Although it's certainly not terrible, "Fat Albert" often seems like an extended, bigger-budget (although the film still looks like a straight-to-video project at times) After School Special. The picture opens with an animated sequence showing the adventures of Albert (Keenan Thompson) and friends, then jumps to the real world, where Doris Robertson (Kyla Pratt), a young girl, feels sad because she hardly has any friends, and has recently lost her grandfather. That afternoon, she's watching reruns of the "Fat Albert" animated series and a tear hits the remote, somehow getting into the animated world. Albert sees the teenager's sadness and decides to help. He jumps through the TV set, and is soon followed by his other friends.
Doris isn't interested in their help, but they still attempt to make her popular, with the help of the girl's popular sister, Lauri (Dania Ramirez). Unfortunately for Albert and his friends, if they don't act quickly, they may not be able to find their way back into their cartoon universe. In terms of plot, that's about it, and this results in a movie that feels noticably padded, even at only 90 minutes.
This is good-hearted stuff, to be sure, but it's also pretty bland and thin. Montages and other moments are obviously meant to extend a pretty slight plot, and Albert's advice is rather simplistic. The other issue is that Doris takes a little too long to get out of her funk, which begins to spoil any fun the movie's trying to have.
The performances generally do well with the material. Thompson offers a rather charming, good-natured performance as Albert, and the supporting players fill in quite well, too. Pleasant enough family fare that's not particularly memorable, "Fat Albert" serves up a couple laughs and is well-intentioned, but the slight plot could have used some weight.
VIDEO: "Fat Albert" is presented by Fox in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full-frame. Both editions are included on this dual-sided, single-layered disc. Although the film's production values weren't always high, this transfer delivered the movie quite well. Sharpness and detail remained very good throughout, as the picture appeared bright, crisp and well-defined. A couple of shots looked slightly softer, but the majority of the film looked consistent.
Flaws weren't too considerable, but a couple of concerns presented themselves: a little bit of edge enhancement was apparent at times, as were a few brief traces of pixelation and shimmer. No print flaws were spotted. Given the nature of the movie, the flick offered a vivid, rich color palette and that was represented well on the DVD edition, which boasted bright, well-saturated tones. Overall, a very nice effort.
SOUND: "Fat Albert" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Not a great deal of activity was expected and not a great deal was present here. Surrounds entered into the picture lightly a couple of times to present some musical reinforcement and ambience, but aside from that, the rear speakers remained quiet. The front soundstage was decently wide, and audio quality was crisp and clear throughout.
EXTRAS: The main supplement is a commentary from Joel Zwick and Jon Davis. Other features include a pair of deleted scenes, a featurette (on the pan & scan side), the film's theatrical trailer and an "inside look" at both "Ice Age 2" (a basic promo for the 2006 film - not the actual teaser) and the upcoming Martin Lawrence film, "Rebound".
Final Thoughts: There's not enough to "Fat Albert" and, as a result, the picture tends to drag at times. However, the performances are pretty good and the film is fine for families looking for something inoffensive to enjoy. The DVD offers good audio/video quality and a couple of decent supplements. Rent it.
The Film ** 1/2