Lionsgate // 2005 // 98 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // January 13th, 2006
They know each other by heart.
Another day, another opportunity to make fun of Ashlee Simpson.
Take every cliché from every movie about struggling young musicians/actors/models, throw them in a blender, and hit the switch. Pour the resulting mixture into a large glass, and then put the glass out in the sun. Come back two weeks later, and that fuzzy, disgusting stuff you'll find floating in the glass is Undiscovered.
Undiscovered is the story of a boy who wants to be a musician and a girl who wants to be an actress. That's all you need to know. Seriously. You know that and you can guess what follows. If the producers of this movie paid screenwriter John Galt (a pseudonym if I ever heard one) by the cliché, Mr. Galt is now the richest man on the face of the Earth. The script seems to be an experiment designed to discover how many trite situations and lines of dialogue can be included in each scene. It's really something to behold. They should teach this thing in screenwriting classes alongside Citizen Kane, Chinatown, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. You know, hold those three up as examples of stunning craftsmanship and then pull out Undiscovered and threaten bodily harm to anyone who comes close to cranking out anything even remotely similar. At least that way some good would come of it.
I am now going to detail the plot of this movie. Try to keep a running count of the clichés. Tabulate your results and write down your answer. The winner will receive a prize. (Not really.)
Two people glimpse each other on a New York subway and are instantly smitten. When aspiring musician Luke (Steven Strait, Sky High) sees aspiring model/actress Brier (Pell James, Uptown Girls), he thinks she's the most beautiful girl he's ever seen (he obviously doesn't get out much). Brier calls Carrie (Carrie Fisher, Under the Rainbow), her agent, and says she just saw the most amazing guy ever. Next thing you know, two years have passed. They're both in L.A., where Luke has a regular gig playing in a club, and Brier is working in an ice cream parlor and going to auditions. (At least I think she works in an ice cream parlor. She's shown fixing a single-scoop cone in an early scene and then never seems to go back to work. Then again, this movie is full of people who never seem to work but still have loads of disposable income.) Well, Brier and her friend Clea (Ashlee Simpson, The Hot Chick) go to see Luke play; Brier and Luke recognize each other, and he wants to go out with her, but she doesn't want to date a musician because she is currently dating a world famous rock star who may or may not be cheating on her. (Yeah, he's cheating on her, but she's too dumb too realize it, despite the fact that this world famous rocker is too dumb to stop the Japanese groupies he's banging from answering the phone in his hotel room.) Okay, so let me get this straight -- Brier sees Luke on the subway, immediately thinks he's the most wonderful guy in the world (which for some unfathomable reason causes her to move to L.A. because she thinks she'll be missing her big break if she doesn't take a chance), but then decides she won't go out with the most wonderful guy in the world simply because he's a musician? Yeah, okay. Well, I guess that's not exactly the case, as Brier says she doesn't want to date another rock star. Luke reminds her that he is a songwriter, not a rock star (how deep), but Brier says she knows Luke wants to be a rock star. Whatever. (Clea describes Luke as a cross between Jeff Buckley and Elvis Costello, which I guess is her way of insulting two birds with one stone. Given that he sings/plays piano and she wants to be an actress, I would say the obvious inspiration for Luke was Chris Martin and that Brier was patterned after Gwyneth Paltrow. Somebody should sue.)
Anyway, despite the fact that Brier doesn't want to date a rock star but still really, really likes Luke, she and Clea hatch a scheme to get Luke noticed by Garrett Schweck (Fisher Stevens, Super Mario Bros.), an executive with Tantra Records. (Schweck is the kind of guy who goes around bragging about the fact that he turned a crystal meth addict into a superstar.) They get some strippers to act as groupies, hire some dude from the ice cream parlor to pretend to be a talent scout from the London branch of Elektra Records, and get a Brazilian supermodel named Josie (Shannyn Sossamon, A Knight's Tale) to come to the club and fawn all over Luke. (Sossamon's accent disappears about halfway through the movie; I assume it had to catch an early flight home.) Well, guess what? That's right -- Schweck signs Luke and puts him in the studio about fifteen seconds later (this despite the fact that Luke had told Brier he wanted to sign with someone like Wick Treadway, the big-time, mythic founder of...but I'm getting ahead of myself). Luke busts his way into one of Brier's modeling shoots and tells her the good news. They celebrate by going to an outdoor trapeze park (say what?) and then go back to his place where they either have sex or just engage in a marathon heavy petting session (it's a little hard to tell exactly what's going on). Luke asks Brier to come on the road with him, but she gets up and runs out. Luke chases her, leaves the front door open, and his pet bulldog uses this as an opportunity to go skateboarding. (That's right -- Luke, for no good reason whatsoever, owns a skateboarding bulldog. More on this later.)
