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Case Number 00347

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The Suburbans

Sony // 1999 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // February 28th, 2000

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All Rise...

The Charge

Never before has a girl done so much with so little.

Opening Statement

Take one part That Thing You Do, one part This is Spinal Tap, 2 parts Jennifer Love Hewitt's breasts, one part funny, and a dozen parts awkward moments and you have the formula mix for The Suburbans. Actually the mix would have more parts of Hewitt's breasts, but saying more than two parts wouldn't have made sense. Moving on from the success of I Know What Your Breasts Did Last Summer and I Still Know What Your Breasts Did Last Summer she almost makes this film work. Co-writer/director/actor Donal Lardner Ward comes up with a sometimes interesting take on a one hit wonder band from the '80s staging a comeback and manages to write the script so that Hewitt is hot for him. Good work if you can get it. Another very good transfer and soundtrack from Columbia, but alas on a film that didn't deserve DVD.

The Evidence

There are some funny moments in the picture. Making fun of '80s rock band hairstyles, the scene where the band isn't allowed into their own release party, and a few others, notably a couple cameos by Ben and Jerry Stiller as record executives are all good for a laugh. Perhaps if the movie had been a drama then some of the romantic interests, such as between Ward and "Judging Amy"'s Amy Brenneman might have worked. Writer Tony Guma, who also starred in the film, tells me that the romantic angles could have worked much better had the film been cut differently. I believe him.

Certainly Jennifer Love Hewitt is very attractive, and now that she's 21 I don't have to feel like a dirty old man to say so. Her hottest scenes (no nudity) are both shown in the trailer though, so buying the movie for them is sort of redundant.

The disc itself certainly fits on the positive side. The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is outstanding. Bright colors without bleeding, no pixelation or edge enhancement issues, and only a little bit of grain keep this from being perfect.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is very good as well. For a film that doesn't call for a lot of panning or such, the surrounds get plenty to do, and the music score brings out the best, giving a wide and spacious sound. The dialogue was set just a hair too low to be understood over the music, so I ended up boosting my center channel a few decibels which took care of that.

The extra content is a bit slight, but for this title I'm not complaining. Cast bios and trailers for The Suburbans, Can't Hardly Wait, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (I liked the above version of the titles better) are what you get.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Well, lets start with the plot. A one hit wonder band from the early '80s does an impromptu gig at the wedding of one of the members in 1999. They have all become very suburban type people in the intervening years. Jennifer Love Hewitt plays a girl who was an obsessive fan of the band and now is a record executive in a position to get her favorite band some new life. She offers them a chance at a music video and pay per view reunion show, along with the hype and glitz. Too bad the band barely remembers how to play; when they set up in the garage the drummer needs to be told the drums go in the back. This setup actually shows promise, and has flashes where it isn't bad. But the film also tries to be both a romantic comedy and drama at the same time as well. As a result nothing works. Scenes fall apart before they're finished. And in between the decent scenes are plenty that just seem awkwardly placed. There are some decent performances, but that has to be qualified with "for what they are given." Which isn't much. The film needed a new director, leaving Ward with the acting part, which frankly wasn't that great. "Saturday Night Live"'s Will Ferrell, The Long Kiss Goodnight's Craig Bierko, and Tony Guma were much better, as was Miss Hewitt. The biggest surprise is that someone paid to get this made. It didn't even make a blip at the box office and is trying to get some life on DVD. I wish it luck.

The dialogue was actually pretty good, but the editing was horrible. After learning more about this picture, it seems to me that the editing process so changed the film from its original intent that it is the main cause of scenes not making sense and story breaking down. Too many cooks spoil the dish, and the wrong cook can spoil it all by himself.

Closing Statement

Don't let the pic of Jennifer Love Hewitt on the cover, or the quick scenes of her in the trailer make you think this is worth buying. If you must give it a gander, rent it. But I'd have to say give it a pass completely, unless you actually like the film and want to own it, in which case Columbia's technical excellence makes this worthwhile.

The Verdict

Jennifer Love Hewitt can get better films, so I release her to go find one. The director is sentenced to obscurity. Columbia as usual gets high marks, except perhaps for releasing this one in this state at all.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 96
Audio: 85
Extras: 65
Acting: 70
Story: 30
Judgment: 69

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• English
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Bad
• Drama

Distinguishing Marks

• Trailers
• Cast and Crew Bios

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