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Anchor Bay presents
Good Times (1967)

"No, I don't have stage fright. You've got a bad script, and we can't do it."
- Sonny Bono

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: June 12, 2000

Stars: Sonny Bono, Cher, George Sanders
Other Stars: Lenny Weinrib
Director: William Friedkin

Manufacturer: Nimbus
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (cartoonish violence)
Run Time: 01h:31m:37s
Release Date: February 22, 2000
UPC: 013131109290
Genre: music


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C DBC D-

DVD Review

When pop music duo Sonny & Cher achieved fame in the late 1960's, Columbia Pictures assigned director William Friedkin to helm this screen vehicle for the husband-and-wife team. The self-referential plot concerns the efforts of wealthy film mogul Mordicus (George Sanders) to star Sonny & Cher in a movie using a dusty old script about a hillbilly couple and their "mountain music." They balk at the concept, and Sonny spends most of the movie complaining and envisioning himself as a Wild West sheriff, a Tarzan-esque jungle man, and a private eye in his quest to come up with a better story for their cinematic debut. Finally, they face down Mordicus' threat of legal action, refuse to make his movie and share a rousing rendition of I Got You Babe, artistic integrity intact.

Of course, this film's very existence gives lie to the "artistic integrity" around which the plot revolves. The movie was apparently shot quickly, on a low budget, and feels like an extended episode of The Monkees with less wit and style. The unnatural lighting (often too bright with double shadows visible in many scenes), recycled studio-backlot sets, and a generally unfunny script aren't helped by Sonny and Cher's remarkable inability to play themselves or lip-synch their own songs. Sonny (with a Beatle haircut and without his mustache) seems fidgety and uncomfortable, and Cher (pre-cosmetic surgery) sounds downright bored, perhaps because she's not given much to do. Director William Friedkin pulls off a few interesting shots (including a semi-psychedelic proto-music video that oddly presages the "subliminal" trailer for his later opus The Exorcist) but the production as a whole is pedestrian and the gags consistently fall flat.

The "private eye" section manages a few honest laughs, perhaps because Sonny Bono is cast so completely against type as a Mickey Spillane-style tough guy. There's a perverse pleasure in watching him shoulder his guns and mow down a café full of unsuspecting, innocent patrons, and a few of the jokes in this sequence achieve near-Police Squad quality, but the rest of the film just slogs along for ninety-two minutes and then ends abruptly. Mordicus, set up to be the villain, casually shrugs off his investment, leaving Sonny free to ignore his contractual obligations. Cher runs singing down the street with her arms stretched out "airplane" style, Sonny picks her up on his groovy motorcycle, and the film is thankfully over.

All of this begs the question of what exactly happened to Good Times. The principal participants went on to greater things—Sonny & Cher found television success as a team, Friedkin directed The French Connection a few years later, Cher became an Oscar®-winning actress and successful solo singer, and even the late Sonny Bono acquitted himself honorably in politics and in John Waters' Hairspray. My best guess is that the studio aimed to cash in quick lest its stars "cool down," rushing the movie into production with little concern for its ultimate quality. Meant to be a bit of light fluff, it doesn't even succeed on that level—it's a pop-culture curio in which no one seems to be having much fun at all.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: D

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Good Times is presented in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, with a non-anamorphic transfer. The source print has some scratchiness during the first minute or so, with minor flecking and spotting throughout, but it's generally in good shape with few seriously distracting defects. The bright, garish 1960's colors are well-handled, though black levels are on the light side, and the digital transfer is free of edge enhancement and shimmer. The film itself occasionally has a "harsh" look due to poor lighting, but the DVD does a good job with this 30-year-old, cheaply made, unrestored film.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: Anchor Bay preserves the original monophonic soundtrack of Good Times, mastered in 2-channel Dolby Surround and decoded to play through the center speaker. The digital transfer seems solid enough, but the track hasn't aged well—significant hiss and echo in the dialogue is relieved only by the studio-recorded pop music numbers, bass is almost non-existent, and the film's volume varies significantly from scene to scene. The film's score was composed and conducted by Sonny Bono and is surprisingly good, but every jarring, out-of-tune nuance comes through when he opens his mouth to sing. Cher's silky vocals sound a lot better, but this is a disappointing mix for a "music movie." These faults lie with the source, obviously, but the audio could have been cleaned up a bit for this DVD release.

Audio Transfer Grade: C

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Good Times has no real extras—menus are silent and static, with still-image chapter selection menus. While Cher and William Friedkin were probably not anxious to discuss this effort for a commentary track, without so much as a trailer for context the DVD is frustratingly short on clues as to why or how this movie got made in the first place. Even a mediocre film deserves SOME documentation, and this DVD disappoints in that department.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

Good Times is semi-interesting as a period piece, with wonderfully obnoxious fashions and colors circa 1967, but it's not very entertaining otherwise, and Sonny & Cher fans would be better off hunting down episodes of their TV series. Anchor Bay's DVD transfer is solid given the source, but the absence of supplements and low quality of the film itself make this disc a "curiosity rental" only.

 


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