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Image Entertainment presents
Pie in the Sky (1996)

"The world is calm. Very little traffic. Always the best time to travel."
- Charlie Dunlap (Josh Charles)

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: February 11, 2004

Stars: Josh Charles, Anne Heche, Peter Riegert, Christine Ebersole
Other Stars: Christine Lahti, John Goodman, Wil Wheaton
Director: Bryan Gordon

MPAA Rating: R for (sexual situations and brief nudity)
Run Time: 01h:33m:50s
Release Date: December 30, 2003
UPC: 014381320527
Genre: romantic comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Pie in the Sky is a rather blah romantic comedy that lacks sufficient bite, complication, and sophistication to fully engage us. Most of writer-director Bryan Gordon's film ambles along amiably enough, but the characters never face any tough dilemmas or ponder any soul-searching issues. Instead, they hit their marks and allow the predictable story to drag them through its paces, rarely mustering the sparkle or enthusiasm the genre demands.

Charlie Dunlap (Josh Charles) has spent his life worshipping at the feet of radio traffic reporters, especially the legendary Alan Davenport (John Goodman), who adds a poetic touch to his descriptions of clogged freeway arteries and fender-benders. Ever since Charlie's dad gave him his first Matchbox car, traffic has mesmerized Charlie, and he spends endless hours studying the patterns of local California expressways. Although his bickering parents (Peter Riegert and Christine Ebersole) try to steer him toward a career in middle management, Charlie longs to follow in his idol's footsteps.

Just before he departs for college, however, he runs into his old childhood friend Amy (Anne Heche), and lightning immediately strikes. A free spirit and aspiring avant-garde dancer, Amy tries to loosen up Charlie's stiff lifestyle, but he stubbornly resists. Their on-again-off-again-on-again romance resembles the fits and starts of rush hour traffic, and unless the two can find an alternate route, they may never drive off into the sunset.

Pie in the Sky boasts a formidable cast that also includes Christine Lahti (as a brazenly seductive, Mrs. Robinson-like landlord) and a grown-up Wil Wheaton, but all these fine actors merely bumble and stumble their way through Gordon's disjointed, seemingly pointless script. Watching Charlie and Amy meet, part, fall in love, break up, reunite, break up again, etc., etc., etc. seems like aimless padding, and although Charlie's obsession with traffic initially charms us, the subject's quirky nature quickly turns stale.

Charles (who made a minor splash in last summer's S.W.A.T.) and Heche make a cute couple and we root for them to resolve their differences, but the lame obstacles they confront never put the film's outcome in question. Of course, no one watches romantic comedies for the denouement (and this movie especially telegraphs its ending from the moment Charlie and Amy first lock gazes over the family dinner table), but we're supposed to enjoy the bumps in the road, and the way the hero and heroine navigate them. Not so here. The characters go round and round, but they never get anywhere.

I know what you're thinking—another traffic metaphor. Well, I get the filmmakers' point: What we all need is some guy in a chopper forever striving to ease the congestion in our high-stress lives and guide us to the open road. Sure, it's a clever idea. It's just too bad Pie in the Sky can't find a way out of its own gridlock.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Image offers up a clean, vivid widescreen anamorphic transfer, enhanced by warm, lush colors and excellent clarity. Fleshtones are accurate, contrast satisfies, and only a couple of minimal speckles dot the print.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: A subtle DD 5.1 mix sprinkles a few minor effects across the speakers, but most of the action is anchored in the front channels. Dialogue can be a little muffled at times, but is mostly clear and understandable. A few ambient details provide texture to the track, nudging it slightly above average levels.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Sunset Grill, Simple Men, Bodies, Rest & Motion
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Just a trio of trailers comprises the disc's extras.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Pie in the Sky has trouble staying airborne, thanks to its leaden script and flat direction. Even the attractive cast fails to breathe much life into this all-too-average romantic comedy. Fans of the stars and genre could probably tolerate a rental—it's just not worth slogging through heavy traffic to pick it up.


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