Judge Joel Pearce thinks this webisode-to-feature crossover would have more arthouse cred if its makers had called it Soup du Jour.
The full-length uncensored movie and all 19 webisodes of the Internet phenomenon.
The Internet could easily be the future of television and film distribution. It puts power in the hands of the people, allowing anyone access to the technology to make and distribute films. This immense power, flexibility, and freedom, leaves us with only one question: Why can't we come up with something new?
Soup of the Day is a self-proclaimed phenomenon, having received over nine million downloads in its original, web-distributed form. Now, it has been ported over to DVD as well. It tells the story of Brandon (Jon Crowley, Gay Robot), a man who has gotten himself into that time-honored comedy predicament: He has three girlfriends, and none of them know about the others. First there's Monique (Catherine Reitman, Thank You for Smoking), Brandon's attractive boss. Wendy (Patty Wortham, Closing Escrow) is an undercover cop with lots of attitude and Franki (Tina Molina, Ordinary Miracles) is a sexy but unstable web-show host. Now Brandon will have to juggle all three relationships without revealing the truth.
I'm going to start with a warning to any of Soup of the Day's Internet fans. The case implies that the film is completely different than the original webisodes, and it's not. All they've really done is stick all 19 episodes together, plus a few minutes of additional footage, then called it a feature-length film. This transition isn't a smooth one. For starters, serial web episodes work under different rules than films. They each have to be the same length, and there doesn't have to be any real continuity between each episode. Since there's a gap of time for the audience, they accept the sudden gaps of time in the show itself. When these gaps are removed, the DVD audience is left with a horribly stilted viewing experience, jumping from mini-story to mini-story, every seven minutes.
The format is the least of Soup of the Day's problems, though. The series exists in the same world as Maxim magazine. We're supposed to buy that Brandon is a nice, sensitive guy in a terrible dilemma, but we're also supposed to buy that Brandon has genuinely fallen in love with these three women when all he does is get laid in a variety of places. Each one of the episodes is a ridiculous, shallow ripoff of comedy sequences, only shortened so much that they no longer work. There's a relationship counseling sequence, a role-playing sex scene, cheesy bonding experiences. By halfway through, I was begging for the girls to find out about each other, so we could finally get it over with. It wouldn't be so difficult to deal with in small doses, but 90 minutes is a hell of a lot to take in one sitting. When the disaster finally does arrive, he doesn't even care about what he's done—he just wants to find a way to still get around.
The performances don't make things any better. Jon Crowley puts in a decent performance as Brandon, but he doesn't do anything to set himself apart from the other characters in his category, like National Lampoon protagonists and the guys in the background of spring break videos. The three girlfriends are too conscious of the camera, trapped human sexual fantasies that aren't allowed to show any skin. Since there is nudity from some of the extras, I can't help wondering why the creators of std didn't just go the distance and turn the series into a softcore sex romp that would have better captured the imagination and attention of the Internet (read: single young male) audience.
I would have given the actors some credit since the dialogue was so terrible, but it turns out that the whole thing was improvised. For the record, there's a very good reason to script out a movie ahead of time, and this series is a great demonstration of that reason. The premise was designed by a group of web nerds who have probably never actually spoken to a girl in real life, let alone shared a bed with one. As a result, we never for a second actually buy the relationships or the characters themselves, no matter how convincing the actors are. Since the premise was set up ahead of times, these actors don't get to play to their strengths as improvisors, and the film suffers as a result.
Ultimately, Soup of the Day is an indication that we're not ready to move into this new world. The distribution channels are set up, the filming technology is cheap enough, and the public is waiting to download. All we need now is some quality content that will pull us away from films that were actually conceived and produced as films.
For all of its flaws as entertainment, Soup of the Day has arrived on a quality DVD. It's presented in anamorphic widescreen, pulled from the digital transfer. The color transfer is fantastic, and there are no flaws to be seen. The sound is solid too, in the form of a well-mixed stereo track. The cover promises over three hours of special features, but it's somewhat misleading. Since the original webisodes are included, it means that the exact same content is on both discs. There are a bevy of other special features on the first disc, including a commentary from the filmmakers. They talk as though they have created something wonderful, and I feel a bit sorry for them. I can't imagine being this enthusiastic about Soup of the Day, even if I was getting money from it. There are also interviews, production featurettes, deleted scenes, bloopers, and in-character interviews. None are particularly special, despite the constant reminders of how amazing the film and pr ocess were.
Let's face it, we already have a surplus of gung-ho male sex comedies made by filmmakers, and we don't need a new industry horning in on the action. The Internet shows great potential for budding filmmakers, but if they want to show the world that they deserve a chance, they need to offer something genuinely new and interesting. I do understand what the creators of this series were trying to accomplish, but it never comes together in the way they should. Maybe I'm expecting too much, considering it's an experiment with improvised performances. Improv really only works live, though, and it rarely holds up to multiple viewings. On the DVD format, it's a bit of a disaster.
Soup of the Day is guilty, whether you watch it on your television or your monitor.
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