Monday, August 8, 2005

Two DVD Reviews

I swear I have the worst freaking luck with those DVD commentary tracks. A few weeks ago, I rented Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, which is subtitled so you don't confuse it with all those other dodgeball-themed movies out there. Dodgeball has its moments, in particular a cameo by rubber-bracelet maven Lance Armstrong and a miscast but still amusing Jason Bateman playing a sportscaster with a bottomless supply of vapid observations. But, like pretty much all of those Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughn/Will Ferrell PG-13 gross-out comedies, Dodgeball is a one-joke, derivative bore. Look — Ben Stiller is playing "manic." What a stretch for him! I can't think of anybody else in the Stiller lineage notable for playing over-the-top manic characters. No one.

But Dodgeball is the sort of movie where you think that even if the movie's not that funny, then at least the commentary will be amusing. The actors at least look like they're having fun on screen, so they can probably be naturally humorous without the conceit of Vince Vaughn playing the straight man to Stiller's crazy egomania. But nope. The geniuses at 20th Century FOX marketing thought that Dodgeball, the most conventional comedy of the year, needed a pointless avant-garde commentary track. The first half of the commentary is structured as an (obviously scripted) argument between director Rawson Thurber Marshall, sycophant Vaughn, diva Stiller, and recording booth sound engineers Matt and Jeff. By the second half of the movie, Marshall, Vaughn, and Stiller have all walked out on the commentary so Matt and Jeff decide they'll just play the commentary track to There's Something About Mary instead. So when I said that the commentary was "pointless," I really fucking meant it. Total waste of an hour and a half of my life.

Now, last night, I rented A Very Long Engagement by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It's a French film, in case you couldn't guess. Basically, I'm never thrilled about having to read the damn movie, especially as I was trying to eat dinner at the time and pick through my food for all the crap I don't eat. But, like everybody else, I loved Jeunet's previous film Amelie, so I picked this one up from Palmer. It's well-made, even if it's easier to keep track of the characters in Anna Karenina than this movie, and Jeunet uses the same visual whimsy and attention to odd yet telling details that made Amelie so charming. But A Very Long Engagement is more the misbegotten bastard child of Amelie and the dull Kubrick World War I masterpiece Paths of Glory, and the storytelling just doesn't mesh very well with the story being told.

But after the movie, I went to watch it again with the director's commentary, and the freaking commentary is in French!!!! Goddamn it, I know that you art-house theatre lovers cream yourself over subtitles, but couldn't the American DVD release at least have the commentary in English? What happened to the director and actors just sitting in a room and riffing off the film, like giving us a glimpse of the Hollywood process.... Maybe I'll have to wash off mentally with the commentary to Alone in the Dark.