Want to guess what happens next? That's right -- Luke suddenly becomes a totally different person! He starts blowing off his folk singer brother, going to industry parties, buys a Porsche, and forgets about the most beautiful girl in the world who doesn't want to date him because he wants to become a rock star but still did everything she could to ensure that he became a rock star. (Luke goes from playing small dives to performing arena gigs in no time at all. He also leaves behind the Jeff Buckley/Elvis Costello thing and becomes an Ian Astbury clone.) Don't worry, though, as Luke quickly gets his comeuppance. See, Josie inexplicably gets into a fight at one of Luke's concerts and is hauled off by security; Luke doesn't seem to care, so Josie runs and tells Schweck about Brier's scheme to get Luke noticed. Schweck immediately dumps Luke from the label. Repo men come and haul off Luke's Porsche, and his gigs start getting cancelled. Luke finds out that his popularity was all a sham. He gets pissed at Brier, who keeps calling him despite the fact he won't answer his phone. Luke's brother Euan (Kip Pardue, Driven) tries to console him. How does Euan go about this? He tells Luke that what they need to do is "get funky," which they achieve by going to a club and performing a cover of The Steve Miller Band's "Jungle Fever." (The idea that "Jungle Fever" is a funk tune is new to me. I've been listening to that song for almost thirty years, and I always believed it to be a rock song. Well, if what Avril Lavigne does can be classified as punk, I guess what Steve Miller did can be classified as funk.)
Anyway, Brier's rock star boyfriend shows up and tracks her down. How does he do this? Well, he knows that Brier likes to let off steam by going to a batting cage. L.A. is a small town, and it only has one batting cage, so the rock star guy immediately knows where to go. He tries to apologize for mistreating her, but she brushes him off and suddenly decides to go back to New York. Carrie, who apparently only has one client, flies all the way to L.A., seemingly just so she can give Brier a plane ticket. Carrie says she wants to go see Luke perform, so that night she shows up at the club. Get this -- with Carrie is Wick Treadway (Peter Weller, Leviathan), who just so happens to be Carrie's ex-husband. Luke sings a song that's obviously about Brier. Then Clea gets up and sings the movie's theme song. (Did I forget to mention that Ashlee Simpson sings? Well, she does -- three excruciatingly awful times.) Brier leaves the club to catch her flight back to New York. Luke finds out Brier is leaving, so he and Euan try to stop her. Brier is catching a ride with Wick, who is booked on the same flight she is. (You'd think the big-time, mythic founder of a record label would at the very least have access to the corporate jet, but never mind.) Luke misses Brier and is forced to spend more than a thousand bucks for a coach ticket. Luke and Brier are reunited on the plane. Luke says he wants to be with her. Wick tells Luke that he has signed Clea to his label and wants to hire Luke as a songwriter. Wick then tells Brier that he is taking her to Jamaica to appear in a video for one of his reggae groups. Luke and Clea kiss and the passengers on the plane watch and applaud. Then two of the plane's engines fail and it crashes into the desert outside Las Vegas. (Well, that last bit is just wishful thinking on my part.)
Okay, so we know the story is awful, but what about the acting? It also stinks. Then again, with Ashlee Simpson in the cast, you probably already knew that. (Think about it -- Ashlee Simpson, whose father/manager was one of the movie's producers, took time away from pretending to be a singer to pretend to be an actress who is pretending to be a singer.) And what the hell is Carrie Fisher doing in this thing? I thought she was back on the wagon. (Too bad they didn't hire her to overhaul the script.)
Up until this point I haven't mentioned director Meiert Avis, who is making his feature debut. Avis has directed music videos for the likes of Bruce Springsteen (that's cool) and Jennifer Lopez (uh-oh). In the pantheon of music video directors who have made the leap to the big screen, I'd say Avis belongs in the Russell Mulcahy camp rather than the David Fincher one. Visually, he can't even seem to make up his mind what he wants to do with this film. It's half bright, flashy fantasy and half cold, gritty realism. It's like Joel Schumacher directing a really weird episode of Homicide. (And if the producers paid Avis by the number of times he framed Ashlee looking shy while flashing her goofy smile, he's now the second richest man on the face of the Earth.)
Enough about the movie. What about the DVD itself? The transfer is far grainier than it needs to be, especially during interior scenes. On the other hand, there is no evidence of damage in the source elements. It's not a horrible transfer, but it is an uneven one. There is no surround action in the 5.1 option, but there is a nice spread across the front soundstage. The painfully awful dialogue comes through fine, as do the truly horrible (and far too numerous) songs on the soundtrack. Extras include previews for other Lions Gate releases, a gallery of still photos from the movie, nine deleted scenes, and five terrible music videos. There is also a short making-of featurette, during which Ashlee Simpson spends an awful lot of time discussing how true-to-life the story and characters are. Director Avis also pops up and mentions how Ashlee wanted to make sure she wasn't simply playing herself in the movie; his remarks are immediately followed by footage of Ashlee talking about how she took the role because she and her character are so much alike. Finally, there is an audio commentary from the director. I had to listen to it. Be thankful you don't.
Tyson the Skateboarding Bulldog, who portrays the skateboarding bulldog owned by Strait's character, kicks all kind of ass. All this dog does is hop on his skateboard, kick off, and cruise down a hill, and he still shows more range and talent than any of his costars.
Is Undiscovered one of the worst movies I have ever seen? Quite possibly. Was Undiscovered one of the worst movies released in 2005? Most definitely.
Guilty as hell.
Review content copyright © 2006 Mitchell Hattaway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* The Making of Undiscovered Featurette
* Deleted Scenes
* Photo Gallery
* Music Videos
* Official Site
* Tyson the Skateboarding Bulldog's Official Site