8/28/2009

Blu-ray Review: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days: Deluxe Edition (2003)



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When faced with the overwhelming plethora of self-help books unleashed on the masses on a weekly basis, the only logical response is laughter. While topics may run the gamut mostly the material (which preys on the brokenhearted and vulnerable) utilizes common sense that reasonably intelligent and well-adjusted individuals should already possess by the age of twelve. Of course the key is in the marketing and the all-important "gimmick" as common sense is repackaged with catchphrases, convoluted systems, untested rules, cliched secrets and/or silly new-age nonsense all for the price of $24.95 in hardcover.



And despite the success of some of the works whether they become an Oprah endorsed effort like The Secret or a feature film like He's Not Just That Into You, possibly the best way to turn the thinly disguised self-loathing genre frequently directed at women around is to use the idiocy of it to inspire a humorous response.



And that is exactly what two good friends Michelle Alexander and Jeannie Long did when they chatted about the craze that swept the nation after publishers released The Rules that consisted of a so-called foolproof way to snag the man of your dreams.



With The Rules as a jumping off point, Alexander and Long joked back and forth about the worst "rules" and personal mistakes and anecdotes they could think of to drive away the man of their dreams as a sort of "how to" dating guide in reverse. Fittingly, this is the nearly identical description that Kate Hudson's journalist Andie Anderson makes shortly into the feature film based on their humorous book, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.



And while much to their amusement and amazement, bookstores frequently place Alexander and Long's comedic work into the "self-help" section-- perhaps by this point not being able to get the joke due to how much garbage normally fills that department of the store-- luckily producers Lynda Obst, Robert Evans, and Christine Peters got the joke and realized the potential for a clever romantic comedy goldmine in the original source material.

Overseen by Paramount's then studio head Sherry Lansing, the film benefited greatly not only by the instantaneous chemistry between Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey but also by ensuring that in front of and behind the camera, both genders were represented and able to keep the humor consistently watchable.



Helmed by Grumpy Old Men, Mystic Pizza, and Miss Congeniality director Donald Petrie, the work that was adapted by screenwriters Kristen Buckley, Brian Regan and Igby Goes Down filmmaker Burr Steers uses the standard cliche of a romantic bet as the impetus for its humor but luckily the movie quickly kicks into high gear in ways we haven't seen before.



For then as San Francisco Chronicle critic Mick LaSalle noted, "the movie reveals itself as a laugh machine, with jokes building on jokes and situations escalating into higher degrees of comic absurdity." And by bravely going against the overwhelming spirit of general loathing towards romantic comedies including titles like this one in his largely male dominated profession, LaSalle goes on to praise it as being a film that's "as close to French farce as romantic comedies get, and the closer the better."



Indeed evidence of this is there from the start as it will appeal to the same mistaken identity, unlikely coincidences, and "does he know that she knows that we know?" style of framing we've seen in French comedies by writer/directors like Francis Veber (The Closet, The Dinner Game, The Valet) among others. Yet overall I was struck by its zany, carefree approach and emphasis on back-and-forth one-upmanship gamely engaged in by our leads in what originally I viewed as a spirited throwback to screwball comedies.



Ambitious to put her graduate degree to good use by writing about things that matter such as politics, world peace and religion instead of being "the resident 'how to' girl" of Composure Magazine--their thinly disguised play on Vogue magazine, complete with Bebe Neuwirth tackling Anna Wintour-- Hudson's Andie pitches an entertaining spin on her usual column with her suggestion that hearkens to the film's title.



If she nails the column, Andie believes she'll be granted greater reign to write the pieces she's passionate about. So, finding this twist irresistible, she and her two friends set about "hooking a guy" before she will eventually "flip the switch" a.k.a. start doing everything in her power to send the man running by embracing the type of female behavior that often leads to not only break-ups but in Andie's decision to step things up a notch, nearly jail time... if that is, she had been dating any other guy than Benjamin Barry.

