comes across well as both smooth and haunting.  Furthermore, there are some moments where the subwoofer performs at surprisingly low levels, providing the crunching bass of construction equipment.  Thankfully, even with the occasional loud moments of music and sound effects, the dialogue isn’t lost in the mix; instead Columbia has offered a strong track that is quite active. 

Supplements ***1/2

Columbia, often one not to disappoint the viewer in the realm of supplements, has provided a very informative and entertaining berth of supplements.  First on the disc are two commentaries.  The first with director Carroll Ballard and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel is a generally informative track that discusses the problems with working with Canadian geese, as well as other problems that arose during the course of the film.  In the second track, with composer Mark Isham, he discusses what emotions he felt needed to be conveyed and how he shaped his music around that.

Next up the approximately fifty-minute documentary “The Ultra Geese,” focuses on the work done by real life preservationists William Lishman and Joseph Duff.  Although it’s sometimes a bit long, this is still a very informative documentary about imprinting done with birds like geese, swans, and cranes.

After that are two featurettes.  The first, “Operation Migration: Birds of a Feather,” discusses imprinting and other things mentioned in “The Ultra Geese,” although they do add a few points here and there, so it’s worth checking out for those highly interested.  The second included featurette is “Leading the Flock: The Making of Fly Away Home”.  I generally dislike HBO featurettes, as they are usually just promos for the film, making them worthless once you’ve already seen it.  In this case, the featurette isn’t painful, but isn’t exceptional either.    

Rounding out the package are trailers for the film and other children’s fare and filmographies.  All in all, this is a nice package that should please both fans and newcomers alike.  

Summary:

A diamond in the rough, Fly Away Home is family fare at its best.  Coupled with a great transfer and respectable supplements from Columbia, this one is highly recommended.