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A&E Home Video presents
"Penn and Teller have been living and working in the Las Vegas desert for years. There's nothing but sand, cactus, scorpions and bad math. We are hot dog desert experts. So what have decided to do? An underwater magic show. Magic needs a good head-soaking, and we're just the salty dogs to do it."
DVD ReviewThey are unofficially known as the bad boys of magic, and by their own admission they're "a couple of eccentric guys who have learned to do a few cool things." The Penn and Teller brand of twisted magic is a far cry from the slick high drama act of David Copperfield, and their penchant for giving away trade secrets has just served to heighten their place as professional rogues. With the nonstop banter of the towering Penn and brilliant technical expertise of the silent Teller, the duo are rarely—if ever—predictable and they take great pleasure in going in unconventional directions.
That's why it was a little disappointing to watch this DVD release of their November 2005 television special , Off the Deep End, which was originally broadcast as a two-hour special smack dab in the Sunday night family hour slot, because it made them look a little out of their element, even with an interesting premise of P&T attempting to perform the majority of their magic underwater at a Caribbean resort, including the show-ending vanish of submarine.
The thing is it's an oddly softened and elongated presentation, with Penn's usual vitriolic mile-a-minute raps neutered to become mostly corny comic voiceover narration that sometimes seem out of character. And I'm still mildly reeling from the presence of teen hearthrob guest star Aaron Carter in the world of P&T. Then there's the time-filling stuff to stretch the show to two hours (only 88 minutes on DVD), anchored by Daran Norris' syrupy announcing, the ridiculously long lead-ins to commercials that preview what's coming up and effectively killing any sense of surprise, and a repetitive Caribbean-themed music bed that ranks up there with It's a Small World on the annoy-o-meter.
When they're doing their thing, it does become the hip coolness that is Penn and Teller, but there is so much in-between fluff that it takes a long time to get to the good stuff. Teller's presentation of the classic Metamorphosis—done entirely underwater—is a remarkable achievement, and when they reveal how it was done the challenge and skill involved should become clear to even magic novices. And true to form, many of their tricks are revealed, including a "feed Teller to the sharks" straight-jacket escape, a bit involving some hungry dolphins and a valuable ring, and even the big vanishing submarine finale (though there is some question as to whether what's shown as the "secret" is just a CG gag itself).
Having seem them live a number of times over the years, there was a strange and just plain wrong ebb and flow to this program, so much so that early on my 14-year-old daughter (a seasoned P&T fan and faithful Bulls***! viewer) said "This isn't the Penn and Teller I know." In part, I blame the need to have stretched this to two hours, because there is so much nothing happening in between that the stalling is likely to make you fidget right out of your skin. The magic is quirky and fun, and there's little disputing Penn's ability to talk like a juiced-up carnival barker. It's just that the confines of family hour network television blunts the edge of their act.
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: The color reproduction on this 1.33:1 transfer (the same as originally broadcast) are especially bold and bright, especially the frequent shots of the Caribbean water, in which the blues look particularly brilliant. There is a wee bit of grain noticeable in spots, but overall the transfer is sharp and very well defined.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: No complaints on the 2.0 stereo track, a clean, run-of-the-mill presentation that delivers clear voice quality from the constantly chattering Penn, while the recurrent "Caribbean" theme music loop—stunningly jive as it is—sounds full-bodied.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
3 Deleted Scenes
Extras Review: Extras are a little skimpy, consisting of two deleted scenes and an extended version of Teller's underwater sleight of hand section. The two chopped bits feature the magic of Turning Ocean Water Into Drinking Water (03m:34s)—a nice variation on a classic—and the short but funny Moving Tan Line (01m:10s), in which Penn moves his wrist tan line, from his watch, up his arm. It's a simple but effective gag, but this one does feature Penn screaming "she licked my tan line!" The Extended Underwater Scene (06m:22s) that leads up to Teller's submerged act opens with a DVD-specific narration from Penn, prompting viewers to watch the disc first, though the extra footage here is mostly crew members setting up the mountains of equipment needed for the scene.
A brief Penn and Teller bio is included, and the disc is cut into 12 chapters.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsThis is a moderately toned-down version of Penn and Teller, originally broadcast as a two-hour television special in the family-hour slot. All of the dreadful stretch-it-out-to-fill-time annoyances are here, such as long "coming up next" scenes prior to the breaks that underline the repetition of what we're going to see, which only dilutes the end product.
The magic, however, is fun-to-watch P&T cleverness, Penn's banter is G-rated but still fairly humorous, and he still manages to lob a couple of vaguely suggestive one-liners across the bow. The premise, doing the magic underwater, is probably more challenging than most people realize, making some of Teller's submerged sleights all that much more impressive if you're into that kind of thing.
The presentation is hopelessly padded and a little stilted in spots, so this isn't P&T's strongest outing. Basically an 88-minute disc that could have been one tight hour.
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