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DVD Review: The Secret of the Magic Gourd

The Secret of the Magic Gourd (宝葫芦的秘密) is actually a Chinese film that Disney licensed and dubbed into English... I was not aware of this fact up front, so when the opening scene (which was obviously a dream sequence) had some kid with obvious voice over dubbing, I thought that was actually part of the dream. Because, you know, the voice didn't sound like it would come from that kid and the words didn't even come close to matching up with his lip movements. So after the dream sequence ended and the odd dubbing continued, I said hold on a sec... and quickly discovered that there was a Chinese language track on the disc. Thank goodness, because that dubbing would have been very distracting. I thought a company like Disney would have done just a bit better job with the dubbing, but at least they did include the original language track with subtitles.

This is the story of a boy named Bao (or Raymon) who finds a magical gourd named Bailey that will supposedly grant its master any and all wishes desired. So right off the bad we pretty much all know what the moral of the tale is going to be... be careful what you wish for. And we expect that little Bao will wish for various things but each wish will either be fulfilled differently than expected or will result in unexpected consequences. Problem is, that's not quite what happens. There is mayhem, but it's primarily caused by Bailey granting wishes that Bao never asked for.

For instance, during a chess-like game Bao is playing with a friend, he says something like "eat this!" during one of his moves... and Baily then starts to magically shove all the chess pieces into Bao's mouth. Uh, first off, Bao didn't make a wish. Secondly, even if that statement was to be interpreted as a wish, it definitely wasn't wish to eat a board piece, much less all the board pieces. At the very least it would have been a wish for Bao's friend to eat one of the board pieces.

The Secret of the Magic Gourd Then there's another scene where Bao wants to check out a book from the school library, but he can't because it's reserved for someone else. Bao does not wish for the book, and yet Bailey takes it upon himself to secretly put the book into Bao's bag, effectively turning Bao into a thief. When Bao realizes what happened, he panics. He wants to give the book back, but doesn't want to be seen as a thief, so he has to ditch the book. If Bao had his wits about him, he would have wished the book to be teleported back behind the counter, but he's just a kid and hadn't been relying on Bailey's wishing powers, so it's understandable as to why he didn't think of this.

The Secret of the Magic Gourd At any rate, he does ask for a few wishes throughout the movie, and those actually tend to go smoothly. It's really only when Bailey takes it upon himself to use magic to try and please Bao, without Bao's consent or permission, does things tend to go horribly wrong. So really the moral here is not be careful what you wish for, but don't trust people that want to help you because they'll screw it up.

The Secret of the Magic Gourd The kid that plays Bao is a fine actor, and I liked the realism of the relationships Bao had with his friends and family. It all felt very genuine. His friends would make fun of him, but then they would also be there and feel bad for him. His family wasn't around much, but they did show that they cared for him, not like a lot of movies where the parents are exaggerated so that they don't even have time to say I love you before they head off to work. So that part of it was good.

The Secret of the Magic Gourd The most entertaining part, however, was when Bailey would morph into having various costumes... that was hilarious pretty much every time he did it, from Snorkel Bailey to Military Bailey to Pilot Bailey. He really is silly, upbeat, and very playful, and would be really great to be around if only he didn't use his magic to try helping out. But we all know that's not quite how things work out.

The disc contains some extra features, like Bloopers (phony bloopers that is, where they purposefully animate Bailey flubbing lines or whatever), behind-the-scenes, a music video, and the now standard games and activities found on just about every Disney DVD. Entertainment-wise, I'd say wait for it to come out on television, but since it will probably be dubbed when it does, you may want to rent it instead in order to watch it with the original language track.

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