A docu-drama produced by Roy Disney, "Morning Light" follows a set of young adults who are faced with a remarkable task and an incredible opportunity: they are offered the chance to race the Transpac 16, a revered yacht open-sea race that stretches across 2,500 miles. Roy Disney has sailed the race himself on multiple occasions, but this time he has chosen to instead let a pack of 18-24 year olds (oddly enough, all photogenic ones that look like they could be on the set of "Gossip Girl") take the helm, instead.
The early quarter of the film gives each of the group an introduction (some of them have prior sailing experience), as they talk about their history on the water and their thoughts about being selected to potentially (potentially, because - as we find out later - only 11 out of the 15 are selected to actually set sail in the race, with the remainder serving as alternates) and participate in the race. There's some drama early on, as the group runs drills and starts rehearsing for the race several months in advance.
"Light" thankfully has picked a bunch of well-intentioned young people to steer the ship, and the choice of focusing on the teamwork and drive that is required to run the race rather than personal dramas between the sailors is a welcome choice. Additionally, given the work involved in racing a boat 2,000+ miles, I have to imagine there isn't a whole lot of time for personal drama.
Still, there are issues - writer/director Mark Monroe's film tries to give everyone involved their own screentime, and the result is that no one really stands out as a memorable personality. Additionally, at 100 minutes, the picture feels long at times (the race doesn't start until about 40 minutes in and some scenes throughout definitely feel like filler.) One wonders why this wasn't made into an IMAX movie - the scenery would have looked great in the large format, and the restriction of a 45-60 minute running time for a large-format documentary would have lead to the film being considerably tighter and probably having more momentum and urgency.
Still, despite issues (length, focus), "Morning Light" still stands as moderately enjoyable, inoffensive family fare. Worth a rental.
VIDEO: "Morning Light" is presented by Disney Home Entertainment in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a delightful transfer that handles the material well. Filmed using a few different cameras, the picture generally appears sharp, detailed and clear. While some scenes filmed with digital cameras looked a bit rougher, this material was still handled well by the transfer and the differing appearance of these scenes isn't too much of a distraction.
As for flaws, they included some slight edge enhancement in a couple of scenes, as well as a few slight traces of pixelation. The print used for the presentation was clean and clear, with no specks, marks or other issues. Colors looked bright and bold, appearing vibrant and well-saturated throughout the show. Overall, this was a very fine effort from the studio.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation was moderately enjoyable, as the rear speakers were employed on several occasions to provide mild ambience and reinforcement of the score/pop tunes. Audio quality was fine, with crisp narration (some of which is done by Patrick Warburton of "Seinfeld" fame)/dialogue.
EXTRAS: "Making the Cut" is a 45-minute documentary feature that originally aired on ESPN. This special follows the process of taking a massive amount of potential applicants and working down to the 15 people that viewers see in the final film. "Stories From the Sea" is a very enjoyable 28-minute documentary hosted by "Hannah Montana" star Jason Earles, which provides a look behind-the-scenes at the training that the sailors had to endure in order to ensure a safe voyage across the sea. Includes interviews with Roy Disney and members of the cast/sailing team. Finally, we also get preview trailers for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: "Morning Light" would have worked much better as a 45-60 minute IMAX documentary, but as is, it still stands as moderately enjoyable, inoffensive fare for young adults/families. Worth a rental.
The Film B-