Judge Clark Douglas eagerly awaits a documentary detailing Tim Allen's breakfast routine.
1000 Miles. 8 Days. 7 Cities. 2 Friends. 1 Car. NEVER AGAIN.
95 Miles to Go is a documentary which begins as something entirely inconsequential, slowly begins to transform into something mildly amusing, and then abruptly ends. It's one of the slightest documentaries I've seen; a film which never would have been made if its central subject weren't a television icon. Unless you're one of the folks who genuinely loves Raymond, odds are you're not going to get a whole lot out of the experience.
Here's the premise: after the fifth season of Everybody Loves Raymond wrapped, star Ray Romano decided it was time to reconnect with his stand-up roots and hit the road. He was joined by long-time associate Tom Caltabiano and an intern tasked with filming the whole thing. Viewers are invited to take an in-depth look at the difficulties Romano faces as he navigates through Florida and Georgia.
Essentially, we're treated to 77 minutes of mild bickering between Romano and Caltabiano, occasionally punctuated by snippets from Ray's stand-up. There's humor to be found in some of Ray's pettiness (such as when he complains about the Subway which has been chosen, or when he frets that the bottle cap on the water he ordered was removed by the bartender), but they play like scenarios waited to be developed into killer comic material by a show like Curb Your Enthusiasm (or even Everybody Loves Raymond). Then there are those awkward moments in which it feels as if Ray is attempting to provide some material for the documentary, such as when he sings a high note and attempts to sustain it as long as possible.
In fact, the most interesting aspect of 95 Miles to Go is observing which elements of Ray's own life have been incorporated into his work as a professional entertainer. We see little incidents which work their way into Ray's stand-up, hear little phrases which also turned up during Everybody Loves Raymond, and even see unusual habits which would later play a role on Romano's intelligent, underappreciated Men of a Certain Age (several scenes involving "mind bets" Ray makes with himself would eventually be reworked slightly for that show).
Still, it's hard to shake the feeling that this is more of a glorified bonus feature than a proper documentary. Even with a scant runtime, the film feels needlessly padded. There's perhaps a half-hour of legitimately compelling material, and even that feels like a collection of inconsequential scenes from a better documentary. It's clear that Caltabiano was relying on Romano's star power to carry the flick (after all, it was made during that brief period in which people though Romano might be an actual movie star—Welcome to Mooseport, anyone?), because the film doesn't have a compelling narrative and isn't capable of compensating for that with savvy, entertaining editing (the film is about as sloppily-organized as it's possible for a professional production to be).
The standard definition 1.33:1 full frame transfer is underwhelming, to say the least. Picture quality is pretty abysmal and the presentation adds to the shoestring budget feel of it all. The Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix is even worse, as much of the dialogue is muffled to an excessive degree (most of it has to be subtitled). However, the disc compensates a bit by delivering an impressive array of special features to dig through. We get two commentary tracks featuring Caltabiano, composer Adam Gorgoni, cinematographer Roger Lay Jr. and editor Cheyenne Pesko; a video commentary from Caltabiano and Romano; a half-hour of Ray's stand-up (the best half-hour one could possibly spend with this disc); two Q&A sessions from South by Southwest; deleted/extended scenes; a photo gallery; and a trailer. Pretty substantial for a film so slight.
Diehard Romano fans may appreciate getting a candid look at the actor's day-to-day life on the road, but there's so little consequence or entertainment value it's hard to imagine most viewers feeling fulfilled. I watched 95 Miles to Go with my wife, and as the credits began to roll she neatly summed up the viewing experience with two simple words: "That's it?"
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