DVD Review: Delgo

The fantastical world of Jhamora is home to the titular Delgo, we first meet him a young boy playing with his father (voiced by Burt Reynolds) in their idyllic home that is soon to become the battleground for a convoluted conflict between two cultures. When the winged humanoid Norhin find their homeland dying they make a decision to find somewhere new to settle. Hoping to co-exist with the Lockni they are tricked by the King’s sister Sedessa (Anne Bancroft’s final film role), in the ensuing fray Delgo (Freddie Prinze Jr.) is orphaned and raised by Michael Clarke Duncan’s mystic Elder Marley.

Fifteen years pass; Sedessa has been exiled, and there has never been trust between the two cultures. One day Delgo is rescued by Princess Kyla (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and there is an instant attraction, though tempered with bitterness; before things can develop she is kidnapped in an attempt by Sedessa to again inflame war.

Thrown into the film’s slim running time is Delgo’s need to learn how to control the rocks, a story of betrayl between Malcom MacDowell’s treacherous General Raius and Val Kilmer’s Colonel Bogardus (who is addicted to gambling!?) and the painful screeching of ‘comic relief’ Filo voiced by Saturday Night Live alumnus Chris Kattan.



Beyond the slightly over ambitious narrative there’s quite a production history behind the film, one that is unfortunately ignored on the DVD’s reasonable extra features. Delgo began its development in 1998, with the production company – Fathom Studios – making animation for commercial and industrial clients to allow them to keep funding this project outside of the studio system. In order to generate continued interest – and financing – through the film during development Fathom would stream the film’s digital dailies online for the entire internet community to comment upon. They also filled the cast with name actors in order to keep buzz about the project alive, drip-feeding them to the media as and when.

In one sense their production ethic has paid off, the film has been made and was released theatrically in America, earning the Anima Mundi award for Best Feature Film. On the other hand the film boasts the unfortunate merit of having the lowest per-theatre gross on its opening weekend of any wide release (2,160 screens) in American film history.


But all that is kind of irrelevant when in the end you just have to ask; ‘Is the film any good?’ And the answer is; ‘Um, kind of.’ What is instantly appealing and impressive about the movie is its design, specifically the world and the creatures that inhabit it. From the opening shot where strange guppy-like dragons soar through the skies, panning down a grassy valley with a triple headed snail-tortoise hybrid, there’s a wealth of imagination in a lot of little details. Most impressive being a large crab-like creature called a Yaag, which is involved in one of the film’s better set-pieces.

Unfortunately the lead character design isn’t as appealing, the principle cast have a awkwardly off-human look that pitches them somewhere between ‘Avatar’s Na’vi and the Who from ‘The Grinch’, they’re too polished and dull, lacking any of the expression and warmth that would really make you root for them in their adventures. The cast do little to help this, though there are plenty of fine actors lending their vocals, they don’t invest their characters with much warmth and certain contributions – notably Eric Idle and the aforementioned Chris Kattan – are extremely irritating.

The plot is both straight-forward and overly muddled, but for the most part the narrative clips along at an entertaining pace and the world the characters inhabit is often distracting enough to cover-up any bland chunks of exposition. The film also keeps jumping from set-piece to set-piece and really shines in a couple of physical comedy scenes; including an inventive moment in which Filo needs to cause a distraction but his attempts to smash vases and statues are drowned out by a crowd’s cheering. Elsewhere there are some nice action sequences, including a mid-air battle between a dragon (known as a razorwing), Princess Kyla, Bogardus and a gadget laden wooden helicopter piloted by the very Jim Henson-like character; Prando.


Planned as the first part of a trilogy, the film fortunately tells a complete story of itself and there is no overt need for a sequel. Undoubtedly its look and cast suffer in comparison to the work of Pixar and Dreamworks, but their budgets are triple and quadruple what Delgo – according to sources – had. This is by no means a terrible film, it’s good fun in parts and a pleasant diversion for ninety minutes; the DVD has some reasonable extra features that give a fairly standard account of the film’s aims. A bright, colourful and often entertaining rainy day escape to a fantasy world that may please kids not old enough to deal with ‘Avatar’ just yet!

Delgo is available on DVD from 10th May by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

© BRWC 2010.


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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

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