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Image Entertainment presents
Thumb Wars: The Phantom Cuticle (1999)

"Do not underestimate the power of The Thumb."
- Black Helmet Man (Mark DeCarlo)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: October 15, 2001

Stars: Steve Oedekerk, Andrea Fears, Ross Schaefer
Other Stars: Rob Paulsen, Paul Greenberg, Mark DeCarlo
Director: Steve Oedekerk

Manufacturer: Studio Canal
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (brief, mild adult humor)
Run Time: 00h:28m:58s
Release Date: October 16, 2001
UPC: 014381036022
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+B+B+ B+

DVD Review

The fan base of the Star Wars universe are an extremely loyal and faithful bunch, almost to the point of becoming a ravenous religious order. Following that logic, it would seem that anything that would mock the holy shrine of Lucasfilms would be not only a sacrilege, but a crime against nature, as well. In 1999 director-writer Steve Oedekerk (Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls) put together a project that begged to challenge all that the fans of The Force hold sacred: a Star Wars parody featuring thumbs as the actors.

Oedekerk, who wrote the screenplay for such mainstream fare as Patch Adams and Eddie Murphy's The Nutty Professor, took the basic plot of the original Star Wars, and condensed the story to a half-hour film. That concept alone would probably make most hard core fans wince. His script is full of sharp, clever barbs that mock the holy Stars Wars empire with a goofy, sophomoric glee. The bizarre decision to use thumbs as the primary cast, which is very funny at first, actually becomes "normal" by the film's end. Oedekerk's script is genuinely funny, and probably would have worked as well even without the thumbs.

Created in Oedekerk's own Thumbation, the visual technique to bring the thumbs to life is both humorous and disturbing. Human eyes and mouths are superimposed onto fully costumed thumbs, who proceed to get into all sorts of wicked comedic situations that perfectly lampoon the original film. No doubt shot on a small budget, the sets are surprisingly accurate send-ups of those in Star Wars, and the general look of the film is far more elaborate than I was expecting. Some of the CG effects actually look better here than in some of the recent feature films I've seen.

I won't ruin Oedekerk's clever script by revealing all the jokes, because there are some very good ones in Thumb Wars: The Phantom Cuticle. The basic joke is to insert a lot of thumb references and to mercilessly mock Star Wars. The ships look like fingers, and the familiar characters are here, all with funny names (Loke Groundrunner, Princess Bunhead, Black Helmet Man), and of course the battles against the evil Thumbpire by the Thumbellion. You get the idea, right? It should be noted that there are no references to The Phantom Menace, despite the title.

Thumb Wars: The Phantom Cuticle may sound incredibly juvenile, and I guess I can't argue with you on that point. But it is executed very well, and the finished product had me laughing out loud more than a few times. There are only a handful of relatively mild, less than G-rated moments (a brief attempt to look up the skirt of a female hologram, a veiled reference to droid sex, a character that wants another to "touch tongues"), which make this unrated title basically suitable for just about everyone.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Image has come through with a surprisingly sharp 1.33:1 image transfer for Oedekerk's epic. Colors are rich and vibrant, and while the issue of accurate flesh tones may be a bit difficult to comment on, the thumbs look natural. There are no noticeable nicks or blemishes on this transfer, and any other type of degrading artifacts are absent, as well. The overall transfer here is exceptionally bright and clean. Very nice.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: For a feature that runs less than thirty minutes, Image has offered up a pair of solid audio tracks, in Dolby Digital 5.1 and a 2.0 surround mix. The original 2.0 mix comes across slightly flat in comparison to the Image remastered 5.1 track, not surprisingly. Rear channel cues are used sparingly, but the 5.1 audio does manage to add a little more dynamic range to the Thumb Wars score. The clever character dialogue comes across clean and clear throughout. No complaints here.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Thumbtanic, The Blair Thumb
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Steve Oedekerk, Paul Marshal
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Storyboard
  2. Cinnabon Classic cinnamon roll coupon
Extras Review: Image has released this disc with a fair amount of bonus material:

Director-writer Steve Oedekerk and producer Paul Marshal provide a scene-specific commentary track that never truly veers into offering up any real insights into the production. The two basically dish out self-deprecating humor about some of the film's flaws, and while the commentary doesn't provide too much valuable info, it does have more than a few genuine laughs.

Gabba The Butt Video Interview (2m:37s)
This surreal featurette is an interview with the "real" Gabba The Butt, who discusses his role in Thumb Wars, his other film roles, all with a bizarre fey British accent. Very strange, but funny.

In addition to a full-frame trailer for Thumb Wars: The Phantom Cuticle, there are also hilarious previews for Thumbtanic and The Blair Thumb. More thumb jokes. More laughs.

Image completes the supplements with a few production storyboards, character "Thumbographies," and 12 chapter stops. An added bonus is a coupon for a free Cinnabon Classic cinnamon roll (expires 3/2002). That's a pretty funny joke because Princess Bunhead's "hair" is actually made from cinnamon rolls.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Steve Oedekerk's Thumb Wars: The Phantom Cuticle is a refreshing, original parody of the holy Star Wars empire. It is consistently funny, and full of clever and immature jokes. Image has issued this beautiful looking disc with a low, low MSRP, making it a required purchase for all of you that revere the world created by George Lucas. If you can take a joke, that is.


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