Fat Albert

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Rating: PG

Starring:
Kenan Thompson as Fat Albert
Kyla Pratt as Doris
Shedrack Anderson III as Rudy
Jermaine Williams as Mushmouth
Keith Robinson as Bill
Alphonso McAuley as Bucky
Aaron Frazier as Old Weird Harold
Marques Houston as Dumb Donald
Dania Ramirez as Lauri
Omarion as Reggie
J. Mack Slaughter as Arthur
Rick Overton as Coach Gillespie
Keri Lynn Pratt as Heather
Alice Greczyn as Becky

Special Features:
Commentary by director Joel Zwick and producer Jon Davis

Widescreen & full-screen editions on one disc

Extended scenes

Fat Albert: Behind the Band featurette

Theatrical trailer

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1) and Fullscreen (1.33:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Languages
Running Time: 93 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the DVD cover:

“Hey, Hey, Hey! You’re gonna have a good time watching Fat Albert (Kenan Thompson) and his pals in their first feature-length movie! The beloved animated characters from the ’70s make the leap to live action to help a troubled teenager (Kyla Pratt) as they experience the heartfelt emotions and hilarious absurdities of the real world. Comedy genius Bill Cosby (creator of the original Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids TV show) co-stars in this crowd-pleasing family favorite that’s bursting with fresh hip-hop music and tons of laughs!”

Fat Albert is rated PG.

The Movie:
I used to watch the Fat Albert cartoons when I was a kid, so I was cautiously optimistic that the movie would capture a little of what made the show appealing. Unfortunately my hopes were crushed. Fat Albert had a weak plot, mediocre actors, and almost no laughs whatsoever. The movie alternates between showing a cartoon and live action. As I watched it I couldn’t help but think they should have just stuck with an animated Fat Albert movie. Remember when Cosby used to throw things in an out of the cartoon? None of that style, imagination, or humor is here.

A big problem with the movie is that it relies on gags surrounding the fact that the characters are transported from the 70′s to 2004. They are baffled by computers, malls, cordless phones, slang, etc. Too many of the laughs rely on that and it gets old fast. Then there’s the whole issue of the cartoon characters trying to get back into the TV. How many times can you giggle at the fact that their colors are fading? There are also a number of really bad special effects in the film, most notable one where Fat Albert is in a track race with a kid. It couldn’t be more obvious that they are standing in front of a green screen running in place. While this may be nitpicking, it’s evidence of how this film is really lacking in quality.

Kenan Thompson looks like Fat Albert (when in a fat suit), but that’s about all he has going for him. He has no charm, no funny lines, and no memorable moments. About the only appeal of his performance is his character’s total confidence despite being ridiculed about his size. Unfortunately none of the other characters help out, either. None of them are memorable or even act like their cartoon characters beyond having a passing resemblance. Mushmouth is the lone standout of the crowd and even his uniqueness is removed about 2/3 of the way into the film. It doesn’t help that Kyla Pratt who plays Doris, the girl they pop out of the TV to help, is flat out annoying. Even a cameo by Bill Cosby himself is weak.

One of the only redeeming moments of the movie comes at the end when Bill Cosby is shown with a number of men who, it turns out, were the people he based the cartoon characters on. If you listen to the commentary you find out that some of the guys are Cosby’s real friends while others are actors who resemble the characters. It’s a nice touch, but even I didn’t realize that Cosby based the Fat Albert cartoons on his friends.

Despite my distaste for the movie, I watched it with my kids to get their reaction. Any time the cartoon was on the screen, they were interested. Any time it was live action, they wandered away. Too bad the majority of this movie is live action. They also loved the music and started dancing around any time they heard “Gonna Have a Good Time” play. Too bad this new version of the song lacks the spirit and groove of the original. But if cartoons and music were the only appeal of this movie to my kids, I can think of a lot of other cartoon musicals that we can all enjoy together rather than subjecting myself to this again.

Who should see Fat Albert? Mainly children and die hard fans of the original cartoon. And even they might not care for it. I’d recommend picking up the cartoon on DVD more than this live action version.

The Extras:
There are a bare minimum of bonus features included on this DVD. Here are the highlights:

Commentary by director Joel Zwick and producer Jon Davis – What the movie lacks in quality the creators more than make up for in enthusiasm. They passionately describe the characters, the actors, and the general making of the film. Their commentary is most valuable at the end when Cosby appears with the elderly Cosby Kids he based the show on. While it wasn’t explained in the film, they fill in the blanks in the commentary.

Extended scenes – There are only two deleted scenes. One shows the kids trying to figure out what a microwave is. The second shows Mushmouth chattering incessantly after regaining his powers of speech.

Fat Albert: Behind the Band featurette – This is probably the centerpiece of the bonus features. It’s a mockumentary where the characters pretend like the Fat Albert band broke up, then got back together. There’s a lot of behind the scenes footage featuring the teen stars that have cameos in the movie. Everyone stays in character and it is concluded with a music video made from all the footage that was shot during the making of the movie.

The Bottom Line:
A weak story and a lack of laughs makes Fat Albert a real letdown. Spend your money on the original cartoon instead.

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