For while the film endears us to Andie and her delightful yet devious plight, we're simultaneously introduced to her cinematic combination of intellectual equal/professional rival/love interest as personified by McConaughey's smug yuppie Benjamin Barry. The Andie of his office, early into the movie Ben tries to convince his own dominant boss to give him the chance to try something new as well in his advertising agency. And just like Andie is tired of playing it safe writing "how to" columns most likely read quickly in beauty salons, Ben is tired of always getting the beer commercial and sports equipment contracts. Thus, when a wealthy diamond ad campaign is dangled his way, he makes a bet that he has what it takes to make women fall in love with both diamonds and himself.



Not willing to give in, two of Ben's gorgeous female colleagues who'd met with Andie's boss at Composure earlier that day happen to see the "how to" writer in the same bar at precisely the right moment. Taking advantage of this, the ladies appreciate his challenge and set up Ben to see if he can manage to make the beguiling blonde in the gray dress fall head over heels in love with him. Knowing full well that it's her job to drive Ben away for her column, the ladies feel confident that they've secretly stacked the deck in their favor but cocky Ben takes the bet and the bait and luckily the two clique romantically, leaving for dinner each unaware of the other person's agenda.



Since there's an element of game-playing involved in the dating scene before you add these wildly dubious yet fun plot contrivances into the mix anyway, the movie has you smiling along in recognition at the heightened world of cinematic Manhattan that couldn't be further from reality but once Hudson's Andie becomes the off-balanced, unpredictable one woman rollercoaster near the end of a Knicks game on their second date, we're as surprised and entertained by her ease to move in and out of hysterics as Ben is irritated and thoroughly confused.



Soon the movie is filled with improvisational scenes and outrageous yet mind-blowingly funny exaggerations of standard situational battles of the sexes. And admittedly while Andie and Ben's behavior never feels authentic, due to the farcical and screwball style format that's evident in their rhyming alliteration friendlyy AA and BB names of "if A then B," we know it's not supposed to be and the sheer pleasure of the movie is in watching the two play off each other with comedic abandon.



Unfortunately and despite the stunning oft-copied and coveted yellow gown worn by Kate Hudson in a pivotal sequence and a few cute moments in the lukewarm "aww, they actually like each other" predictable meet-the-parents scenario, the movie derails significantly in its overly long final act. When they inevitably learn the truth about the lies or rather their respective bets, it culminates in a nails on the blackboard sounding rendition of "You're So Vain" as a couple's fight is accompanied by Marvin Hamlisch on piano.

And in this cringe worthy, fast-forward necessary scene in particular, I'm always brought out of entertained viewer mode and shoved back into critic mode, wondering why at least the last twenty to thirty minutes weren't reworked to be if not on par than at least strong enough to follow the hilarity of the beginning since these scenes couldn't have tested well with audiences.



However, there's no going back to reshoot the unfortunate segments six years later and Kate and Matthew's movie reunion of Fool's Gold make the flaws of Days feel brilliant even when Days launches into rom-com auto-pilot mode complete with Andie penning a Never Been Kissed like confessional and Ben chasing Andie down in traffic Wedding Planner style.



Without any footage of the actors discussing their work or inclusion of the two on a commentary track, the Deluxe Edition doesn't feel very deluxe. As a person who owned the previously released DVD, I can attest that it is indeed a step up visually and likewise accentuates the cinematographer's decision to make everything look unbelievably beautiful, sometimes to overly air-brushed, photo-shopped, or magazine like effect in a candy colored MGM in the '50s vibe. However, comparatively, the picture difference isn't that great and moreover the Blu-ray includes a satisfactory yet again unbalanced soundtrack that distributes the background noise and dialogue unevenly throughout.



While HD extras have been added, the new inclusions are thin all around, containing commentary with director Donald Petrie and a few short featurettes about the making of the movie including its background as a comedic book version as the opposite of The Rules, deleted scenes, and a pointless extra about "Why the Sexes Battle" where scientists are brought in basically to sell the movie in terms of medical or historical authenticity analyzing behavior patterns. Overall, as a guilty pleasure favorite, it's one I'd definitely recommend but one in which you can similarly way the pros and cons before making the upgrade to Blu-ray... unless like Andie and Ben, you're fine with taking your chances on a bet.

