|The Pirate Fairy (2014)
Reviewed by Dustin Putman
(Release Date: April 1, 2014) The fifth installment in Disney's popular direct-to-video "Tinker Bell" series, "The Pirate Fairy" begins to expand the mythology of J. M. Barrie's "Peter Pan" stories by moving beyond Pixie Hollow and into the larger world of Never Land. Not heeding the strict rules of boss Fairy Gary (voiced by Jeff Bennett), dust keeper Zarina (Christina Hendricks) causes a near catastrophe when she seeks to change the color of the community's strictly golden and blue pixie dust. Devastated over losing her job, she runs away. One year later, Pixie Hollow faces a crisis when the rebellious Zarina reappears to snatch the blue dust. Determined to set things right, Tinker Bell (Mae Whitman) and her fairy friends leave the safety of their home to find Zarina and convince her she belongs with them. Much to their surprise, they discover she is now the captain of a pirate ship. Her right-hand man? James (Tom Hiddleston), who all in due time is fated to become the treacherous Captain Hook.
"The Pirate Fairy" is no match for 1953's original Disney classic "Peter Pan" or its 2002 sequel "Return to Never Land," but director Peggy Holmes gives the characters and the story's messages of acceptance and being true to oneself a buoyant, warmly felt appeal. In exploring the outside world of Never Land, beyond Pixie Hollow, the series opens its scope while feeling like a worthwhile addition to the lore of the world Barrie created. The computer animation is not up to the detailed standards of, say, the studio's theatrically released efforts, but it is attractively rainbow-hued all the same and will certainly capture the attention of its younger viewers. Megan Hilty, as Southern-fried fairy Rosetta, is the vocal standout; she gets all the best lines, and delivers them with the same aplomb as Kristin Chenoweth (who played Rosetta in some of the earlier "Tinker Bell" movies). Bookended by songs with a single number in the middle, "The Pirate Fairy" appears to want to be a musical, but doesn't quite follow through with it during its 78-minute running time. Fortunately, there is enough that worksfrom the visuals to the simple but earnest storyto smooth out the picture's sporadic wrinkles.
The dazzling high-definition digital transfer of "The Pirate Fairy" works its magic several times over. This is a brand-new 2014 release and it certainly looks it, bringing a vivid glow and pin-point accuracy to its 1080p capabilities. Even if the film weren't very good (fortunately, it is), it would still be a pleasure to watch. With no banding, no rough edges, and no other anomalies to speak of, the picture quality is akin to stepping into a fantastical fresh world so cleanly and dimensionally resolved the viewer feels as if he or she can reach out and touch it. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is strong in its own right, never less than exactly as intended. The rear speakers could have used more play in some of the action-oriented scenes, but this is still a pleasing and immersive aural presentation.
"Second Star to the Right: The Legacy of Never Land" (4:45, HD); "Crock-u-mentary" (4:45, HD); The Making of "The Frigate That Flies" (4:21, HD); Deleted Scenes with Filmmaker Introductions (8:07, HD); Animated Shorts (2:39, HD); Sing-Along Songs (5:08, HD)
Disney's "The Pirate Fairy" is a congenial animated feature that grown-ups can enjoy, parents will appreciate for its valuable themes, and little ones will be over the moon about. As far as Blu-ray quality goes, the A/V perks are top-shelf and the bonus content is brief but nonetheless illuminating to the filmmakers' intentions. A lot of imagination went into the finished project, and this is what separates it from the majority of frequently less ingenuous direct-to-video fodder. Recommended.