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Elizabethtown on DVD

It’s always disappointing when a talented filmmaker seemingly, finally, loses his way.

Cameron Crowe has brought us many wonderful films, such as Say Anything, Fast Times at Ridgemont High (which he wrote, but didn’t direct), Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous (a film few would dare claim is not a masterpiece).

With Elizabethtown, Crowe seems to be trying to recreate the success of Jerry Maguire, by crafting a somewhat different, more mature coming of age story.

Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) works for a shoe company, and has just made a tennis shoe that, while a great achievement, flopped big time. In fact, he cost his company nearly $1 billion, and is naturally let go. Literally having reached rock-bottom, he returns home to Elizabethtown, and en route meets Claire (Kirsten Dunst), a beautiful, sickeningly positive woman who just may be what Drew needs right now.

The two hit it off, and may or may not teach each other a thing or two about life and love.

Few people can craft such a tale as well as Cameron Crowe. He writes great characters, puts them in entertaining and believable situations, and has a great sense of humor and love for rock 'n' roll that easily comes through onscreen.

Unfortunately, Elizabethtown lacks much of the wit that Crowe fans have come to expect. It's not bone dry by any means, but he almost seems to be trying too hard.

If the film were shorter, many of its problems may have dissipated. As it stands, certain scenes go on far too long, and others don’t seem to quite fit. Not to mention Susan Sarandon's character's eulogy, which is laughable, but not in the good sense.

The climax is perfectly wonderful in a Cameron Crowe-sort of way, but it comes too late in the game when we were hoping for it much sooner. Knocking ten or fifteen minutes off of the runtime would probably have made the entire film that much better.

Some, but not much, of the failures could also be directed at Bloom. A charming, handsome, moderately talented actor, he works best in ensemble pieces that don't rely on him to anchor the film himself. He was perfect as Legolas and in Pirates of the Caribbean, but here he's too pretty and not dynamic enough.

Dunst, on the other hand, is cute-as-a-button, despite the fact that her character would irritate the heck out of most normal people.

The film is a valiant attempt on Crowe's part. It tries and tries and tries and succeeds in some ways, but the whole doesn't equal the sum of the parts. We're left feeling somewhat empty and unsatisfied, even if we can't quite put our finger on it. A definitely worthy rental, but not in the same league as Jerry Maguire or Almost Famous.

Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1, the DVD presentation is pretty standard. The picture looks sharp and colors are rich, but it appears rather soft for the most part. Blacks and whites are handled very well, with flesh tones coming in perfectly.

The audio, generally, restricts itself to the front speakers, unless of course you have Crowe's great soundtrack booming, in which case it fills the room like a rock concert should. The only problem is, sometimes the music comes in too loud.

"Training Wheels" is an interesting featurette that finds a random person walking around the set with a camcorder and taping people. There's no dialogue, and it's set to a Nancy Wilson song, and at two minutes makes you wonder what the heck the point is.

"Meet the Crew" isn't as obviously pointless, but it doesn't really have anything going for it, either. It merely gives many of the crew a few seconds to smile into the camera and let us know who they are.

Finally, there are two extended scenes, which on their own are not bad, but would only have made the film longer. There's also a photo gallery and some trailers.

Elizabethtown, from Paramount Home Entertainment
123 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, Bruce McGill, Judy Greer, Jessica Biel
Produced by Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner, Cameron Crowe
Written and directed by Cameron Crowe

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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