Sony // 1989 // 102 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 7th, 2002
An inside look at how NOT to get a movie made.
Hollywood can be a dazzling dream come true or an aspiring filmmaker's worst nightmare. Need proof? Just ask Nick Chapman (Kevin Bacon, Footloose), a naïve youngster from Ohio who wins a Best Student Film award from the National Film Institute. Suddenly Nick is the hottest ticket in town and everyone -- and I mean everyone -- wants him for their own. Wacky agents (Martin Short, Three Amigos!), power hungry producers (the late J.T. Walsh, Needful Things), and other various Tinseltown sharks are out to get a piece of what Nick's got...even if it means Nick losing his soul in the process. At first Nick seems to have it all: a hot career and film he wants to make, an adorable and devoted girlfriend (Emily Longstreth), and a heart filled with a passion for creating cinema. As Nick's career starts to soar, he finds out that it's hard not giving into temptation, including a sultry wannabe actress (Teri Hatcher, Soapdish), and keeping the vision of his film intact (what once started as a drama about three people in a winter's night cabin soon turns into a story about bikini model ghosts at a beach house). Along the way, Nick will learn many lessons about Hollywood and attempt to keep his sanity among a town full of cutthroats and nut jobs!
The Big Picture was the first film by Christopher Guest, the mind behind such modern day classic comedies as This is Spinal Tap and Waiting For Guffman. Along with co-writer/co-star Michael McKean, Guest has scripted a scathing, often hysterical comedy that firmly sticks its elbow into the ribcage of Hollywood's often-ridiculous set of standards. The film is peppered with obnoxious and grandly funny stereotypes, the best being Martin Short as the scene-stealing agent who smokes, sports a red perm, and looks as if he just beamed down from the planet Fruitcake. Bacon does a serviceable job as Nick, showing vulnerability that endears the audience to the character. While Bacon is good, the real stars of the movie are the periphery personalities. J.T. Walsh, one of the best character actors ever to grace the screen, does a wonderful impersonation of a self-centered producer who just wants only two things: 1.) to see his films succeed and 2.) lesbians. A pre-Lois & Clark Teri Hatcher does her fair share of pouting (with both her lips and breasts) and Jennifer Jason Leigh as one of Nick's spacey peers pulls off a performance that must be seen to be believed. Though The Big Picture is good, it does have its moments of sluggishness -- however, we'll just chalk that up to Guest's being a first time director. From my recollections The Big Picture didn't get much of a theatrical release, which must have been a real shame -- considering all the lame comedies released by Hollywood each year, it's baffling why such an entertaining film wasn't given a wider release. If you enjoyed Best In Show or any of Guest's previous efforts, chances are you'll get a kick out of The Big Picture. Star watchers will thrill to see the likes of Roddy McDowall, Fran Drescher, Richard Belzer, and June Lockheart (!) pop up in cameo appearances.
The Big Picture is presented in a better-than-expected 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Columbia has produced a solid effort that features bright colors and dark black levels. While there's a few inconsistencies (including some dirt and grain), overall this is a nice looking picture. The soundtrack is presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround soundtrack in English that serves the film well. There aren't a lot of directional effects to be found on this mix, though in all honesty none are really needed -- The Big Picture is mainly a dialogue driven comedy. All aspects of the mix are clear of any distortion or hiss, so sit back and be happy. Also included on this disc are English and French subtitles.
I'm happy to report that Columbia decided to add on a few extra features to this disc, starting with an entertaining commentary by Christopher Guest and Kevin Bacon. Among the sometimes nostalgic and sentimental banter are some amusing stories about the cast, story and films-inside-a-film (Bacon's character's student film is absolutely brilliant in its absurdity). Four rather odd deleted scenes are also included (each presented in 1.33:1 full frame), one being especially strange as we're allowed to witness Kevin Bacon doing a Jerry Lewis imitation. Of all the people that shouldn't be allowed to do a Jerry Lewis impersonation, Bacon would be pretty high on my list. Also included on this disc are a few brief filmographies and theatrical trailers for The Big Picture, America's Sweethearts, Mr. Deeds, and The Sweetest Thing.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Commentary Track by Director Christopher Guest and Star Kevin Bacon
* Deleted Scenes
* Four Theatrical Trailers