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Times-Picayune Labou DVD Review

N.O.-shot 'Labou,' co-starring C. Ray Nagin, out on DVD

Just as New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin is beginning to recall what he was doing a few months after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, along comes a reminder of what he was doing just a few days before the storm struck.

On Aug. 23, 2005, when forecasts still were predicting that New Orleans would be spared the brunt of the storm, Nagin was on the steps of Gallier Hall, filming some of his scenes for the family adventure tale "Labou," the mayor's acting debut.

The movie, written and directed by Greg Aronowitz, was released directly to DVD on May 19.

In the film, three children get lost in a swamp near New Orleans while hunting for the ghost of a 19th century pirate. During their adventure, they meet the titular swamp creature (whose whistling race -- part Yoda, part Gremlin -- is said to have inspired the birth of jazz music), stumble upon a crooked development deal that can be traced back to City Hall and discover the pirate's treasure.

What a day!

Nagin plays Mayor Adams, New Orleans' corrupt leader, who agrees to seize privately owned land in order to sell it to oil company executives looking for a spot to build a huge refinery, regardless of the effect on the environment. When confronted with revelations about the deal, Mayor Adams responds, "There were offers, but nothing firm was put on the table."

Accepting such a role was a risky choice for a sitting mayor. Those wondering if the risk pays off can rest assured that Denzel Washington's career is safe.

Jazz musician and educator Ellis Marsalis pops up in the featured role of the Jazzman, a kind of one-man Greek chorus who repeatedly shows up to deliver exposition.

But the stars of the film are the three children: Darnell J. Hamilton, particularly good as the brainy Gavin; Marissa Cuevas, charming as the peacemaking Emily; and Bryan James Kitto, who finds a way to make the insufferable Toddster a bit likable. These are just three of the local faces in a film filled with them.

Two of the movie's best performances are delivered by Earl J. Scioneaux Jr. (another local) and Chris Violette as the father-son oilmen. Children will enjoy their pratfalls and tantrums.

"Labou" is a satisfying family adventure with worthwhile lessons about teamwork, friendship and stewardship of the environment.

Despite its low budget and some unconvincing work with a miniature pirate ship early in the film, "Labou" otherwise boasts impressive visual effects. Especially successful is the depiction of the ghost of the pirate Captain LeRouge (Barnie Duncan). LeRouge always materializes out of a swarm of fireflies and surrounded by the dappled light reflecting off the surface of the water in which he drowned during a hurricane.

The animatronic Labou is an effective, charming creation, readymade for the plush toy market (as the film isn't shy to suggest).

In addition to Gallier Hall, local landmarks include Jackson Square, the Latter Library, Pirate Alley (of course) and Lafayette Square.

The DVD features audio commentary and extensive documentaries about the making of the film, including details about the cast's and crew's Katrina experience. They evacuated to a home owned by local movie theater impresario T.G. "Teddy" Solomon, one of the film's executive producers, in McComb, Miss., and they were the first film project to return to the University of New Orleans' Nims Production Center in the Elmwood industrial park after the storm.

In fact, the movie is "dedicated to the people of New Orleans and their courage to rebuild."

There also is a brief guide to points of interest in New Orleans, but there is not much substance to that feature.

DVD writer Michael Kleinschrodt can be reached at mkleinschrodt@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3456. For the latest announcements of DVD and Blu-ray releases, follow TPMichaelDVD on Twitter.com.

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Great Opening Paragraph - A Scandal in Bohemia

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They were admirable things for the observer—excellent for drawing the veil from men’s motives and actions. But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.


Summer Movies - NOLA

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WHAT Enjoy Summer Cinema with W New Orleans - French Quarter and Bacco for poolside screenings from Paramount Pictures. Sip summer cocktails and nibble on backyard Bacco bites for a picture perfect evening!

WHEN Every Sunday May 17 through June 21, 2009
FREE Show starts at Sunset (8pm)

WHERE W New Orleans - French Quarter
316 Rue Chartres


May 24 - Into the Wild
May 31 - Grease
June 7 - Hotel for Dogs
June 14 -Ghost
June 21 - Top Gun

Laissez les bons films rouler!

New Orleans Film Society

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Very nice series so far. Picked up the trade this weekend.