What prompts people to make big screen adaptations of cartoons, comics, and video games? Perhaps it is the allure of success that drives these brave men and women. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy even a fraction of the victory that Sam Raimi has achieved with his Spider-Man franchise? And what better way to reach your own personal pinnacle of moviemaking happiness by really thinking outside of the box — and developing a kiddie cartoon like Dragonball into a live-action spectacle?
It should go without saying that one must be overly cautious and fiscally conscientious when adapting such material into a moving picture of epic proportions. You don’t want your feature to turn out like Double Dragon, Josie And The Pussycats or The Fantastic Four (naturally, I refer to Roger Corman’s 1994 version of The Fantastic Four, although the newer entries were just as dumb).
Well, apparently, the schmuck that gave Dragonball: Evolution the green light never saw any of those movies. That, or he was secretly working for a government agency. But this wasn’t any ordinary government agency. This was one of those black-ops agencies. One that had just finished developing a new contraption capable of capturing the very essence of whichever emotion or feeling was most prominent while the movie was made.
In the case of Dragonball: Evolution, the feeling was that of embarrassment. And now, thanks to the marvels of home video, you can feel all of the heart-pounding, show-stopping, mind-numbing humiliation that Dragonball: Evolution has to offer.
Dragonball: Evolution was surely embarrassing for the crew. It’s definitely embarrassing for the cast. And it is most assuredly embarrassing for the audience. I actually switched it off for a bit when my fiancée came home. I would have felt more secure about the future of our relationship had she have walked in on me while I was watching a live sex act between a coked-up hooker and a dead barnyard animal than I did when she asked me what I was watching and I was forced to utter “Umm, Dragonball” as my response.
Soon, I resumed the movie. It was so bad, that I was giggling like a cross between Robin Williams and Curly Howard (which is how I laugh, incidentally). My poor fiancée made the mistake of trying to ignore the film. But, between my chuckling and the fact that it was such a jaw-droppingly bad film, she couldn’t. She was getting sucked in, too. Her cat — a hefty animal, I must say — sensed the danger and tried to act cute to distract us. Alas, her weight interfered…or was it the movie instead?
For those of you who are hoping that Dragonball: Evolution has more of a substantial plot that its Manga/Anime cousins ever did, I can safely say that it does not. Following a slap-the-palm-of-your-hand-against-your-forehead opening prologue that attempts to justify what you are about to see (it’s on-par with Gary Sinise’s The Impostor, FYI), we are sorta-kinda introduced to our hero, Goku (not to be confused with Goke: The Body Snatcher From Hell).
The whiter-than-white Goku (a slightly embarrassed Justin Chatwin) lives with his Asian grandfather (a less-than embarrassed Randall Duk Kim), who teaches him martial arts techniques (they must have been very big fans of Tenchi-Muyo and The Karate Kid). In high school, Goku is ridiculed and picked upon by the other twenty-something kids (the entire human race may have been decimated by an invading alien according to the prologue, but kids are still the meanest creatures the world has ever seen). But all this changes when Goku’s grandfather is murdered by the evil alien, Piccolo (a massively embarrassed James Marsters, proving that life after Buffy is very harsh indeed).
Piccolo, along with the aid of his brother Flute and second-cousin Trombone, is out to take over the world. To do so, he requires seven glowing dragon testicles. Goku has one. A goofy girl named Bulma (a not-quite-as-embarrassed-as-she-should-be Emmy Rossum) has another. Yet another Dragonball lies in the possession of Master Roshi, played by Chow Yun-Fat — who hams it up so much that he bypasses embarrassment and invokes the ancient Chinese art of ‘Mortification.” And so, Goku breaks out his granddad’s ridiculous Dragonball costume (you can even hear the spirit of his grandfather laughing at him when he does) and goes about saving the day. Ernie Hudson turns in his most embarrassing role to date as a Buddhist monk-type of character.
To go on about the plot would be pointless. To try and think of all the other movies, series and legends they blatantly stole bits and pieces from would be futile. And to watch Dragonball: Evolution without even feeling the slightest hint of embarrassment would be hopeless. Because, thanks to the latest in Virtual Embarrassment Technology, you will not only see the embarrassment in Dragonball: Evolution, but you’ll feel it, too!
Thank you, secret black-ops government agency. Thank you, too, Fox Home Entertainment. I haven’t laughed this hard or this much in ages.
On Blu-ray, Dragonball: Evolution’s unbelievableness comes to haunt us in a widescreen 2.40:1/1080p AVC presentation. Actually, the A/V qualities are quite good. The colors and contrast are well-balanced (there are a lot of colors in this flick to keep up with the other series). Some of the green-screen shots in the film come off looking worse than others, but, well — I don’t think anyone’s going to really care. A DTS-HD Master Audio Lossless 5.1 soundtrack does a fairly good job of keeping you awake despite the fact that you’d love nothing more than to sleep throughout the movie. Additional audio tracks are available in French, Spanish, and Portuguese. A theory has recently emerged suggesting Dragonball: Evolution may be viewable if you watch it in one of these other languages — whichever one(s) you don’t speak — and click on one of the movie’s subtitle options, which include English (SDH), Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, and Mandarin.
Special features on the Blu-ray include a handful of uninteresting tidbits and whatnots, such as a game, some boring behind-the-scene crap, deleted scenes (dear God, no more — please!), an unfunny gag reel, etc. A couple of trailers are housed at the beginning of the disc for several other “adaptation” films such as X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li. A bonus digital copy of the movie is included on a separate disc should you wish to have a seat on the bus all to yourself.
Of course, I am not attempting to dissuade you from purchasing Dragonball: Evolution. As a matter of fact, you should most assuredly have this in your collection. After all, suppose someday that you are no longer able to possess a gun in your home — you will need something to ward off trespassers with, won’t you? And what greater weapon is there than embarrassment? Just ask James Marsters or Chow Yun-Fat!