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Case Number 00897

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Wirey Spindell

WinStar // 2000 // 101 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // December 4th, 2000

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All Rise...

The Charge

He's having more second thoughts than he's had second dates.

Opening Statement

Eric Schaeffer, the independent director of such films as If Lucy Fell and My Life's In Turnaround, comes up with a new comic fable about one man's search to keep his life and love from falling apart. Schaeffer stars in Wirey Spindell, which has been released by Winstar on DVD. Padded with a few extras, this strange sounding title is may indeed be the "Punk rock [version of] Annie Hall" (at least that's what Chris Gore from Film Threat Magazine thinks). Here's the lowdown on Mr. Spindell.

Facts of the Case

Wirey Spindell (director/writer Schaeffer) is getting married in nine days. Most men would be thrilled, but not Wirey. See, he's got a few problems, one of which includes "being a man," and the other being that he wants to "f**k every good-looking redhead that he sees" (his words, not mine). See, whenever Wirey becomes good friends with and then falls in love with a woman, he has little interest in her sexually. He's trying to figure out what went wrong in his life, and how he can rectify this problem.

Through a series of flashbacks we get to meet Wirey growing up. Starting as a baby (his first memory being when he "tried to perform cunnilingus on an electrical outlet and was thrown across the room") all the way up to his approaching marriage, we get to see Wirey at his best and worst. As a child, Wirey had a mother who seemed not to love him, a father who had drugs and beer lying around (which Wirey quickly delved into), and enough sexual promiscuity to make Divine Brown blush. He was also a star basketball player and a suave ladies' man.

Intercut between the flashbacks are Wirey's interactions with his bride-to-be, Tabitha (Callie Thorne), who is also having second thoughts about the wedding (mainly due to the way Wirey is acting). Will these two lovebirds work things out, or is Wirey doomed to spend his life wandering the earth alone, fantasizing about redheads?

The Evidence

Wirey Spindell was a nice little surprise. I popped this movie in without high hopes of it being a great (or even semi-good) film. It started out slow for about the first 10 minutes, but quickly picked up steam. Wirey Spindell becomes a film that, as you watch it, starts to get better and better. The character of Wirey Spindell is not extremely likable at first. He seems to be self-centered and irritating at best. But as the movie continues, something strange happens…you begin to like Wirey more. Now, I know it's not strange for a character to grown on you as you watch a film. What is strange is the way Wirey grows on you through flashbacks (played by other actors, obviously). We get to see Wirey at the age of seven when he starts to find out about sex (I wasn't even potty trained at that age and this kid's already starting to learn about sex?!?! I needed a better PR person when I was a kid!), drinking, and how generally cruel the world can be (when Wirey moves to a new school, the kids pick on him because the back of his vest has a sewn on sun that his grandmother made). Poor Wirey can't seem to catch a break.

As he grows up, things happen to him that shape his life and outlook. He starts to fool around a lot with different women (at one point making out in a cab with a black transvestite runway model), starts using heavy drugs (he has more white stuff in him than the Pillsbury Dough Boy), and becomes a heavy drinker. We start to see why Wirey is relatively messed up. As played by Eric Mabius, Wirey at around age 25 is a sad, unproductive guy who is in need of a little redemption and nurturing (and in one of the more bizarre scenes, we're shown that he's got a guardian angel in the form of an old bag lady who looks like she's starving and lives in Calcutta).

I identified with Wirey when he was a child (although NOT in all the scenes…believe me, if you see it you'll know what I'm talking about). At one point Wirey at age eight unwraps and eats a snack equivalent to a Hostess Ho-Ho, slowly eating the chocolate shell frosting first, then biting the cake to get to the frosting. It's been a long time since I've found a moment in a movie where I said, "Wow, that person must have had the exact same childhood moment as I did!" But, I digress. Identifying with Wirey didn't just mean watching him eat snack cakes, but also his interaction with women. Most of us (man OR woman) can probably relate to the odd fumblings and feelings we've had with the opposite sex. Schaeffer has a sharp eye for these details, which makes Wirey Spindell all the more endearing (although I can't say I can even remotely relate with having a French childhood friend who'd let me pee on him like Wirey did).

Most of the performances in Wirey Spindell work well because the material is written with a nice flair for dialogue. Although there were some instances where I was unsure if this is how real people communicate, most of the speech rang true with funny comedic moments. Schaeffer as present day Wirey is funny, sometimes acting like a cross between Woody Allen and Enrico Colantoni (Elliot from the television show "Just Shoot Me"). He becomes a more likable figure in the film (although with many traits I wouldn't want in a friend or a mate).

Wirey Spindell is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, with a 5.1 audio mix. The picture looked passable, though there was much grain present, with a few scratches showing up as well. A small bit of digital artifacting is detectable as well, but nothing to hinder your enjoyment of the movie. Blacks were generally solid and colors very bright, showing no signs of bleeding. The audio mix of 5.1 sounds okay; however there were times when I strained to hear a few spots of dialogue. There is a limited amount of effects as this is mostly a conversation/music driven film. Both audio and video are fine, but certainly nothing to write home about.

Supplemental material consists of some filmographies on the actors, a weblink page, and a commentary track with director/actor/writer Schaeffer and score composer Amanda Kravat. Schaffer is a pretty funny guy to listen to. He talks about his previous acting experiences ("I was a featured extra in a Night Ranger video…not 'Sister Christian,' like the second hit. I wore a pink Snoopy T-shirt and was in the background of every shot.") and banters with composer Kravat. This is one of the more fun DVD commentaries to listen to, as both Schaffer and Kravat are animated and seem to really enjoy the work they did on the film. If we're (apparently) allowed only one meaty extra for this disc, thank goodness it's this commentary track, as it's well worth the watch/listen.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Though Wirey Spindell is a good film, there were moments that didn't ring true. When Wirey slips in the bathtub because of baby oil put down by Amanda, he gets up, goes to he couch and flings her off by pulling the blanket out from under her. I didn't really believe that people would behave like this and then calmly talk things out right afterwards. There were many instances where I thought the character of Wirey was a bit mean or selfish (TOO mean and selfish for the film, anyways). I realize that I must "suspend" reality as this is a movie…I still didn't think that excused some of the inconsistencies in the characters.

The transfer itself could have been much cleaner, with the audio portion following right behind. For a film that is entertaining and even might even beg repeat viewings, Winstar certainly did only a mediocre job on the DVD. Though the commentary track is a fun extra, it would have been nice to see a few more things slapped on this disc. Then again, this isn't even close to being some major film studio, so they probably don't have a gazillion dollars to spend on supplements. Oh well, you take what you can.

Closing Statement

A nice surprise of a film with a sharp script and entertaining performances. Though I wouldn't recommend as an impulse purchase (especially if you haven't seen it), I would say rent it and see what you think. Wirey Spindell might be a DVD that your collection could benefit from.

The Verdict

Free to go with a dirty record (video and audio). Let's hope Wirey Spindell the DVD does better with audiences than Wirey Spindell the character does with relationships. Court dismissed!

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 80
Extras: 65
Acting: 90
Story: 91
Judgment: 81

Perp Profile

Studio: WinStar
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• None
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Comedy
• Drama

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary Track
• Filmographies
• Theatrical Trailer
• Production Credits


• IMDb

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