Kate Hudson



Matthew McConaughey



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8/27/2009

Movie Review: Big Fan (2009)



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Paul Aufiero is a man who desperately wants to be heard. Yet similar to individuals who pretend to listen in conversations while in fact waiting to speak, Paul Aufiero doesn't really care if anyone listens or connects with him in the scheme of things. Likewise, the fact that he chooses sports talk radio as his soapbox and an anonymous moniker of "Paul from Staten Island" is at once both extremely revealing and completely inconsequential.

The anonymity is superfluous since Paul Aufiero is basically anonymous in his day-to-day life when the film begins, working in a toll-booth where wealthy creeps in luxury vehicles complain about a five dollar fee before condescendingly joking for him to have fun in his box.



Moreover, even when Paul is literally out of the box, he decides to box himself in as soon as he gets off work by closing the door of his bedroom and delivering the cliche filled speeches he's carefully written out on notebook paper to anyone who happens to be tuning into the local AM sports radio station at two a.m.

While this habit impresses his loyal friend and fellow obsessive devotee of the New York Giants, it keeps his elderly mother on the other side of the wall awake as she and his siblings constantly ask him when he's going to attempt to get a real job, plant roots, and grow out of the fan phase.

However, the ritual of the unquestionable pledge of allegiance to his team just serves to feed Paul's needs more than anything else to the point where he and his friend drive to the Giants stadium whenever there's a home game to hook their television up to their automobile and watch it from the parking lot.

And ultimately while we in turn watch Wrestler screenwriter Robert Siegel's Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize nominated work, we discover that football is beside the point in this cleverly existential indie which seems to have firm roots in what Taxi Driver and Raging Bull screenwriter Paul Schrader once described as "lonely man" cinema.



For indeed, in Patton Oswalt's heartbreakingly subtle yet delicately funny humanistic performance as Paul, it's understood that perhaps what our lead clings to more than the Giants or his favorite quarterback (whose poster is hung right by his pillow) is the need to believe in something else. As in engaging in irrational belief, by extension he can then believe in himself... even if it is only for the few precious moments he's granted air time on local radio.



Unwilling to evaluate his irrational dedication to the team since it would then make him have to question himself as well, after Paul comes face to face with the man in his poster and events take an unexpectedly nasty turn, Paul is tested for the rest of the film's total eighty-five minute running time as to just how far his role as a "big fan" will go.



Thrust into the spotlight, Paul is no longer able to just revel in his anonymity and control his own actions on the radio when he's then confronted by family and strangers to act on what has happened to him.



While it's easy to write off the film as being only of interest for sports nuts or football fans, as Siegel admitted to IndieWire, he's first and foremost a fan of Scorsese and '70s antihero works where change is never artificial as he revealed, "My favorite movie genre is gritty, funny, entertaining character studies about loner-misfit types who live in Queens or some other outer borough of New York."



And sure enough when you replace football with any topic as Oswalt shared with The Onion, the film can apply to anyone. To this reviewer, it transformed into an allegory of obsessive behavior and the danger of tunnel vision as repeatedly Paul proves his commitment to his role as a "big fan." Likewise, as a big fan of the aforementioned filmmakers, in his feature filmmaking debut as a director, Siegel who taught himself the nuts and bolts of the cinematic process from Filmmaking for Dummies remains obsessively compelled to the truth and humanity of his '70s inspired screenplay.



A stronger work than Wrestler since it's one that doesn't really follow a traditional three act paradigm by instead consisting of one major plot point (which has been shared far too carelessly in the trailer and numerous reviews), in the end its success is in our complete belief in Paul as a three dimensional human being which is as much of a credit to Siegel as it is to Oswalt.



While it's a film that's sure to frustrate those wanting a more elaborate revenge scenario to occur since there's a pretty heavy Taxi Driver influence running throughout which is even evidenced in the trailer, Siegel never lets you forget that the film is first and foremost one centering on a man who just wants to be heard.

