HBO // 2005 // 60 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // May 27th, 2005
"Please stop assuming that we all agree that longevity and perfect health is the only option. No. Sometimes fun costs ya." -- Bill Maher
From the keepcase blurb: "Bill Maher, host of the immensely popular late-night talk show Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, and HBO's hit series Real Time with Bill Maher, is back. Filmed live in San Francisco, the HBO comedy special Bill Maher: Be More Cynical is the perfect forum for Maher's celebrated stand-up wit. Doing what he loves most, Maher rips through a horde of contemporary topic, from the evils of big government to the bewildering power women have over men. Maher delivers a landmark performance that reaffirms his status as one of today's brightest and most lauded comedians."
I like Bill Maher. I think he's funny, witty, and very observant. Maher's now-defunct show on Comedy Central (which seemed to change networks and timeslots like it was a vagabond child in search of a home), Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, often featured celebrity / political / musical / Hollywood guests sparring, arguing, and yelling at each other, frequently with Maher yelling at them. Aside from just making for great television, the show also forced viewers to open their eyes to issues they may normally never look at, or made them think a different way about a specific topic.
Unfortunately, I didn't laugh as hard during Maher's HBO special Bill Maher: Be More Cynical. There are many funny moments in this special. Yet it doesn't come off as a comedy show as much as a soapbox for Maher to tell us his personal views, which I realize come into play during a comedian's act, but shouldn't be allowed to nearly overshadow the entertainment elements. "Death is not the worst thing that can happen to you," Maher muses. "I know we think that. It's not worse than dishonor, losing your freedom, losing your sense of personal responsibility." Blah, blah, blah. Often the show devolves into riffs like this, including Maher's thoughts on religion (especially his scathing and often inaccurate views on Christianity), assisted suicide, politics, women, and a bevy of other topical issues.
When he wants to be, Maher is funny just for the sake of being funny. (About kids: "Must everything be for and about children, our most precious resource? I promise you, our most precious resource is petroleum.") His comedy is sharply honed and often good, but Maher comes off as a very angry, bitter, cynical man who almost seems to take the opposite side of society's norms...well, just so he can be on the opposite side. It sometimes makes for a tedious hour of comedy.
Can I recommend Bill Maher: Be More Cynical? Yes, in the same way that I can recommend a funny movie that is mediocre at best, but features enough laughs to warrant the rental. I don't think this is one of Maher's best stand-up specials, and were we lucky enough to have his previous TV show on DVD, I would tell you to run out and rent that instead. Oh well -- for you Maher fanatics, Bill Maher: Be More Cynical will have to do.
Bill Maher: Be More Cynical is presented in 1.33:1 full frame. The transfer is good, not great, but for an hour-long comedy show, do you really care that much? The colors (mostly blues) are all solid while the black levels are dark and well defined. Dirt, grain, and other imperfections are noticeably absent. Overall, this is a very good transfer that supports the routine well.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo in English. Nothing much needs to be said about this sound mix, except that it is clearly heard and well recorded. Not surprisingly, this is a front-heavy soundtrack free of any major hiss or distortion. No alternate subtitles or soundtracks are available on this disc.
Bill Maher: Be More Cynical is an hour-long comedy special, and that's all you get: an hour-long comedy special. No other special features are included on this disc.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated