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Case Number 00398

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Swingers

Miramax // 1996 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Dean Roddey (Retired) // March 20th, 2000

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Swingers (Blu-ray) (published August 23rd, 2011) and Swingers: Collector's Series (published January 20th, 2003) are also available.

The Charge

Get a nightlife.

Opening Statement

Jon Favreau wrote and starred in this film about a gaggle of east coast actor wannabes who have migrated to Hollywood, only to find themselves barely scraping by and lucky to get even bit parts, like Goofy at the local theme park. To make up for this lack of success, they try to party extra hardy and have as much sex as possible. A guy has to have his priorities, right?

It's almost not worth writing this review, not that the disc isn't worthy, but because almost everyone has already seen it anyway. But, in case there is a few folks still out there who aren't hip to Swingers, here's the money, baby.

The Evidence

Mike Peters, played by Jon Favreau (Very Bad Things, Deep Impact, Rudy), is not only struggling to get his acting career underway, he's also struggling to get over his recent break up with his long time girlfriend. Never one to whom casual sex has come easily (unlike myself of course), and now six years out of practice, he finds himself unable to move either his love life or his career forward. He is living in a scruffy apartment, hosting an open mike comedy show in an obscure hole-in-the-wall venue, and is completely depressed that he's going nowhere.

To make things worse, his friends Trent Walker, played by Vince Vaughn (Clay Pigeons, To the Moon, Jurassic Park: The Lost World) and Sue, played by Patrick Van Horn (Free Enterprise, Encino Man, Ivory Tower), are complete gigolo party animals who seem able to literally think women into bed at will. They refuse to allow Mike to veg out and feel sorry for himself, and force him out to various social engagements.

Believe it or not, that's the plot. Trust me though, this film isn't about plot, it's about dialogue and the minutia of human existence and relationships. And it's fall down hilarious as well. There are scenes in this film that absolutely kill me and still have me cracking up days later. Unfortunately they are almost all "had to be there" type situations that will sound completely lame as described. So take my word for it, even if my description sounds decidedly un-funny, it's a completely hilarious flick.

Most of the characters' time is spent moving from one party to another. Being in southern California, they never share cars. No matter how many people are involved, they all end up in a synchronized driving convoy, with one person per car. They go to one party, hang out for a while, decide the place is "dead" despite the fact it's packed, and head to the next party or lounge.

Most stops are chances for Trent and Sue to practice their "Jedi mind-shit" on the babes, and Mike's chance to throw himself hopelessly on the sharpened spikes of dating failure. Sensing a possible entrée with a girl named Nikki, who seems to think she's seen him before, he tries to impress her with his completely exaggerated life story, only to have her remember his asking for an application at the Starbucks she works at. But, he does manage to get her number, only to later that night completely destroy his chances with her, in the most painfully funny scene in the whole film. At another party full of models, his one weak attempt is cut short when the acquisition target immediately demands to know what kind car he drives. His "practical shoes" style car doesn't even warrant further discussion, and he slithers away mortified.

Trent and Sue try to give Mike tips and encouragement. Their advice will probably scare women to death, but it's extremely funny if you take it in the spirit of the film. Being a movie, of course Mike does end up getting over his ex-girlfriend and finding a new love. In this case, we don't get to know much about her since this major step forward is the climax of the film. But his new love is named Lorraine, and is played by the ever lovely Heather Graham (Boogie Nights, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Lost In Space.) And she is particularly lovely in this role, so it's too bad her part wasn't more extensive.

The 1.85:1 non-anamorphic video is reasonably good for a non-anamorphic, though occasionally noisy and soft. Given that your eyes will be watering much of the time, I suppose it's no great loss. But it would have been nice to have this classic in a top notch anamorphic transfer. Hopefully some day there will be a collector's edition with better video and some extras.

The audio is also nothing to write home about. It's standard Dolby Surround and is merely adequate. Though this is certainly no Matrix, it still could have benefited from a better audio treatment. Incidentally, Swingers was written when the neo-swing craze was just getting into the mainstream. So this film also captures both the resurgence of the "Junior Lounge Lizard" types and the "Age of the Vestigial Backpack." It's full of "Big Bad Voodoo Daddy" style swing music, which is quite infectious even if you don't subscribe to goatees and spats.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The video and audio quality certainly could have been better. I think that by the time this DVD was made, it was obvious that this film was a phenomenon and deserved some attention. Sure it's a small film and a talkie and it's quite old in DVD years, but still…

And I seem to be on a roll of DVDs with nada for special features. This one just has trailers and that's it. I definitely hope we get a special edition at some point with a commentary track by Favreau and Vaughn.

Closing Statement

Other than that, I can't say much bad about it. It's one of the funniest, hippest (in a tongue in cheek way) films out there. The situations are fall over funny, the dialogue is great, the music is swingin', and the babes are beautiful but deadly.

The Verdict

Acquitted, with yet another stern admonition for lack of extras.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 83
Audio: 85
Extras: 10
Acting: 95
Story: 92
Judgment: 73

Perp Profile

Studio: Miramax
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• Spanish
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Genre:
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• Theatrical Trailer

Accomplices

• IMDb








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