Saturday, May 30, 2009

Blu Ray Review: Spring Breakdown (2009)

Spring Breakdown
84 minutes
Rated R
Available on from Warner Home Video on DVD, Blu Ray, ITunes download, and On-Demand on June 2nd.

by Scott Mendelson

I've often said that social progress comes when we no longer talk about strides being made. After all, if you still need to make a big deal about a female character being strong, intelligent, and theoretically empowering (like Kate or Juliette on JJ Abrams's Lost), then you're actually stating that such things should still be a big deal. On the other hand, if you have strong, intelligent, and completely capable female leads, but never feel the need to comment on it (such as Syndey Bristow on JJ Abrams's Alias or Olivia Dunham on JJ Abrams's Fringe), then you're automatically stating that we've come far enough in gender relations that such things shouldn't be a big deal.

By that same token, shouldn't we celebrate the release of a movie such as Spring Breakdown? It's not all that good, but it is a perfect example of a cheesy-low rent sex and booze comedy that happens to have a cast comprised almost entirely of women. Should we not praise the fact that we've come far enough that women can shephard and star in the same kind of mediocre screwball comedies that men get to create as a matter of course? While you could argue that I am in fact making a big deal out of this fact, the film works primarily because it does not.

A token amount of plot - The film concerns three lifelong geeks/losers (Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, and Parker Posey) who have remained friends up into their mid-30s. Becky (Posey) finds herself drafted to monitor the college-age daughter of a would-be Vice Presidential candidate as young Ashley (Amber Tamblyn) finds herself darting off to South Padre Island for spring break. Deciding that this is their chance to party like the cool kids that they always admired, Becky's other two friends decide to tag along. Much alcohol consumption, attempted sexual hijinks, and theoretical hilarity ensue.

The film is pretty generic, but what makes it watchable is the energy of the three leads and the obvious joy that the supporting cast (Will Arnett, Seth Myers, Missi Pyle, and Jane Lynch) gets from playing in this particular sandbox. I laughed about half a dozen times and smiled about twice as often. Whether it deserved a theatrical release is certainly up for debate (Nikki Finke famously cried sexism when Warner shelved the picture despite decent test screening scores), but I'd argue that this obviously low-budget comedy could have easily turned a small profit if it was able to tap into the same audience that scored $60 million for the utterly bland Baby Mama. I also question why the film was allowed to keep its R-rating, as it seems to be rated R primarily for a single 'f-word'. There is, to my recollection, no nudity, no sex, no drug use, and only PG-13-level crude humor. This is one of the softer R-rated films I've ever seen.

Anyway, studio gender politics aside (and really, Warner Bros. is the studio that released The Brave One, The Invasion, The Reaping, Sex & The City, Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants 2, He's Just Not That Into You, and The Women), the film is worth a gander if you're a fan of any of the onscreen talent. And the fact that the film is being sold not as a pioneering feminist statement, but simply as another dumb comedy that happens to star a bunch of female comedy stars, is relatively refreshing and buys it a token amount of goodwill in my book.

The Blu Ray:
The brief 85 minute feature sports a perfectly adequate 1080p 1.85:1 transfer. Nothing to write home about, but the colors are bright, the flesh tones are accurate, and there is both a lack of grain and filters. Basically a solid transfer from an old-fashioned 35mm film image. The audio is English 5.1 and French 5.1. As we all know, I have awesome 2.0 mono, so I can only say that I could hear the film at all times and there was more than appropriate separation and balance with regards to dialogue, music, and sound effects. The feature has English, Spanish, and French subtitles. The extras are a bit lacking, but there is a feature-length commentary, three-minutes of deleted scenes, and two minutes of gag reels (Jane Lynch dominates the latter). Oh yes, there is an invaluable digital copy to boot, plus access to BD Live extras. Yawn.

The film may or may not have deserved a theatrical release (I've seen much worse comedies in theaters), but it's certainly worth checking out for a showcase for several justly revered comic actresses. It's certainly worth a rental.

The film - C+
The visuals - B
The audio - NA
The extras C-

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