[box cover]

Fly Away Home: Special Edition

Fly Away Home is, quite simply, a beautiful movie. Not just because of its cinematography — which is stunning — but because of the strong, subtle performances of Anna Paquin (The Piano) and Jeff Daniels, who transcend the occasionally trite script to present a tender, believable father-daughter relationship. When 13-year-old Amy (Paquin) loses her mother in a car accident and moves from New Zealand to her absentee father's farm in Ontario — a place populated by Thomas's (Daniels) weird sculptures, homemade ultra-light aircraft, and outlandish inventions — she turns inward, shutting out Thomas and everyone else while she mourns her mother and her old life. It's not until she discovers a nest of abandoned Canadian goose eggs that she starts to (pardon the pun) come out of her shell; when the baby birds hatch and collectively decide to make Amy their "mother," she ends up with a flock of 16 goslings trotting around behind her wherever she goes. But how to keep her pets safe from interfering officials and show them where to head for the winter? Thomas saves the day with an idea that sounds harebrained but soon proves valid — let Amy take to the air in a specially built aircraft and lead the geese to a wildlife preserve, racing against the clock to save the land from greedy housing developers. While Amy and her dad come up against a few more challenges than were probably needed to make for a compelling movie, cinematographer Caleb Deschanel's gorgeous photography more than makes up for any plot weaknesses. Every sun-dappled field glows; every aerial shot sends the viewer soaring with Amy and her birds. Deschanel and director Carroll Ballard previously teamed up for The Black Stallion; their work in Fly Away Home is on par with that boy-meets-horse classic. The movie was based on the real-life experiments and flights of Canadian artist/inventor Bill Lishman, whose story gets the royal treatment on Columbia TriStar's Special Edition DVD (which replaces the previous, bare-bones release). Not only does the disc include a recent 18-minute featurette ("Operation Migration: Birds of a Feather") detailing Lishman's experiences, but there's also Lishmann's own handicam-filmed documentary, "The Ultra Geese," which first earned him the attention of shows like "20/20" in the early '90s. Lishman's aerial photography may not be as technically superior as Deschanel's, but it's definitely as thrilling. Other extras include a standard 13-minute "making-of" featurette (originally produced for HBO), a somewhat subdued commentary by Ballard and Deschanel, an isolated score accompanied by comments from composer Mark Isham, trailers, and filmographies. The disc also offers an impressive roster of subtitle options — English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Chinese, Korean, and Thai — plus audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround, and French, Spanish, and Portuguese dubbing. The sound quality is excellent, as is the lush 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. Printed production notes, keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech



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