DVD Verdict
Home About News Blu-ray DVD Reviews Upcoming DVD Releases Contest Podcasts Forums Judges Contact  

Case Number 18577

Arizona Dream

Warner Bros. // 1991 // 119 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Chris Claro (Retired) // March 24th, 2010

• View Judge Claro's Dossier
• E-mail Judge Claro
• Printer Friendly Review


Every purchase you make through these Amazon links supports DVD Verdict's reviewing efforts. Thank you!

 

All Rise...

Judge Chris Claro's Arizona dream featured a pig flying over Scottsdale.

The Charge

"Love at first sight saves a lot of time."

Opening Statement

Ah, whimsy. When applied with a lightness of touch, a gossamer gloss, it can make for breezily satisfying, effortless entertainment. But trowel it on with a heavy hand and whimsy is stultifying, airless, and often, cringe-inducing. Yes, the vessel of whimsy must be guided by a steady hand. Which way does director Emir Kusturica (When Father was Away on Business) go with Arizona Dream?

Facts of the Case

Axel Blackmar (Johnny Depp, Alice in Wonderland) spends his days counting fish for the city of New York and living out of the back of his truck. When Axel goes to Arizona with his movie-fanatic friend, Paul (Vincent Gallo, The Brown Bunny), for the wedding of his whimsically named uncle, Leo Sweetie (Jerry Lewis, The King of Comedy), he finds himself the object of the affections of the mother and daughter Stalkers, Elaine (Faye Dunaway, Network), and Grace (Lili Taylor, Public Enemies). Throw in a Tejano quartet, a homemade flying machine, and reenactments of North by Northwest and The Godfather: Part II, and a light tone that is violated by the suicide of a character, and you have the disjointed montage that is Arizona Dream.

The Evidence

What to make of Kusturica's oddball confection? In attempting to decipher his intentions, I discovered a few facts that no doubt influenced the final product. According to IMDb, shooting had to "pause" for three months as Kusturica wrestled with a bout of depression. That could certainly have had something to do with the abrupt tonal shift toward the end of the film. In addition, Kusturica's initial cut of Arizona Dream was four hours long. Though IMDb lists the final running time as 142 minutes, the version that Warner Archive has released is 118. Such a disparity among lengths goes a long way toward accounting for the choppiness that makes Arizona Dream less a movie than a series of loosely related vignettes.

(More about the discrepancy in running times and the various release dates can be found in the accomplices section in Janet Maslin's 1995 New York Times review of what she refers to as the 1992 film but whose packaging lists it as 1991.)

It's too bad that Arizona Dream is such a scattershot mess of a movie because Kusturica and his cinematographer, Vilko Filac (Novocaine) create some beautiful compositions set against the Arizona desert. As this is a bare-bones Warner Archive release, extras are non-existent, which is a shame, considering how much excised footage must be lying around. It would have been fascinating to see one of Kusturica's longer cuts included on the DVD.

The widescreen transfer itself is grade-A, emphasizing the warmth of the pastels of the southwest. Audio is also acceptable, with a good balance between dialogue and the sweet soundtrack.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Despite being a less than satisfying film, Arizona Dream is surprisingly well-acted. Falling between Edward Scissorhands and Benny and Joon, the film spotlights Johnny Depp's youthful charisma and gives him room to play off the broader performances of Dunaway and Gallo. Taylor's off-center beauty benefits her character, the only one whose motivation survived the presumed severe editing. Gallo is less intense here than we've come to expect and has some very funny moments, and it's nice to see legendary oddball Michael J. Pollard (Bonnie and Clyde) in a cameo.

Special mention must be made of Jerry Lewis's brief but exceptional appearance in Arizona Dream. As every King of Comedy or Wiseguy fan knows, Lewis has the capacity for dramatic subtlety, and his work in Arizona Dream is a reminder of that. Watching Lewis deftly hold his own with Oscar-winner Dunaway recalls the electricity he generated with De Niro almost thirty years ago.

Closing Statement

Arizona Dream is a curious misfire, worthy of the time only for the most ardent fans of Depp, Dunaway, or Lewis.

The Verdict

Guilty.

Give us your feedback!

Did we give Arizona Dream a fair trial? yes / no

Share This Review


Follow DVD Verdict


Other Reviews You Might Enjoy

• Airplane II: The Sequel
• The Weather Man
• Employee Of The Month (2004)
• Motherhood

DVD Reviews Quick Index

• DVD Releases
• Recent DVD Reviews
• Search for a DVD review...

Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 0
Acting: 90
Story: 75
Judgment: 85

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Genres:
• Comedy
• Drama
• Fantasy
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Distinguishing Marks

• None

Accomplices

• IMDb
• NY Times Review








DVD | Blu-ray | Upcoming DVD Releases | About | Staff | Jobs | Contact | Subscribe | Find us on Google+ | Privacy Policy

Review content copyright © 2010 Chris Claro; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.