MGM // 2002 // 117 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 27th, 2002
Her only crime was love.
Nothing says "fun date movie" like witnessing dangerous sex with the handicapped. But such is the case with the 2002 comedy Pumpkin, produced by Francis Ford Coppola (the Godfather trilogy) and starring Christina Ricci (Sleepy Hollow, who also is a co-producer). Though the film didn't fare well theatrically, Pumpkin is given new life on DVD care of MGM Home Entertainment.
Sorority babe Carolyn McDuffy (Ricci) seems to have the perfect life: wealthy parents; a hunky, popular boyfriend; and a top position in her college's sorority house. Though all seems well in Carolyn's world, things are about to take a drastic turn when she volunteers with her sorority sisters as a coach for a local handicapped athletic tournament. There she meets Pumpkin Romanoff (Hank Harris, Mercury Rising), a sweet-natured discus thrower who is both physically and mentally challenged. As Carolyn spends more time with Pumpkin, she finds herself magnetically pulled to his "beautiful soul" (her words, not mine). Though their love is genuine, there is opposition from Pumpkin's alcoholic mother (Brenda Blethyn, Secrets & Lies), Carolyn's sorority friends (led by Marisa Coughlan, Freddy Got Fingered) and Carolyn's beef-headed boyfriend Kent (Sam Ball). Will true love conquer all? Or is Pumpkin's romance about to be smashed?
It's nice to see a movie that uses handicapped people in a way that isn't two-dimensional. After watching the manipulative I Am Sam and any Farrelly brothers film (which all seem to involve retarded folks offered up for belly laughs), I am happy to report that Pumpkin tries to bring a tenderness and complexity to its characters that is both refreshing and unique. Though the film is a comedy, it's also something more.
I liked Christiana Ricci's character and the way the film tried to challenge the audience to think outside their box when it comes to typical cinematic romance. Certainly Carolyn and Pumpkin make a very unconventional screen couple -- some may even find the character's relationship to be in bad taste. There are even some legal issues the film brings up -- in one scene, Pumpkin and Carolyn are found after a night of sex by Pumpkin's mother. She runs Carolyn out of the house, calling her a "slut" and "pedophile." While Pumpkin is technically a comedic satire, I liked that it had the nerve to ask these types of questions. Was it right for Carolyn to sleep with Pumpkin? Take a pause from reading this review and discuss.
Okay, back and ready to move on?
The performances are all fitting and fine, with Ricci capturing the essence of a self-indulgent sorority girl to a tee. The young women all seem to share the same attitudes, mindsets, and interests -- it's like a Stepford Wives cloning experiment gone horribly wrong. Hank Harris as Pumpkin walks a fine line between tasteless parody and honest emotion -- in the wrong hands (of both the actor and director), the character of Pumpkin could have come off as just a dim-witted handicapped boy who's played for laughs. Luckily, the screenplay is more subtle and intelligent with its wit -- the laughs don't come from Pumpkin, but often the situations around him (Dominique Swain's reaction to helping out with Pumpkin's tournament is especially humorous).
I enjoyed Pumpkin enough, though it wasn't a great movie -- its main flaw is that it does lag in spots. Carolyn's friendship with her sorority sisters was fairly bland, and until the unexpected ending, her relationship with Kent often teeters on annoyance. However, even with its flaws Pumpkin is still a worthwhile film. There are laughs and tender moments, yet the script refuses to be pigeonholed as one specific kind of movie. Writer/director Adam Larson Broder (who's only writing credit is the very baaaaad Dead Man on Campus) shows that he has a sure hand behind the camera, as well as on the page. Hopefully his next film will show even more promise than this one.
Pumpkin is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. MGM's work on this title is very apt -- the colors and black levels are all sharp and consistent with only a minimal amount of edge enhancement in the image. There are a few minor imperfections throughout (a small amount of grain in a few scenes), though otherwise this is a fine looking print. Also included on this disc is a 1.33:1 pan and scan version of the film which, not surprisingly, sucks.
The soundtrack is featured in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. Much like the video portions of this disc, the audio is apt and supportive -- there are a few well placed directional effects and surround sounds to be found, though the bulk of the track's speaker effects come in the form of composer John Ottman's (Eight Legged Freaks) music score. All aspects of the mix are free of any hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Since Pumpkin wasn't a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster, it's no surprise to find this disc's only extra feature to be a theatrical trailer for the film.
I would recommend Pumpkin as a rental before a purchase. I'm not sure it's a film that bears repeating, though it is worth at the very least one glance. MGM's work on this disc is better than average, though the price tag is a bit steep considering the lack of supplemental materials.
Pumpkin is found innocent of all charges, except that whole sleeping with a minor thing...
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer