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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Raising Victor Vargas (2002)

Victor: So, how have you been keeping the guys away from you?
Judy: (laughs) Mace!

- Victor Rasuk, Judy Marte

Review By: Robert Edwards  
Published: November 09, 2003

Stars: Victor Rasuk, Judy Marte
Other Stars: Melonie Diaz, Altagracia Guzman
Director: Peter Sollett

MPAA Rating: R for strong language
Run Time: 01h:28m:06s
Release Date: August 26, 2003
UPC: 043396017474
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- AA-B+ D

DVD Review

Teen romance, schmeen romance. As depicted in the movies, it's often unrealistic, exaggerated, and overly syrupy, bearing little or no resemblance to reality. But once in a while a teen romance that has the ring of truth happens along, and one of those is Peter Sollett's Raising Victor Vargas.

Set in the lower-class Hispanic milieu in New York City, it's the story of the titular Victor (Victor Rasuk), who is discovered just pre-flagrante delicto with someone his friends would describe as a "fat girl." Anxious to rescue his reputation, he and his best friend Harold (Kevin Rivera) approach Judy (Judy Marte) and Melonie (Melonie Diaz) at the pool. Although Judy initially rebuffs him, Victor tracks her down, and for reasons of her own, she decides that it would be good to have a boyfriend—if in name only.

Meanwhile, Victor's younger brother Nino, struggling with his budding sexuality, but not yet comfortable with girls, is getting dating advice from Victor. But that's not what Grandma (Altagracia Guzman) wants to (over)hear. Nino is her obvious favorite, and not only does she think that Victor is poisoning his mind, but also surprises him performing an embarrassing act in the bathroom, in a scene that is guaranteed to make every male in the audience squirm in recognition. Desperate to keep the family together, she takes action.

There is so much truth in this film—from the honest realization that teen romance is as much a popularity contest (who can bag the most popular and beautiful girl) as it is an expression of love, to the naturalistic depiction of a seduction scene that goes by fits and starts and involves as much teasing as awkwardness. As written by Sollett, the film flows beautifully, and there isn't a single scene that seems forced or unrealistic. Adding to the realism is the amazing acting by just about the entire cast, especially the two protagonists.

Sollett's film is a sort-of sequel to his earlier short, Five Feet High and Rising (which, like Vargas, won several international awards). Although it's his first full-length feature, he directs with a sure hand, concentrating on closeups, and the handheld camera and slightly choppy editing rhythms add to the documentary feel and realism of the movie. So forget the likes of Sixteen Candles and Here on EarthRaising Victor Vargas is the real thing.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This is a very good anamorphic transfer from a clean source print, with lots of detail. Greyscale is good, although there could have been more gradation in the darker parts of the image, and the image occasionally takes on a slightly reddish tinge.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Although the sound is in two-channel Dolby surround, there is little or no activity in the surround speakers, except for one scene set in a church where the voices and music create a deep and full soundstage. But the audio is at all times clear and precise, and you wouldn't expect more from a character-driven drama.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring All I Want, All the Real Girls, The Debut
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Printed insert with chapter listing
Extras Review: Curiously, even with the no subtitle option engaged, signs (such as a church's announcement board) are subtitled in Spanish.

And Columbia seems to be trying to keep your finger on the aspect ratio button here, since the trailer for All I Want is presented in full frame, All the Real Girls is in anamorphic widescreen, and The Debut is in nonanamorphic widescreen. Annoying!

But more annoying is the fact that Columbia has once again chosen to go the lazy route and not include any extras specific to the film.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Peter Sollett wrote and directed Raising Victor Vargas, a skilled look at teenage lust and love in New York City. Aided by an excellent cast and a good transfer, this film is highly recommended.


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