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November 9, 2009
Mary and Max Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
9/4/200920/10/2009Icon FilmsAdam Elliot
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1PGVoiceovers

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Max is typing in his appartment.

A couple of years ago an Australian film won an Academy Award for Best Short Film, Animation. Struggling to think which movie? It was the stop-motion movie called Harvey Krumpet directed by Adam Elliot. Now, he has returned with his follow-up project which is a feature length stop-motion animate movie called Mary and Max.

Mary and Max is a tale of friendship between two unlikely pen pals: Mary, a lonely, eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max, a forty-four-year old, severely obese man living in New York. Much of the movie is told through the information detailed within the letters between the two characters.

I have to be brutally honest here and say that when I started watching Mary and Max I wasn't keen on the movie. It seemed slow, characters didn't really grab my imagination and the movie was pretty drab looking. But around 30 minutes in everything started to grow on me. The characters became interesting with unique personalities, I could see what the filmmakers were aiming for in the storyline, and I soon settled into enjoy one of the best stop-motion animated movies seen in recent years.

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Colours are at times quite brilliant,
For the most part animated movies are generally regarded as childrens movies, but this isn't a childrens movie. From the opening moments you know this isn't exactly a childrens movie with two dogs humping in the front yard. Indeed Mary and Max includes themes such as sex, drugs, alcohol and suicide throughout the picture. I guess that's why it has been given a PG rating, but even so we would suggest it's still not a movie for those too young.

There is also plenty of humour in the movie though, the opening scenes are littered with classic "Australian" icons. The Ned Kelly mail box, the Koala statue, the BBQ with the burnt sausages. There's also plenty of heart in the characters, particularly in the relationship that grows between the two lead characters, watching Mary grow up with her overbearing parents, and finally getting married.

As we've already mentioned Mary and Max is a stop-motion animated movie which is stuperbly put together, the level of detail in the characters, sets and animation are quite astounding and we would put it up there with Tim Burton's classics such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride. It really is a visual tour de force.

Certainly a unique movie Mary and Max won't be everyone's cup of tea. It has a unique sense of humour, it's fairly deveoid of any bold colours with much of the movie primarily black and white, and can be pretty slow in places. At the very least though, we think this is worth a rental.

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Mary is with her boyfriend.
Mary and Max comes to Blu-Ray at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 which is slightly more open then the theatrical presentation at 1.85:1, but you'd be hard to spot the differences. The video has been encoded using the AVC MPEG-4 codec and the video is fairly free from any compression artifacts and is also pristine with no film artifacts making us pretty certain this has been encoded directly from a digital source. If we were to pick something to point out we did notice some very light colour banding in a couple of locations.

Mary and Max is presented on Blu-Ray with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (16-bit/48Khz). From the opening piano music number over the title and then the narration from Barry Humphries you know that this is quite a nice, although quite front heavy and dialogue driven, audio mix. A lot of attention has gone into recreating the sounds of suburbia and the big city and it really shines. The voices are crystal clear and this really is a much better audio experience then I thought it may be given the nature of the movie.

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Check out those erect nipples!
The only other audio option on this disc is the English Audio Description track which is encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 256kbps. Obviously it doesn't sound anywhere near as clear as the primary audio track, and lacks directional support, but gets the sound done. In terms of subtitles the only option is English for the Hearing Impaired which didn't display any issues of note and seemed accurate to dialogue and sounds on-screen.

I was quite excited to see a fairly extensive list of extras on this disc however some were qute brief. Still there's a bit to get through.

Timelapse Shots (13:59/HD): Eleven timelapse shots are shown here which show the painting, setting up and lighting of the sets. It would have been nice to have some commentary to detail what was happening, but those who have viewed the movie should recognise the scenes and sets.

Animatics (12:41): Three sets of storyboard animatics are presented here with some music and basic audio effects and the voices. The animatics are very basic in form, and not up to some of the big "Hollywood" movies, but interesting nonetheless.

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Mary is typing a letter to Max.
Animatics (1:55): There are only a couple of short deleted scenes presented in standard definition and without audio.

Audition of Young Mary (1:35): A short test reading for the role of Young Mary by Bethany Whitmore.

Alternate Endings (1:35): Two alternate endings called "Max Dies" and "Len Dies" are presented here. Sadly only in Standard Definition, they are solid, if somewhat gruesome endings.

Webisodes (15:39): Six webisodes are presented here which look at the production of the movie. They're not too detailed as they would have been made and released prior to the movie coming out, but there are some entertaining moments (including a great one with Eric Bana discussing how he was threatened to be in the movie!).

Technical Making Of Featurette (8:14): The one feature which I really wanted to be extensive was a bit of a disappointment due to the limited runtime and average video quality. Still there's some good details here, and it's worth a look.

Audio Commentary with Director Adam Elliot: While he has a bit of a deep voice, this is an interesting commentary with Adam having plenty of details about the story and production to provide.

What an interesting movie Mary and Max turned out to be. While claymation may be perceived as a childrens artform, this movie has themes and moments that warrent the PG rating given to it. With a gorgeous transfer from both an audio and visual perspective, and some brilliant extras we suggest you check out this pretty special Australian movie.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Icon Films. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.