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Morning Light (Blu-ray Review)

8 Jun, 2009 By: John Latchem

Morning Light

Street 6/16/09
Box Office $0.28 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG’ for some language.

Usually only experienced sailors attempt the TransPac, a grueling, 12-day, 2,300-mile yacht race between Los Angeles and Hawaii. But racing enthusiast and two-time TransPac winner Roy E. Disney, nephew of Walt Disney, wanted to give younger sailors a chance to experience it, so he and a panel of experts selected 15 rookie sailors ages 18 to 23 for the chance of a lifetime: to crew a state-of-the-art 52-foot racer, the Morning Light, during the 2007 TransPac.

Make no mistake, this is a dangerous sport. As Roy points out, falling overboard could be a death sentence.

The first half of the movie is devoted to the six months of training the young sailors take to prepare for their journey.  There’s a catch. Only 11 of the 15 can go. The kids will have to choose who among them is left behind.

The gripping second half is devoted to the race, and it’s amusing to see how the experiences of the preparation begin to uproot the natural impetuousness of youth. Whether the Morning Light wins or loses is not the point. As the saying goes, it’s all about how they play they game.

The setup seems like it could have been a reality show, and at times the movie feels a bit like “The Real World at Sea.” But the power of the sport overcomes such minor quibbles, tempting viewers with the magnificent isolation of the open ocean. The film is anchored by the type of stunning photography for which high-definition was made. The imagery is enhanced by CG elements, such as a helpful map that lets the audience know where the participants are during the race.

Foremost among the extras is an ESPN special about how 30 finalists were narrowed to the 15 in the film. For those who have seen the movie, the episode plays a bit like a prequel. For those who haven’t seen the movie, it might be better to watch the ESPN show first.

The disc also includes an enlightening behind-the-scenes featurette in which viewers can learn the genesis of the Morning Light project and meet the cameraman who traveled with the kids during the race to record their story, and get a glimpse of Roy’s TransPac boat, the awe-inspiring Pyewacket.

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