Steer clear of `Beyond the Golden Compass'

December 07, 2007|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Is any show-biz industry prone to the rip-off more than home-video movie tie-ins -- the grab-bag releases that fly straight to video in order to piggyback on a theatrical film's success? Even in the VHS era, fly-by-night distributors would flood bargain bins with cheap animated retellings of fairy tales, myths and legends whenever Disney released a blockbuster like The Little Mermaid or Pocahontas or re-released a classic like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

These days, the come-on and execution are often classier, the content just as flimsy.

On Nov. 20, anticipating the international release of The Golden Compass, the reputable Koch Vision DVD company released a full-price ($19.98) documentary DVD cunningly called Beyond the Golden Compass: The Magic of Philip Pullman.

The marketing built it up as a "cutting edge film" using "CG animation and rare archival footage." It's more like an educational filmstrip for the digital age: a broad, illustrated summary of the novel featuring live actors in CG tableaux interspersed with talking heads.

The best thing you can say about Beyond the Golden Compass: The Magic of Philip Pullman, is that it should give New Line Cinema an idea of what not to do when it puts out The Golden Compass on DVD.

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