DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    Bryan James Kitto as TODDSTER
    Darnell J. Hamilton as GAVIN
    Marissa Cuevas as EMILY
    C. Ryan Nagin as MAYOR ADAMS
    Ellis Marsalis as JAZZMAN

    Rated G
    Studio: MGM

    Directed by: Fritz Lang

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In the bayou of Louisiana, three friends at school decide to look for the lost pirate ship of the legendary Captain LeRouge. During their quest, they run into the elusive Labou, an animal that has lived in the swamp for centuries. Meanwhile, two greedy oil barons from Texas are trying to develop the swamp land into factory land. While in the bayou, the kids discover their plan and attempt to stop them from destroying Labou’s home.

Being in a unique position of having kids and being a DVD reviewer, I see an awful lot of children’s movies. Some are great. Some are not so great. But regardless of how big a budget a film has, it’s always nice to see something that is unique and fresh. “Labou” is one of those films.

It’s clear that “Labou” was a labor of love for the people making it. There’s an awful lot of heart and soul that comes through the film. And by casting the mayor of New Orleans as the mayor of the town, as well as the local legend Ellis Marsalis as Jazzman, it’s looks like the whole city got on board for this movie.

In terms of plot and story, “Labou” goes down roads we’ve all seen before. Greedy land barons and corrupt mayors are nothing new to kids films. Heck, these are the stock that “Scooby Doo” used for its bad guys for years. Still, this is a kid’s film at its heart, and these are archetypes that kids can understand. After all, who can’t relate to someone trying to steal something from you, or grown-ups that aren’t always fair?

In spite of its title, “Labou” rests on the shoulders of its young actors. Bryan James Kitto, Darnell J. Hamilton and Marissa Cuevas have a nice chemistry, and they fit into the film rather well. In fact, their acting chops are stronger than many of the adults in the movie.

Fans of the “Power Rangers: S.P.D.” series will recognize some of the actors, namely a former Blue Ranger and sidekick. This is because writer/director Greg Aronowitz was instrumental in that series and decided to draw from his own talent pool, which seems to have led to a smoother production.

Kids will like this film for several reasons, chiefly because it’s a movie about kids saving a small animal. They’ll also enjoy the animatronic Labou and his cute antics.

Even though the film is titled “Labou,” it’s really not a story of this creature. In fact, the creature isn’t even a MacGuffin for the film. This role is served by Captain LeRouge. In some ways, there’s a little too much happening in the movie with endangered and undiscovered animals in the swamp, as well as pirate ghosts and greedy oil barons. It’s not necessarily hard to follow, but the plot does seem a bit muddled at times.

The DVD comes with a nice selection of bonus features, including a commentary track with director Greg Aronowitz, producer Sheri Bryant and actor Chris Violette. There’s six featurettes, hosted by the child stars that are meant to be watched in order.

“The Making of Labou” tells the story of the film, including how the production was stalled by Hurricane Katrina. “The Casting Process” explains the long journey the young actors took before they won their roles. “Building Labou” talks about how puppetry and some CGI was used to develop Labou and his friends. “The Music of Labou” spotlights the musicians behind the soundtrack, as well as one who provided the voice of Labou.

Rounding out the featurettes is a spotlight on the special effects and a final word about the locations used in New Orleans.

Families and folks from New Orleans.

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