Case Number 00293

DESERT BLUE

Sony // 1998 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Rogers (Retired) // February 1st, 2000

The Charge

"There's absolutely no way there could be a party in my panties." "Why not?" "Because I'm not wearing any."

Opening Statement

A rather harmless little film set in the Californian outback, Desert Blue is a comedy that revolves around the residents of Baxter. All eighty-seven of them. While passing through on an 'Americana sightseeing trip', cable TV starlet Skye (Kate Hudson, 200 Cigarettes) and her father (John Heard, Snake Eyes, My Fellow Americans, The Sopranos) are trapped in the town by a hazardous chemical spill. Skye begins to form a relationship with Blue (Brendan Sexton III, Pecker, Boys Don't Cry) as the town's residents all cope with the intrusion of the FBI and EPA into their otherwise quiet existence. Supporting performances are delivered by Ethan Suplee (Mallrats, Chasing Amy, American History X), Christina Ricci (200 Cigarettes, Opposite of Sex, The Addams Family) Sara Gilbert (Poison Ivy, Roseanne), and Casey Affleck (Chasing Amy, Good Will Hunting, 200 Cigarettes), with an extra treat in the form of Michael Ironside's (Starship Troopers, Total Recall, ER) FBI agent.

The Evidence

Many independent films can be more than a little quirky, off beat, or just plain odd. A lot of head scratching can go on when you watch one sometimes, trying to figure out what the director was thinking, or sometimes even what the film's about. Fortunately, Desert Blue doesn't suffer these typical problems. While there is no earth-shattering storyline ala Saving Private Ryan or Contact, the film is engaging, enjoyable and humorous. Written and directed by Morgan J. Freeman (Hurricane Streets, Boom), Desert Blue manages to deliver a fun script about a middle-of-nowhere group of kids and a few days in their lives. The cast, especially, really makes the otherwise run-of-the-mill material come alive with idiosyncratic charm.

While not anamorphic, the 1.85:1 video transfer is solid, without any visible instances of artifacting, grain or grit, or distortion. The soundtrack is surprisingly good, immersive almost; several times in the film you catch yourself looking around your house for a ringing phone or a crashing collapse, before you realize it was just the movie. When you watch a lot of films, it's not often the Dolby editors can fool your ear like that.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The disc is fairly basic, unfortunately. There are three two-page biographies (on the director and actors Sexton and Ricci), full-frame trailers for Desert Blue and Opposite of Sex, and options to select the subtitles. That's pretty much all you get here. It would have been nice to have soundtrack options (not just multiple languages, but also the opportunity to select between the single coded Dolby 5.1 track that comes with the film and perhaps a Dolby 2.0 version for lighter home theater systems). This is a fairly standard complaint however, studios are still releasing barebones discs as a matter of course. Especially in the indie film arena. Also as a routine complaint, the video transfer would have been bolstered by anamorphic, but still holds up rather well regardless.

Closing Statement

All in all, Desert Blue is an enjoyable viewing experience, and the disc is a solid addition to any home theater library. While it's somewhat basic, this isn't all that unexpected at the level this film is at. It's certainly a little more fleshed out than many other discs on the market today. The strong work of the cast is the icing on the cake, however. Kate Hudson especially delivers a nice performance, and other independent film stars that appear here continue to be fun to watch.

The Verdict

The court is forced to deliver the now standard complaints about barebones disc releases and non-anamorphic video transfers. The court would be further emboldened if the accused would actually listen once in a while. Otherwise, case dismissed.

Review content copyright © 2000 David Rogers; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 78
Audio: 87
Extras: 75
Acting: 88
Story: 80
Average: 82

Perp Profile
Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

Subtitles:
* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Full Screen Trailers for Desert Blue and The Opposite of Sex
* Talent Files

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0126261/combined