I’d like to think that the concepts of what makes a good children’s movie is somewhat international. While cultures may vary, kids all over the world are pretty much the same. They look for the same kinds of characteristics in their heroes. While the martial arts film is somewhat cultural, there have been more than enough child-friendly martial arts films for me to conclude that these kinds of acrobatics and old fashioned good kicking-evil’s-butt themes work for kids of any nationality. The recent Jackie Chan The Spy Next Door outing is one good example of the genre-crossing martial arts children’s movie. I suspect these are the feelings that director Rachata Krissanapong must have had when he took on the Thai project 5 Huajai Hero or Power Kids and when Magnolia Home Entertainment packaged the film for American kids in this Blu-ray release.
At first the plot is rather difficult to follow. Blame it on the English translation or a little unfamiliarity with the culture. We get the general idea, however. We have this group of children living with their uncle, who happens to run a martial arts school. Of course, they are well trained and display impressive skills as the film throws somewhat light-hearted moments into the mix to establish the team’s skill level. We eventually learn that the youngest is very sick. He has a severe heart condition and is close to death, unless he can get a heart transplant. The film attempts to build emotion and sympathy by showing the kids working together to buy the boy his favorite RC race car. But when he attempts to take it to the public track, he’s bullied, and the stress brings on an attack that nearly kills him. The boy is rushed to the hospital, where it is discovered a heart has been found just in time to save his life. Unfortunately, an American diplomat has checked into the cross-town hospital where the heart is located. A group of rebel terrorists have taken over the hospital to make their vague point, and nothing is getting in or out of the building, including a certain necessary heart. Our Power Kids spring into action. They go to the hospital under siege, and inspired by the Die Hard-style films they’ve seen out of America, find a way into the hospital. Of course, they must locate the heart and get it out, while kicking some terrorist butt along the way.
The film is predictable, but not completely so. Of course, the kids accomplish their mission, but not in the way that you will expect. I found the conclusion a bit more clever than the rest of the film. The problem here is that the film is awkward, at least to my rather American sensibilities. I’m sure many of these side-track fights and escapades are likely more part of the formula if you are used to Thai films in general. I recognize the dopey-villain fighter from other martial arts plots, but this guy never fits into the actual story in any way. It’s likely that Thai filmmaking allows for more of the superfluous adventures.
Power Kids is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec at an average 23 mbps. It appears as though the aspect ratio is correct, but I really felt, at times, as though there was some image distortion and perhaps the ratio was adjusted a bit for the release. This is a very colorful film at times. The high definition transfer really brings out those splashes of color. There isn’t a ton of detail here, however. The image itself appears extremely soft and not near as sharp as I would expect from a high-definition release. The print is in good condition. Black levels are fair, but don’t look for a ton of shadow definition. Fortunately, the film is bright most of the time.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 falls surprisingly flat. There just doesn’t appear to be any punch in the movie. When you consider the level of action here, you would expect that the sound presentation would allow for nice surround effects and plenty of smack-down action sounds. It sounds very much like a much older standard-definition film. You can hear the dialog, at least in the English version of the audio, which is what I opted for here. There is also a DTS-HD Master Audio Thai track that might be a bit more natural.
The features are in Standard Definition.
The Making Of Power Kids: (8:41): Cast and crew speak in Thai with English subtitles. The best stuff here is hearing the children talk about the work on the set. There’s some behind-the-scenes footage of stunts and mistakes.
Behind The Scenes Footage: (4:38) Most of this is the same stunt footage featured in the earlier piece.
American children will certainly relate to the empowered kids getting the job done, but I’m not sure you’ll be able to keep them entertained for the first half hour or so of the film. In a crowded children’s market, I’m not sure that Power Kids has what it takes to compete in this market. As much as I did enjoy parts of the movie, I can’t bring myself to recommend this one for your family entertainment. Go with the Jackie Chan entry instead. It’s far more entertaining. In the end, your kids won’t have as much fun here, and all you might find yourself asking when it’s over is, “Hey, where did my money go?”