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Dragonball: Evolution (Z Edition) - Blu-ray DVD / action adventure DVD / family and children's DVD / comic book adaptation DVD review
Rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 3 stars
Featuring: Justin Chatwin, Chow Yun-Fat, James Marsters, Emmy Rossum, Jamie Chung, Joon Park
Director: James Wong Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD release: 28 July 2009 Runtime: 85 min.
(1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD features: 1080p High Definition, Aspect ratio 2.40:1, Audio tracks (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 - English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - Spanish, French, Portugese), Subtitles (English SDH, Spanish, Portugese, French, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean), Eight deleted scenes, Goku's Workout stunt work featurette, Making a Scene, Life After Film School w/ Justin Chatwin, Dragonball gag reel, Brian Anthony "Worked Up" music video, Digital copy, Goku's Quest Game (exclusive HD content)

It's a tough transition going from beloved Asian manga comic book and cartoon to live-action film. Director James Wong had to walk a line between alienating existing Dragonball fans and confusing potential fans. I'm not quite sure how he did with the Dragonball fans, but he didn't quite succeed in luring me in. The prolog, while short, managed to confuse me. It made more sense to me after seeing the film, which leaves me wondering if it needed to be included in the first place.

It seems Lord Piccolo and his lap dog Oozaru all but destroyed humanity a couple of thousand years ago. They were stopped by a bunch of warriors who imprisoned Piccolo in an enchanted clay pot deep underground. Now he's out again (though it is not explained how he escaped), and he's looking for seven glassy orbs known as Dragonballs. That's where Goku (Justin Chatwin) comes in.

Goku is a teenage boy being raised and trained in the martial arts by his grandfather (Randall Duk Kim). He's trained in the old world Karate Kid way: learn to fight so you won't have to. Goku's taken with his schoolmate Chi Chi (Jamie Chung), and when he helps her open her locker with his airbending powers (manipulation of the air around him as a tool/weapon), she invites him to her party (same thing happened to me in high school, so I can relate). That's when Piccolo (James Marsters) knocks down his grandfather's house looking for the Dragonball he was in possession of, but he's already given it to Goku as a birthday gift.

Goku meets Bulma (Emmy Rossum) when she accuses him of stealing her Dragonball. She's built a device that detects them, see. Once they get that ironed out, they're off to collect the rest of the orbs which will enable them to have a wish granted and deny Piccolo the same. Along the way, they pick up a few others for their party: Master Roshi (Chow Yun-Fat), who taught Goku's grandfather; Yamcha (Joon Park), who traps the others in a deep hole for his own gain and despite this becomes an ally; and Chi Chi, whom they find at a martial arts tournament in the middle of nowhere.

Dragonball: Evolution has the makings of a good quest film, but it lacks the patience to really flesh out the characters. Goku we like because he's charismatic and we can relate to his loss at the beginning, but the rest just seem two-dimensional. Master Roshi makes an unlikely guru, which is par for this course. The Chi Chi love connection seems obvious but unlikely. It just isn't given the time to grow organically.

There is a periodic silliness to Dragonball: Evolution that owes its existence to its anime underpinnings. This silliness is amusing but too inconsistent to really belong. In anime, it's expected and it fits with the amorphous qualities of the characters - you expect the silliness in a cartoon when the character's eyes grow to 12 times their original size. So far I haven't seen this happen in live action. We must keep in mind, however, this film's target audience.

Dragonball: Evolution is aimed at a younger audience, perhaps just a stepping stone between Power Rangers and Enter the Dragon, so we can allow the occasional silliness to soften the blow of the more violent moments, which aren't all that violent. The martial arts fighting draws no blood and there's plenty of fighting using airbending, which means no contact. Expect your children's re-enactments to be low contact. If you're looking for more adult martial arts action, your time may be better spent with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, or Kill Bill, but you won't hate watching this with the kids.

The Blu-ray edition brings out the beauty of the special effects and makes for good slow-motion reviews of the martial arts action. A digital copy is included and is a compelling reason to consider this edition. Extras include deleted scenes, gag reel, and the usual making-of featurettes.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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