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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Pickle (1993)

"A flying pickle...what have I done?"
- Harry Stone (Danny Aiello)

Review By: Jeff Rosado   
Published: November 23, 2004

Stars: Danny Aiello, Dyan Cannon, Chris Penn, Ally Sheedy
Other Stars: Litle Richard, Shelly Winters, Jerry Stiller, Rebecca Miller, Clotilde Courau, Jodie Long, Stephen Tobolowsky, Caroline Aaron, Linda Carlson, Spalding Gray, Fyvush Finkle, Jill Mazursky, Betsy Mazursky, Donald Trump
Director: Paul Mazursky

MPAA Rating: R for language, partial nudity, pickle gore
Run Time: 01h:42m:47s
Release Date: November 16, 2004
UPC: 043396076495
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B C+A-B B

DVD Review

1993's The Pickle marked another rare foray into comedy for Paul Mazursky and his first such attempt since the hilariously funny Down and Out in Beverly Hills. In spite of intermittent stretches of tedium, this gentle Hollywood satire is a likable, though slightly overambitious character study covering two days in the life of a noted director attempting to come out of a creative skid.

Harry Stone (Danny Aiello) was once in the same league as Scorsese, Spielberg, and that other guy named Stone, Oliver. But in the clout-crazy atmosphere of cinema, all it takes is one box office setback to derail a cinematic auteur, and Harry has been cursed with three consecutive bombs. Looking to restore his luster, he accepts a gig directing a low-budget horror film called "The Pickle", which entails the adventures of some teenage kids who create a flying vegetable that... Well, like Harry Stone, I can't really bring myself to talk about it anymore or I'll hurl.

No amount of encouragement, whether dispersed by his agent (Jerry Stiller) or much younger girlfriend (Clotilde Courau), can help Harry from feeling like a sellout. Prior to an advance screening, he attempts to rid his mind of the gut-wrenching memories of working on this piece of crap, while simultaneously attempting to reconnect with his son, estranged daughter and always supportive Mom (Shelly Winters). Along the way, he winds up in his old neighborhood wondering where the road went wrong (get those artsy black-and-white flashbacks ready!). Let's see: losing one's self in the past, trying to remain cool prior to a high pressure test screening without much success, unleashing angst on your lady—a good recipe for bad things, which looks to be the case as Stone collapses just 24 hours before the lights go down.

Though nowhere close to classic film and television satires like The Player, Network and The Big Picture), The Pickle does contain its share of funny moments, mainly during its movie within a movie, which showcases the hilariously bad sci-fi flick, played broadly by many familiar faces from the early 1990s in surprise cameos. Besides, you can't dislike a spoof where the emancipator of rock and roll is the leader of our country (Little Richard!) in a relocated White House (Cleveland!) laughing away problems and bursting into song at the sign of a frown (Good Golly Miss Molly!).

Given Mazursky's expertise in drama, it's surprising that much of the more serious material falls flat, save for some wonderful scenes pairing Aiello and Winters (who has the aged, doting mother routine down pat) along with beautifully staged, atmospheric flashback sequences, which are so entertaining, one almost wishes the director could have turned his childhood days into a feature-length effort. Additionally, for a film falling into the "bite the hand that feeds" territory, Pickle nicks more than it chews; it's just not quite dark and sarcastic enough for my taste. Ironically, in a scary twist toward the end of the final reel that threatened to deliver a potentially black coda, I'm thinking, "No! No!"

Making the inconsistencies a little easier to bear are brief but memorable supporting roles from Dyan Cannon as Stone's first wife; Jerry Stiller; character actress Caroline Aaron, on screen way too briefly as Harry's put-upon publicist; and Linda Carlson, in a hilarious bit as a overly devoted fan wanting to bear more than her soul to her idol.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: A very nice, wonderfully vibrant catalog item that maintains its pristine crispness in both the color and black-and-white sequences throughout. Surprising, given this film's very small (but loyal) cult audience.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Michael Legrand's piano-based scoring nicely separated in the fronts is about the only noteworthy attribute in a rather typical, low-key comedy film audio track. Dialogue is solid and the panning effects from speaker to speaker are well executed.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Seinfeld, Easy Rider, Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Paul Mazursky
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Tales Of The Pickle Featurette
Extras Review: Those not expecting to find much on a Columbia reissue are in for a surprise. Not only is there an acceptable commentary track with director Mazursky, Tales of The Pickle features him yet again in an extended featurette compiled from a sit-down interview in his Hollywood office, and excerpts from an Inside the Actor's Studio flavored appearance at Los Angeles' Lee Strasberg Theater.

Though the director tends to fall into the trap of playing narrator from time to time, Mazursky's easygoing, likeable personality overcomes such flaws to cover a good range of stories, including his original choice for the role of Harry Stone, advantages of filming in the big Apple, and extolling the virtues of Donald Trump's Plaza Hotel for location filming (the Donald also has a quick cameo in the early going, which allows you to see the historic roots of The Apprentice, tsk, tsk). But for a much tighter, much shorter, and more entertaining overview, Tales does a commendable job of covering all the bases with the added advantage of Mazursky's two hilarity-filled set stories on his experiences with old friend, Shelly Winters.

Three trailers for other choice DVDs in Columbia's back catalog (including an extended look at the highly anticipated first multi-season debut of Seinfeld) conclude the bonuses.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

If it's one of those days where rain thwarts your plans, there's nothing around the house to take care of and you just have to have something to watch, The Pickle should satisfy your Hollywood hunger pains. However, patient viewers are more apt to forgive its rough spots, so if you have a low tolerance for lulls and such, you may want to think twice, even as a rental.

 


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