Although it's a basic need that's shared by all of us and one we manage to find endless outlets for in our daily lives in hopefully much healthier ways, in Siegel's movie, you have to dig beyond just the face paint and the jerseys to understand it's about the true heart beating beneath this particular fan onscreen.



Ultimately the tragedy of Paul is that he is only comfortable when he can share something with strangers for two minutes or pin his hopes on more strangers on the field. Furthermore by espousing his own ridiculous dogma, we come to realize that he must believe that by never wavering, he will then have proven to himself that he is here, he is alive and that therefore he matters.

And it's this idea in itself which makes Big Fan seem to move way beyond the arena of football to become a commentary of the times in which we're living. Indeed, despite having more opportunities than just the radio in which to interact, surely every single one of us has felt like an anonymous man in a box at one time or another just wanting to be heard, thereby making Siegel's sleeper film cut a little deeper emotionally than the literal sharp implements utilized in Darren Aronofsky's impressive Wrestler.

Patton Oswalt




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Blu-ray Review: Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009)


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It opened after April Fool's Day but after reading dozens of "alleged" reviews from renowned film critics across the country for Hannah Montana: The Movie, I couldn't help wondering if temporarily their computers had been hacked into by the same individuals who leave nonsensical, inflammatory, and hateful comments all around the internet. By referencing everything from terrorism to brainwashing to torture, some of my journalistic idols took the lowest road imaginable in pieces that could've most likely been classified as shock-jock rants instead of traditional reviews. In trying to rationalize the hate they were no doubt hoping would pass for humor, another thought that entered into my mind was that perhaps there was some sort of unspoken press corp challenge going on about who could create the angriest and most sarcastically extreme paragraphs.

Having missed the press screening for the film before its release and being repeatedly told to keep my expectations for the film low, I must admit that given the flood of nasty comments, I wasn't exactly looking forward to checking it out save for the fact that I try to review a diverse selection of titles to keep open-minded and offer something for everyone. Additionally, I have to confess that I'm not a fan of Miley Cyrus nor had I ever seen one second of her internationally successful television series Hannah Montana.

Yet while it's a very weak film structurally speaking as contrivances and cliches abound in what would have essentially worked better on the small screen-- contrary to the exaggerations expressed in the frustrated rants I'd read-- watching the film didn't make my head spin around Exorcist style or remind me of waterboarding in the slightest.

Overall, it's a colorful confection that's perfectly tailored to its demographic of devoted fans who are crazy about Hannah and likewise one that actually had me from the inventive intro until the middle act and Miley's "Hip Hop Hoedown" brought the film to a screeching halt.


In order to quickly hip those of us unfamiliar with the Hannah storyline (as minor as it is) via an engaging opener that's still the most dynamite extended sequence of the entire movie, we see Miley Stewart (Cyrus) and her best friend Lily (Emily Osment) arrive outside the ticket booth of a jam-packed Hannah Montana concert. Given the key line to let us know that Miley and Hannah are one in the same, Lily jokes that her friend is the only pop star she knows who can't get into her own concert after their plea that they're on the list is denied.


Coming up with an immediate Plan B, Miley spots a temporarily abandoned security golf cart and the two crash the backstage area to get to the dressing room and Miley's dad Bobby Ray (Billy Ray Cyrus) before the concert fuzz catches up with them. Amusingly driving the cart right into a promotional paper banner that covers Miley's head with Hannah's for an instant, we watch the girls kick her dad out of the room as they transform the typical teenage brunette into the superstar via a blonde wig and an enormous train case filled with cosmetics. After the transition is made, an in-joke hearkens back to a previous Montana song and movie as Miley and her reference her wish to have "the best of both worlds" since she's able to attend school and do chores as Miley but entertain a stadium filled with kids as Hannah.


Yet shortly after she hits the stage, the concert segues into the music video playing in the background as Hannah pays homage to Disney teen queen Annette Funicello's beach movies in a slick piece of movie editing. Building up audience expectation and the film's breakneck pacing, it's a stunner of an introduction to the movie that showcases the creativity and energy of those working behind the scenes to give it a high quality polish which makes the languid and overly long second half especially yawn-inducing.


