Warner Bros. // 1996 // 147 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 31st, 2006
"I think, you know what, listen, listen...a pigeon...no, no, wait, an
eagle flew in, landed on the stove, and caught fire! The baby, seeing this,
jumps across the apartment to the mighty bird's aid! The eagle, however,
misconstrues this as an act of aggression, and grabs the baby in its talon!
Meanwhile, the faucet fills the apartment with water! Baby and bird, still
ablaze, are locked in a death-grip, swirling around the whirlpool that fills the
-- Ross, "The One with Phoebe's Birthday Dinner"
Here we have another batch of similarly-themed Friends episodes from Warner Brothers, giving us the misadventures of Rachel (Jennifer Aniston, Derailed), Monica (Courtney Cox), Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow), Chandler (Matthew Perry), Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and Ross (David Schwimmer). These bite-sized compilations offer six episodes at a time, all of which gain membership because of their respective subject matter. The common thread this go-round? Birthdays! Let us commence:
* "The One with Two Parties"
5/2/96, Season 2
It's Rachel's birthday, but her parents are currently going through a messy breakup. Concerned that they'll ruin her birthday party, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, Ross and Joey throw together two separate parties, one for each parent. A decent episode, delivering some solid Monica moments (augmenting her reputation as a horrible party-thrower). B
* "The One Where Chandler Can't Remember Which Sister"
1/9/97, Season 3
At Joey's birthday party, Chandler makes a big, big mistake. While overly intoxicated, he ends up in a closet with one of Joey's sisters. The next morning, he is immediately regretful of his impromptu make-out session, and is too nervous to tell Joey. What follows is Chandler's attempts to sever the budding romance while preserving his friendship with Joey. One problem -- he's not sure which sister he fooled around with. This show's okay, though the "can't-remember-which-sister" gimmick tires quickly. On the upside, Matthew Perry -- as-usual -- nails the neuroses.
* "The One Where Rachel Smokes"
4/8/99, Season 5
The birthday aspect of this episode is merely a side-story, as Monica takes over planning duties from Phoebe for Rachel's surprise party. Meanwhile, Rachel takes up smoking to fit in with her coworkers and Joey and Ross compete over a soup commercial. Still, it's a funny show, highlighted by Joey's desire to beat out Ben (Ross's son) for the coveted soup spot. Classic series line: "Mmmmm, noodle soup."
* "The One Where They All Turn Thirty"
2/8/01, Season 7
Celebrating Rachel's 30th birthday, the gang take the opportunity to reminisce about their different experience when turning 30. Ross buys a sports car that he can't pry out of its parking spot, Phoebe discovers that she's actually 31, Joey suffers from a crisis of faith, and Monica gets wasted in front of her parents. Finally, Rachel must re-evaluate her life, leading to her breakup with Tag. At first I thought this was a clip show -- which would've been pretty lame to include on the disc -- but I guess it was made to look like a clip show, sporting all new stuff. Therefore, it is now funny.
* "The One with Phoebe's Birthday Party"
10/31/02, Season 9
Phoebe is anticipating a night where she and her closest pals can celebrate her birthday. Thing is, they're all ridiculously busy. Ross and Rachel have Emma to worry about, and Rachel's worries border on obsessive-compulsive. And on that same night, Monica and Chandler have a major fight, interrupted by an attempt to get Monica pregnant. It all leads to Joey and Phoebe sitting by their lonesome in the restaurant, with Joey starving. The disc ends on a high-point with these final two episodes, which are, simply, hilarious. In fact, this particular show is one of my all-time favorites: Joey's thwarted plans to eat, Chandler's realization that being tricked into sex isn't that bad, because, like, you get to have sex, and Ross's awesome flaming-eagle monologue laying out the worst-case scenario of what could happen to Emma if she's left alone. Friends at its finest.
* "The One with the Cake"
10/23/03, Season 10
It's Emma's first birthday and Rachel and Ross are thrilled to celebrate it. Unfortunately, no one else is too keen about hanging around all night at a party for an infant. Monica and Chandler have reservations in a Vermont inn, Joey's got an audition, and Phoebe has a massage client. Then you've got Ross and Rachel, who have to deal with an erotic cake snafu. Funny from top to bottom, all the stories work, and Chandler has some awesome lines. Also witness Joey's struggle at finding a dessert shaped as a phallus tasty-looking.
All in all, a nice cross-section of episodes. I'm still not sure who the precise target audience is for these releases, but I have a feeling it can broken into two groups: 1) rabid, Friends enthusiasts or 2) casual fans unwilling to fork over the moolah for the complete sets. Maybe there's another demographic floating around out there; if they do indeed exist, I think they'll enjoy this selection of sharp sitcom wit.
Unfortunately, the presentation is lacking. On the technical side of things, the full frame and 5.0 surround mix are up to the task, but AWOL extras hurts. The last one of these discs I reviewed (The One With all the Babies) featured episodic commentary by the creators. Nothing of the sort here. The disc case does make mention of previously unaired footage, but it must have been only a negligible handful of minutes.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 147 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Unaired Footage
* The Original Friends Site