Warner Bros. // 2009 // 83 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // June 3rd, 2009
Payback's a beach.
"Who wants free keychains?"
Gayle O'Brien (Amy Poehler, Baby Mama), Becky St. Germaine (Parker Posey, For Your Consideration), and Judi Joskow (Rachel Dratch, Saturday Night Live) have been best friends ever since high school. They're all in their mid-30s and are leading interesting lives these days. Gayle works as a professional dog trainer, specializing in training seeing-eye dogs. Becky is an administrative assistant to Senator Kay Bee Harmon (Jane Lynch, Role Models), a blustery conservative who finds Becky to be a dull weakling. Judi is currently engaged to William (Seth Meyers, Journey to the Center of the Earth), a very flamboyant man who may or may not be having a passionate affair with Judi's hunky gardener.
Every year, the three friends find time to set aside their busy schedules and take a trip to the Women's Music Festival. Alas, this year the annual tradition must come to a close. The Vice-President of the United States has been forced to resign due to a sex scandal, and it seems quite likely that the President will tap Senator Harmon as a replacement. The Senator's daughter Ashley (Amber Tamblyn, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) is about to go on spring break, and the Senator is concerned that her daughter might engage in reckless behavior that could jeopardize her shot at the Vice-Presidency. For the simple virtue of being the youngest person in the Senator's office, Becky is tapped to follow Ashley and keep an eye on her. This interferes with the music festival plans, but that's okay. Instead, the trio will all enjoy the first wild spring break of their lives!
"What the heck is Spring Breakdown?" you might have asked yourself upon seeing this review. Don't feel bad if you hadn't heard of it. I knew nothing about it either until a few days ago. The cast looked promising, so I decided to give it a shot. After receiving the disc, my heart sunk with disappointment. The cover prominently featured an image of three random women in bikinis. I knew immediately that it would not be a good film. That isn't a stab at women in bikinis (what straight male would dare say such a thing?), but rather the fact that almost every DVD/Blu-ray case that chooses to offer such an image on the cover turns out to be a load of humorless idiocy. Alas, Spring Breakdown is more or less a waste of time.
I recently reviewed a volume of Seth McFarlane's American Dad. One of the weakest episodes of that particular collection was a story in which all of the characters participated in a spring break celebration. The episode ran down the list of things that are crazy and ridiculous about spring break: young women cheerfully showing their bosoms to guys with cameras, absurd drinking binges, obscenely irresponsible behavior, excitement over mindlessness, dangerous promiscuity, terrible clothes, and flings that dissolve as soon as the week has concluded. This film more or less covers the exact same territory, but pads the running time to 83 minutes. The second half of this film is very bloated, tediously offering up endless scenes of vomiting, drinking, crass behavior, and idiotic competitions. The whole thing culminates in a talent show judged by Bruce Vilanch.
There are a whole host of subplots included here, most of which are repetitive and uninteresting. Judi drunkenly wanders into a guy's room one night, falls asleep, and wakes up next to him in the morning. She is convinced that she has had sex with him, and begins to treat him in a disturbingly familiar manner throughout the week. This gets old very quickly. So does the obnoxious subplot in which Gayle becomes a member of a "hot girls" clique. I didn't much care for the moments concerning Ashley's unconvincing desire to behave badly in order to win the affections of a hunky guy. The writing here at least makes an effort to be funny every once in a while (this film certainly doesn't descend into completely brainless Epic Movie laziness), but after thirty or forty minutes I started checking my watch regularly until the conclusion finally came.
The transfer is rather sharp here, nicely highlighting the film's colorful design with warmth and clarity. Blacks are nice and deep, and several nightclub scenes that might have easily become very murky are well-defined throughout. Flesh tones are accurate, and facial detail is solid. Background detail is excellent, and the picture seems to be completely free of edge enhancement. I really can't find much to complain about in terms of the way the film looks, though the audio is not nearly as impressive. We just get plain old standard 5.1 surround here, which is a real disappointment. Those aforementioned nightclub scenes should pulse with energy, but instead they sound rather flat for hi-def. The soundtrack puts several songs in the spotlight on various occasions, and it would have been nice if these were a little richer than they are.
Extras here are fairly minimal. There's an audio commentary with Dratch and writer/director Ryan Shakiri that is surprisingly boring and uninformative, 3 minutes of pointless deleted scenes and an unfunny 2-minute gag reel. The disc is equipped with BD-Live and include a digital copy.
It would be close to impossible for this cast to make a film completely free of laughs, and I freely admit that I got a few chuckles from Spring Breakdown. Most of the good comedy bits come early in the proceedings, when the plot is being set up and the characters are being established. Without the restrains of the tiresome Spring Break partying, the actors get a chance to shine. Poehler has a very amusing encounter with a blind man (played by Poehler's real-life husband, Will Arnett) in which they bond over their mutual love for Amy Grant. Lynch hams it up hilariously as the Senator, and there's a delightful performance of "True Colors" from the three stars. Seth Meyers is basically playing a one-note stereotypical gay guy, but he still generates some laughs when he enthusiastically hugs his fiancée and declares, "The secret to our relationship is that we have no secrets!"
Funny people waste their time in a straight-to-DVD dud. If you're a diehard fan of any of the participants, you might give it a look just to say you've seen it, but this is a low point for most of these folks. The Blu-ray doesn't bring anything terribly interesting to the party.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 EX (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 EX (French)
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Digital Copy