No doubt taking a cue from Disney's smash High School Musical works where musical numbers are cut from one location to the next, it's this kind of imagination that instantly finds director Peter Chelsom's Hannah Montana: The Movie surpassing Disney's recently released Jonas Brothers title which felt lifeless and generic by comparison.


Unfortunately, Chelsom's film loses the momentum fairly early on when a British tabloid journalist decides to make it his mission to uncover the truth about Hannah in a tell-all expose that would put an end to her double life. Aside from an excruciating shoe fight with Tyra Banks in a brief cameo, the movie benefits considerably from a fun turn by Vanessa Williams-- which should appeal to those who enjoyed her in Ugly Betty-- as Hannah's publicist who encourages the young woman to spend more time engaging in life as a star.

However this advice results in not only the aforementioned shoe boutique showdown but also in ruining Lily's birthday party when she's forced by a time-crunch to arrive as Hannah and steals focus from her best friend. After one too many disappointments has found Miley forgetting what's really important in life and who she truly is, daddy Cyrus (er, Stewart) forces Miley to give Hannah a vacation by bringing her back to her Tennessee roots and life on the farm.


Conveniently the location change provides both Miley and Bobby Ray with love interests in the forms of adorable Lucas Till and The Office and 17 Again star Melora Hardin. Yet when inevitably the tabloid reporter hunts her down to Crowley Corners, TN, Lily arrives to help support her as the body double when Miley must again go from blonde to brunette repeatedly until she's forced to either come clean about the dual role or accept which identity means the most to her in the end.



Although the last half of the film still looks gorgeous in showcasing the colors of the Tennessee landscape in Disney widescreen Blu-ray, in terms of its screenplay it ditches all of the effort that had come before it in the previous sequences in favor of misunderstandings and stunts that we're usually presented with on the small screen. Despite this, the movie is augmented by musical performances by Billy Ray Cyrus, Rascal Flatts, the showstopping Taylor Swift (who similar to The Jonas Brothers Movie, immediately makes you wish she was the artist we were watching) and aside from that regrettable "Hoedown" a few catchy tunes by Miley that sound perfectly balanced with the rest of the dialogue in a solid 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio English track.



While it does best Jonas as a musical comedy, creatively the movie goes to sleep after the opening segment. Thus eventually Hannah pales in comparison to the High School Musical works which-- aside from their thin plot-lines-- managed to hide the flaws with sheer overwhelm in the stylized music numbers that surpassed the horrid Mamma Mia! Moreover, while I won't be watching Hannah Montana: The Movie again since some of Miley's antics beyond the hoedown annoyed to no end especially in the "Go Daddy" chant she starts when she thinks her dad is going to kiss his love interest, it's nonetheless an innocuous movie from start to finish that is nowhere near worthy of the wrath filled rants it provoked.



Additionally, while she's not a young Gloria Steinem, she's the opposite of Paris Hilton which is further evidenced in some of the special features included on the Blu-ray as ultimately you realize that Hannah Montana boasts more "believe in yourself girl power" than most movies being marketed to the age group that find females cast as sidekicks, damsels in distress, or mere stereotypes.


Released as one of those money-saving combo packs that feature the work in three different formats including Blu-ray, DVD, and a Digital DisneyFile copy for owners to download to one of their compatible PC or Mac portable devices to take with them, the Hannah Montana Blu-ray boasts a cleaner color transfer than the overly "blue" tones noticed on the recent Race to Witch Mountain Blu-ray along with BD-Live extras, music videos, bloopers, deleted scenes and a few featurettes including two that were preferable to the film from an adult's perspective.



In "I Should Have Gone to Film School," co-star Jason Earles interviews the many individuals working on the set to educate viewers about the hundreds of people who make a film possible and in a terrific featurette, Miley, Billy Ray and Emily lead you on a tour of beloved spots in their hometowns in the thematic tie-in extra "Find Your Way Back Home," which is an informative, entertaining and revealing exploration of locales in Tennessee and California you wouldn't typically see in a film like Hannah.


Ideally suited for its intended audience-- while there are many things wrong with Hannah Montana as a film, in my eyes, there are far more flaws to be found when those who have excelled in the realm of film criticism lower themselves to playground level insults in rants unworthy of both the writers or their loyal readers.

And this is especially the case when, instead of speaking out against something truly prejudicial or offensive to humanity at large, they're pouring far too much energy in annihilating a G-rated movie for young girls in an industry where females are not only the most under-served demographic for studios but are also extremely under-represented in the field of film criticism. Now maybe it's me but it kind of makes one wonder what the true source of their anger really is since rationally, this benign film can't logically be the cause of it... even when Miley is encouraging us to "polka dot it" in that awful "Hip Hop Hoedown."



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Blu-ray Review: 17 Again (2009)



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Despite the fact that he hasn't yet reached the age where he'd be receiving a five year high school reunion invitation in the mail, even Zac Efron confesses that if he had the chance to be seventeen again he wouldn't do it. While it's hard to imagine that somebody who looks like a walking Gap ad would have felt awkward in high school, I'm assuming you could attribute his reluctance to the fact that Efron is most famous for spending a good majority of his career onscreen in that exact environment whether it was in Hairspray or the internationally successful High School Musical series.



And sure enough, in 17 Again, there Zac is again in high school and although the beginning of the movie directed by Burr Steers is set in 1989, when he dribbles a basketball and dances around, we start having HSM deja vu. However, the film is not Disney and G but Warner Brothers and PG-13 for a reason as we learn that Efron's star basketball player Mike O'Donnell has impregnated his girlfriend Scarlet.



Walking off the court at the start of the game and the film to go after the girl he loves instead of impressing college scouts with his athleticism and chance at a scholarship, Efron's Mike evolves over the course of twenty years to become the bitter thirty-seven year old walking bummer played by Matthew Perry.



A chronic complainer who is dissatisfied with his lot in life, when we're acquainted with the adult version of Mike we discover that he's unable to connect with his now high school age son Alex (Streling Knight) and daughter Maggie (Gossip Girl's Michelle Trachtenberg) and that his marriage to the understandably frustrated Scarlet (Funny People's Leslie Mann) is quickly approaching divorce.



And as he's essentially regretted every move he's made since he walked off that basketball court to follow Scarlet, Bringing Down The House screenwriter Jason Filardi falls into an unfortunate trap by making Mike an amazingly unlikable guy right from the start. Thus, by presenting us with the stuck-in-a-rut sad sack who Matthew Perry tries to humanize the few minutes he's onscreen, we realize that no matter how much Efron does later in the movie, it's going to be hard to root for this guy. And it's especially problematic since he's given a misogynistic subtext by stereotypically blaming the girl for the pregnancy instead of thinking about what she's given up as well.



Still fortunately, we don't have to deal with adult Mike for very long as 17 Again stumbles into a body transformation construct when Mike is granted the opportunity to become age seventeen again for a chance at a do-over except it's not 1989 but now 2009. While it's definitely a formulaic retread of the far more enjoyable films Freaky Friday, Big, and 13 Going On 30 with a few of the elements of Never Been Kissed and The Family Man added into this familiar concoction, it's Efron who ends up carrying the movie on his shoulders and adds an unexpected amount of warmth to the work. To this end, sadly about midway through the 102 minute movie I realized that the only time we felt that the character of Mike actually had a heart was when he was played by Efron.



Obviously this isn't the fault of the most talented veteran of the Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Friends cast-mate Matthew Perry since he has so little screen time that basically his performance is a cameo but one that must've been present from the start in Filardi's screenplay. However, given this major of a detractor, Igby Goes Down filmmaker Burr Steers and his terrific cast are hampered before the movie even begins to play out but they try to distract us with enough charm, humor and magic to keep us watching.



Luckily they manage to succeed in making 17 Again a likable diversion that is given a nice touch of sweetness in a wonderful supporting performance by Leslie Mann who continually fights against her undeniable attraction to Efron's Mike since he bears an uncanny resemblance to her soon to be ex as a young man. As Efron tries to spend as much time as possible with Scarlet to begin to see her side of the story, he similarly uncovers more about his children by becoming friends with them at school which leads to some strange encounters as his daughter (talented pro Trachtenberg) mistakes the new boy's friendly interest as attraction and tries to seduce the guy who's technically her father in a scene that will creep you out to no end.




While Mann is arguably the movie's heart, the most consistent source of comedy can be found from actor Thomas Lennon (I Love You, Man) as Mike's wealthy computer genius best friend who reluctantly has to leave his life of Star Wars obsession and video games to pose as Mike's guardian and main ally who realizes that his friend has indeed transformed into his younger self. And sure enough although Reno 911! star Lennon gets the chance to deliver some of the best one-liners in the movie, his comedic success is doubled when he's paired onscreen with The Office's Melora Hardin who plays the beautiful principal that Lennon pursues nonstop which culminates in the strongest scene as the two unexpectedly bond during a dinner date.



Still ultimately, as a movie, it's Efron's world and the rest just live in it which isn't a criticism per se since he does a great job. For, having been distracted by the gorgeous Blu-ray presentation of this Warner Brothers release as well as the annoying problems with the sound balance that unevenly distributed background noise, music, and dialogue in a way that found me constantly warring with the remote, I essentially missed out on Efron's Matthew Perry-isms during my initial viewing.



Luckily these became far more apparent when taking in both the Zac-centric bonus material and when viewing key scenes the second time around. In addition to calling Perry to hear the talented man's line reading for some of his dialogue, Efron's preparation for the comedy went beyond just showing up with lines memorized and ready for the makeup and hair department to accentuate his chiseled features.



As we learn in one of the special features, by studying old Friends episodes to grasp not only Perry's unique cadences, pauses, and intriguing choice of words in a given sentence he decides to emphasize along with his physical mannerisms and tendency to half smile/smirk and routinely put his hands in his pockets, Efron's dedication to playing Perry is
far more intriguing given the fact that Perry's role is quite small. Likewise it makes 17 Again worthy of a second viewing on this basis alone just to catch and better appreciate the nuances you may have missed especially if you were as fixated on the difference in facial structure and appearance as some critics were in their reviews.

However, those in their teens and tweens are wild about Zac so much that the 17 Again Blu-ray box is labeled "Packed With Zac! Over 30 Minutes More With Zac" since Warner Brothers which also produced the Emmy Award winning beloved Friends knows
their core audience well. Nonetheless it was a wise choice made by Efron, producer Adam Shankman and director Burr Steers to pay homage to the adult version since he's not only more recognizable to a more diverse audience but it also gives Efron the chance to do more than dribble a basketball in high school a la HSM.



And although I'm greatly looking forward to seeing Efron in the upcoming Me and Orson Welles since he finally leaves high school behind in the preview that precedes the Blu-ray presentation, basically, aside from serving as a nice showcase for Efron away from musicals, sadly 17 Again's tired screenplay that cribs from so many other movies in the genre feels like it would've been far more appropriate as a Disney Channel, ABC Family or made for cable original movie.

Visually this Blu-ray marks a step up from some of the muted colors on display in earlier WB live-action releases like the recent straight to disc Spring Breakdown and additionally it boasts the cool and coveted (rare) WB bonus of a digital copy of the movie on a separate disc that doubles as a DVD, making it a 2-disc Combo Pack version of the 3-disc style ones consistently served up by Walt Disney Studios as evidenced in their previous Efron release High School Musical 3.



As previously mentioned, the sound problems distract from the work and Mike O'Donnell's character is not one we're that interested in since aside from the need for a flawed hero who must grow and change, Filardi forgot to ensure he was at least likable. However with a terrific fan rewarding Combo Pack, Warner Brothers manages to keep you amused via a 203 pop-up fact track of behind-the-scenes gossip, '80s info and more along with a BD Live only Zac commentary, the Mac and PC compatible digital file, DVD version, and other extras tailor made for their core audience with this slim-cased budget friendly Blu-ray release.



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