The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Miramax - 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 95 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Audio Format(s): English 5.1 uncompressed PCM, English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Dennis Quiad, Thomas Haden Church, Ellen Page, Sarah Jessica Parker
Directed by: Noam Murro
Music by: Nuno Bettencourt
Written by: Mark Jude Poirier
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: August 12, 2008
"Sometimes the smartest people have the most to learn"
From the producers of Sideways - get to know a loveable yet dysfunctional family everyone can relate to in this lighthearted comedy that's brighter and sharper yet on Blu-ray. When Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid) - a widowed and self absorbed professor - falls for his attractive student (Sex And The City's Jessica Parker), his all too predictable life suddenly turns sunny side up. That is until his freeloading brother (Thomas Haden Church) and his sharp tongued overachieving daughter (Juno's Ellen Page) speak up, making chaos the word of the day.
I saw the trailer for this film and had high hopes going into this review. I am a big fan of Thomas Haden Church and I have yet to see Dennis Quaid in a role that I didn't like. The icing on the cake was the inclusion of Ellen Page who I think is loaded with potential as an up and comer in Hollywood. I think that the cast genuinely like one another and that filtered through into their performances. Dennis Quiad played the very dry, snobbish, and self absorbed Professor Wetherhold who has disdain for practically all those around him to near perfection. The sole exception to the professor's haughtiness is his 17 year old daughter Vanessa (Page), who probably looked at the world with more contempt then him. Prof. Wetherhold's wife died and left the two of them to figure out how to cope with life. Enter Chuck (Haden Church) Wetherhold the professor's down on his luck, dead beat adopted brother. He comes looking for a handout from the professor and is promptly turned down. In the mean time the professor suffers a seizure and ends up in the emergency room where he is treated by Dr. Janet Hartigan (Parker) who incidentally is one of his former students. She releases him but advises that he is not permitted to drive for six months. This presents the need for a chauffeur and an opportunity for Chuck to be of some use. The story has a few things going on that keep interest high. Vanessa's brother James is attending college at the same school his father teaches at and is probably the most normal of the three. His relationship with his father is not the best and he finds his sister to be annoying (who doesnt ?). He begins dating one of his father's students who also happens to be on a committee with the professor. Vanessa has taken on a bit of the mother/wife role and assumes responsibility for the running of the house. The professor finds out that Dr. Hartigan had a bit of a crush on him when she was his student and decides to ask her out on a date. Lastly, Vanessa and Chuck spend a great deal of time together and she develops a crush on him.
All of this leads the story down various paths that eventually collide. I really enjoyed this film and thought that it featured excellent chemistry between the characters. Haden Church is priceless and provides the majority of the outwardly funny moments. Quaid and Parker shared a few scenes that were memorable as well. Ellen Page nailed the overachieving, outspoken, interfering, needy and loving daughter Vanessa. The film ran for 95 minutes and I think that I liked all of them.
The rating is for language, brief teen drug and alcohol use, brief nudity and some sexuality.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Smart people comes to Blu-ray disc from Miramax/Disney featuring 1080p AVC encoded video with an average bitrate of 25 mbps and lossless uncompressed 5.1 channel PCM audio that has a constant bitrate of 6.9 mbps.
The video presentation was quite good and offered nicely detailed images with sharp resolution and clear dimensional perspective. Sharpness was inconsistent during certain shots however that appeared to be related to the photography rather than the encoding. The color palette didn't include bright and bolder textures but kept more to sepia, beige, tan, green, gray, and blacks. These were reproduced quite well and looked great in high definition. This film uses a lot of close up camera shots of the cast. Skin tones were on the warm side and a little reddish. They maintained enough tonal variation among the cast so that they didn't all look the same which was a plus. Visible detail within shadows and dark scenes was appreciable and blacks/contrast were above average.
The soundtrack is almost entirely dialogue driven with the music score being the only other driving element. The sound quality was excellent and provided clear and concise voice reproduction and very good front channel imaging. The surrounds were used to create more of an open feeling during exterior scenes and those in larger interior venues. They also generated some ambient background effects and reverb during the music score which created a more cohesive blend of the front and rear sound fields. This was a very appropriate sound mix that worked quite well for the source material.
The bonus content is the same package that is provided on the DVD release and features cast/crew discussing their impressions of the film, outtakes, deleted scene and an audio commentary track with Director Noam Murro and writer Mark Jude Poirier. All of the bonus supplements are in standard definition. There is a hidden feature thrown in but I wont divulge how to find it (its pretty simple). Enjoy.
- The Smartest people featurette
- Not so smart: Outtakes
- 9 deleted scenes
- Writer and Director audio commentary
- Easter Egg: Smart people premiere, footage from the 2008 Sundance film festival
Smart people is the type of film that uses both direct and indirect humor to lure the audience in and help them to appreciate these great characters. It does have a dramatic side that never gets too serious but does show the these people are indeed human and fallible. Disney/Miramax have brought it to Blu-ray Disc for a day and date release with DVD. This is a package that delivers solid high definition audio/video quality along with the same bonus supplements included on the DVD. For fans of genre films like this I recommend you pick this one up.
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Glad you liked it Tom. I am suprised that Dave liked it so little. He and I usually have similar tastes in movies. I will have to give him a call and see how he blew this one...hee hee (Just kidding Dave)
David Vaughn Blu-ray Reviewer / Technical Writer Sound & Vision Magazine (Print & Online)
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