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HBO presents
Disappearing Acts (2000)

"I see. So dollars and degrees, that means more to you than what we got. Right?"
- Franklin (Wesley Snipes)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: August 03, 2001

Stars: Wesley Snipes, Sanaa Lathan
Other Stars: John Amos, CCH Pounder, Michael Imperiou
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood

MPAA Rating: R for sexuality and language
Run Time: 01:55m:25s
Release Date: June 19, 2001
UPC: 026359177729
Genre: romance

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Disappearing Acts is another in a long line of relationship films that, while touching on easily identifiable elements, unfortunately fails to reach any new territory, and in doing so ends up being nothing more than a rehash of familiar material with a new set of characters. As with any genre film, Disappearing Acts plays by the rules and serves up the expected ups and downs. Based on the novel by best-selling author Terry McMillan (Waiting To Exhale, How Stella Got Her Groove Back), HBO Films dished up this version in 2000, and while not an incredibly memorable film, it does live up to its expectations as the story of two people falling in love.

Disappearing Acts is about Franklin Swift (Wesley Snipes), a construction worker and Zora Banks (Sanaa Lathan from Love And Basketball), a struggling singer, and tracks their volatile relationship and all of the various inevitable conflicts that arise. The two meet when Zora moves into a renovated brownstone in Brooklyn that Franklin had worked on, and it is obvious from their first meeting that there is some sexual chemistry brewing just under the surface, despite their differences. Whether you want to buy the speed at which their relationship develops is up to you, but it is clear that Zora and Franklin need each other.

Neither Zora or Franklin are without their faults, and this makes them both much more believable as individuals. As expected in this type of tale, both have things they have kept hidden from the other, which when revealed, serve as fodder for conflict. As the story progresses, with Zora working to get a recording demo, and Franklin working to get his contractors' license, emotions see-saw back and forth as Love And Basketball director Gina Prince-Bythewood repeatedly shuttles our alliances between the two. Zora and Franklin each take turns throughout the film exhibiting less than pleasant behaviors and it does become a little tiresome after awhile. I appreciate the realistic qualities of the two leads, but the technique used to tell the story in Disappearing Acts seemed somewhat heavy-handed at times, as manipulative as the numerous songs on the soundtrack that pop up with relevant lyrics to hammer home the point at pivotal moments.

It would be unfair to label Disappearing Acts a 'black' film, just as it would be to label When Harry Met Sally a 'white' film. The racial background of the characters in the film is completely irrelevant, and it is the story of two people working to make a relationship work that is the centerpiece. The struggles of two people falling in love should be compelling enough, and it's unfortunate when a film gets pigeon-holed as being 'black' or 'white'.

As expected, since this was made for HBO, Disappearing Acts features strong language and some nudity. This isn't a sanitized, network TV feature, and it's refreshing to hear characters talk and act like 'real' people. Snipes shows once again that he can be a great actor when he wants to, and Lathan also does a good job with the material given, it's just that the twists and turns don't seem all that startling. This type of story has been done before, and Disappearing Acts doesn't offer anything new.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: A solid 1.33:1 full-frame transfer. Looks as good as a made-for-cable movie should. No significant image issues. No flecks, no nicks or otherwise. Fleshtones are consistent throughout, though the palette for some of the outdoor scenes appears muted. Not much to rah-rah about either way.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The English 2.0 Dolby Surround mix is much better than average. There are abundant rear channel effects, primarily music and ambient sounds, really enhance the overall experience. The use of music in Disappearing Acts, though often manipulative, sounds excellent via the 2.0 mix, surprisingly.

A Spanish stereo track is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
3 TV Spots/Teasers
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Snapper
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The word 'extra' might be stretched a little thin in describing the content of Disappearing Acts. A standard issue, HBO self-congratulatory promo featurette on how terrific the cast was provides little insight of any value. If I have to sit through another one of these puff pieces...

In an interesting note, the DVD case proclaims the disc contains "In Character Performances from the novel Disappearing Acts by Wesley Snipes and Sanaa Lathan." This sounded intriguing, but turned out to be nothing more than quickie HBO promos, with Snipes and Lathan, in character, discussing their lives as relevant scenes from the film play.

Slim pickings in the extras department. For a film so dependent on appropriate songs, a music video or two might have been nice.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Disappearing Acts plays like a typical relationship movie. Ups. Downs. Laughter. Tears. As an HBO production, it obviously plays well on the small screen. No new ground is broken here, and though Snipes and Lathan carry the film effortlessly, it just feels like I've seen it all before.

Worth a rental if you truly like this type of film, otherwise don't bother.


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