Sabrina Down Under DVD Review

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Sabrina Down Under was one of two television movies spun off from the ABC series starring Melissa Joan Hart, which itself was spawned from a television movie of the same name that aired in 1996 on Showtime. Premiering on September 26, 1999 on ABC's "The Wonderful World of Disney", Sabrina Down Under found Sabrina Spellman (Hart) and witchy gal pal Gwen (Tara Charendoff) on holiday in Australia dealing with a literal "fish out of water" merman and an unscrupulous marine biologist. I won't detail the plot any further since I've already covered the movie in far more detail on Spook Central.

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The Sabrina Down Under DVD contains the movie and nothing else with stereo audio and English subtitles (for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing), presented in the original 4:3 aspect ratio, with seven chapter marks. There is some weird interlacing going on as the beginning and end credits text, as well as some people's eyes and lips and edges of things, have a slight ghosting on them. I thought it was an issue with the transfer until I noticed the interlacing when frame advancing between shots. I don't know why my player shows these interlacing artifacts with this DVD, but not with the Sabrina Christmas Episodes DVD or any other DVDs that have interlaced content.

• Edits - None.

• Music Replacements - 3 songs, as detailed below.

1. At 0:00, Madonna's "Beautiful Stranger" is replaced with an unknown pop song during the opening credits. At least the new song feels like a late '90s pop song, so it's not out-of-place.

2. At 12:26, Melissa Joan Hart's electropop cover version of "Octopus's Garden" by The Beatles is replaced with some unknown song about being lost at sea while Sabrina and Gwen are scuba diving underwater. This one is very sad because she's the star of the show and the song has never been released on CD. At least the replacement is thematically correct.

3. At 38:15, a female cover version of "Livin' La Vida Loca" by Ricky Martin is replaced with some unknown pop song (likely called "Feel Good") during the montage of Sabrina & Barnaby having fun while Gwen learns to windsurf. The new song isn't even in the same style as the original. One is a latin-flavored fast-tempo party tune, the other is a sweet little ditty with a slower beat that almost sounds like a modern version of a '50s girl group song. The only thing the songs have in common is that they're both sung by women. At least the replacement isn't too bad and, in some ways, is more appropriate for the montage than "Livin' La Vida Loca".

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I can't say that these changes are completely surprising as the back of the DVD case carries Paramount's standard "may be edited from original network version" disclaimer, though that's not entirely accurate as there are no edits, just music replacements. Normally this disclaimer is also accompanied by one that says, "music has been changed for this home entertainment version", which would have been the more appropriate one to use for this DVD. I just wish Paramount would have used songs I could identify online as I hate to keep writing "unknown pop song". Thankfully, all other music is left alone.

It's really a shame, though, because as far as I can tell, all pop songs (including a Madonna song) were retained in Sabrina Goes To Rome (the first of these spin-off TV movies) when it was released on both the The Christmas Episodes DVD (reviewed here) and The Final/7th Season DVD set (reviewed here).

While I can't say that I'm happy about the music replacements, I am happy that the movie is otherwise unedited. So with that in mind, I can Recommend the Sabrina Down Under DVD to any fans of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Melissa Joan Hart, or Tara Charendoff (now Tara Strong). It's not exactly a movie that will dazzle you with incredible writing or acting (except for Tara, who steals both movies), but if you're looking for a fun little movie, it's a welcome diversion from a time when movies were still meant to be fun.

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