The easy part is surviving the mob.
It seems as if everyone under the age of thirty has seen the movie Swingers. Written by Jon Favreau, Swingers went on to be a hit with independent audiences and guys trying to get laid at nightclubs in Los Angeles. Swingers also went on to introduce us to the catch phrase "beautiful babies" (i.e., "Hey, look at all those beautiful babies sitting in that booth!"). In 2001, Favreau and his Swingers co-star Vince Vaughn teamed again for Favreau's directorial debut Made, a movie about the mob, shaky friendships, and what happens with you get Peter Falk upset. Artisan gets out the big guns and shoots a few rounds with the special edition release of Made on DVD.
Facts of the Case
Bobby (Favreau) is a wannabe boxer who works for Max (Peter Falk, The Princess Bride), a mob boss who runs illegitimate businesses that include racketeering, prostitution and drugs. Bobby works on a construction site by day and drives around Jessica (Famke Janssen, Goldeneye), his live-in girlfriend, to bachelor parties where she works as a stripper by night. Jessica has a little girl that Bobby adores, though Jessica seems to ignore her at every turn.
After knocking out the teeth of a client who was getting a little too grabby with Jessica, Bobby must work off $8,000 dollars that he now owes Max who was forced to set things right with the client. To make amends Bobby agrees to travel to New York City to do some "business" for Max with a client who isn't on the up and up. Bobby asks Max if he can bring along Ricky (Vaughn), a flaky friend who can never seem to keep stupid statements from falling out of his mouth. Max doesn't like Ricky but reluctantly agrees due to Bobby's recommendation.
Bobby and Ricky take off for NY to meet up with a client named Ruiz (Sean "Puffy" Combs, P. Diddy, Mr. Ex-J Lo, et cetera) who is testy, to say the least (after seeing the two men, Ruiz comments "Maxie sent me to *&%#@ broke ass swole up guineas from L.A. I coulda hired some local guineas fro some beer money!"). Everything goes smooth until Ricky starts to open his mouth which could end up getting he and Bobby into big trouble—and maybe even killed!
I'm one of those people who wasn't overly excited about the movie Swingers (to most of my friends' dismay). After revisiting it a few years later I thought it was funny, but certainly no masterpiece. Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn both had very likable screen presences, but overall I thought the movie just wasn't as good as the hype surrounding it. Made didn't seem to garner as much critical attention, yet I thought it was a very entertaining film and even better than Swingers.
Friendship is a funny thing. Some friends come and go while others stay with you your whole life. There are some friendships that seem like the started out of nowhere; I have one good friend who seems like he's been around forever, to the point where I can't really recall how we became friends. If there's one thing that I've learned about friendships it's that you sometimes put up with a lot of crap from a certain friend that you normally wouldn't tolerate from anyone else (and vice versa). Such is the life of poor old Bobby.
Made was written and produced by Favreau (as well as co-produced by Vaughn), an actor who has an ear for funny and jolting dialogue. He seems to know Vaughn well enough to give him dialogue that fits his character to a tee. While Made isn't a drop-dead funny movie, there are plenty of scenes that made me laugh out loud (usually with Vaughn's character running off at the mouth). One scene where the two men speak Pig Latin at a ceramics store with a small child in tow cracked me up to no end. Why these two men are even friends is baffling—the best I can make of it is that the two grew up together and share a love of boxing, which in turn keeps their friendship alive. Bobby seems to tolerate Ricky's incessant comments and rudeness as they travel through this misadventure of crime and criminals. Favreau's movie characters have a quite way about them, often contrasted by Vince Vaughn's obnoxiousness (both here and in Swingers). The two end up making a humorous pair that play off each other well. The writing is witty and sharp punctuated with bits of dramatic tenderness. The relationship between Bobby and Jessica's daughter is both touching and bittersweet. Peter Falk shines in his role as Max, a man who seems like a decent guy until your ruffle up his feathers. There's even an hysterical cameo by Saved By The Bell's Dustin Diamond ("Screech" for those of you who aren't in the know) who gets mercilessly razzed by the grumbling Ricky. Ultimately, the picture belongs to Favreau and Vaughn—their characters are the stars that shine the brightest.
In the same vein as the Coen Brothers' The Big Lebowski and Albert Brooks' Mother, Made will not be to everyone's taste. Favreau produced Made on a limited budget as to keep creative control while making sure that the picture he envisioned made it to the screen. Plus, I have to give kudos to any film that incorporates "Chuck E. Cheese" into the mix. Made can sometimes be uncomfortable, often times cruel, but like all good comedies it works—or as one of the characters might say, "It's in the pocket."
Made is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Artisan has done a fine job on this transfer with only minor imperfections hindering the image. Colors look bright and bold with black levels solid and deep. A small amount of halo and edge enhancement persists, but since this was a low budget film it wasn't surprising to see some of the defects present here. Overall, the picture looks sharp and clean with no bleeding or digital artifacting.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround as well as Dolby Digital 2.0. While not an overly aggressive track, this 5.1 mix does utilize the surround speakers when music is present during the film (including artists like Black Eyed Peas, Jurassic 5, and Dean Martin). There are a few other instances of surround use, but this is generally a dialogue-based comedy that isn't in need of a heavy audio mix. Also included on this disc are Spanish subtitles.
True to its name, Made is a nicely done "special edition" filled with lots of stuff for fans to peruse through. Starting off the disc is a commentary by Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, and co-producer Peter Billingsley (yes, Ralphie from A Christmas Story). This commentary can be watched with just the audio or with a telestrator that the boys use to highlight certain things in the movie (kind of like what they use on "Monday Night Football"). I was surprised that this track wasn't quite as wacky as I anticipated it to be. Vaughn cracks many jokes, but the bulk of the commentary is devoted to stories and behind-the-scenes tales of the film. Many different actors are pointed out (including Jonathan Silverman and porn star Jenteal in the bachelor party scene), and Vaughn loves circling as many things as he can with that light pen. An entertaining and informative commentary.
Three documentaries ("Getting It Made," "The Creative Process," "Getting The Music Of Made") are included with the option of watching each one separately or together as one full-length feature. Clocking in at around 40 minutes, these three documentaries cover a wide range of production on the film and include interviews with Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, and Peter "Ralphie" Billingsley. For those of you who always wanted to see what Ralphie looks like all grown up, here's your chance.
Five "deleted scenes" (including an alternate ending) are up next with an optional commentary track. These scenes are interesting to watch, but it's painfully obvious why they were cut from the final film. A set of "outtakes" are basically flubs and mess ups by the actors. Nine "alternate scenes" are included that are extensions of scenes from the finished film. These can also be viewed with or without commentary. "More Music Cues" allows the viewer to listen to both used and unused music cues from the film.
The "scene edit workshop" is very much like the workshop now standard on certain DVD special editions. The point of his tool is to take certain scenes and mix/edit them to your liking, then compare it to the final film. As usual, this is a nice extra feature to have that allows the viewer to experience how a scene is edited together.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer, a teaser trailer, some information on the principle cast and crewmembers, and some production notes for those of you who prefer your information in the literary style.
Made is a funny movie that should please fans who went out in droves to see Swingers. Favreau shows that he is a competent director and writer who knows how to bring together a sharp and talented cast. Artisan has put a lot of time and effort into this disc, and comes up with a winner!
Made is free to go, as is Artisan for their work on this disc! Case dismissed.
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