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DreamWorks presents
The Last Kiss (2006)

"I've been thinking about my life lately, and everything feels pretty planned out. There's no more surprises."
- Michael (Zach Braff)

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: January 03, 2007

Stars: Zach Braff, Jacinda Barrett, Casey Affleck, Rachel Bilson, Blythe Danner, Tom Wilkinson
Other Stars: Michael Weston, Eric Christian Olson, Marley Shelton, Harold Ramis
Director: Tony Goldwyn

MPAA Rating: R for sexuality, nudity, and language
Run Time: 01h:43m:42s
Release Date: December 26, 2006
UPC: 097363464341
Genre: drama


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

DVD Review

The dreaded age of 30 can be a scary time for pretty much anyone, but it's especially tough for people struggling to grow up. I turned 30 earlier this year, and though it was good, the doubts never completely go away. The Last Kiss depicts four male friends who are definitely not ready for adulthood's increased responsibilities. Attending a friend's happy wedding, each guy feels trepidation about their current situation. The story focuses primarily on Michael (Zach Braff)—an architect preparing to have a baby with his long-time girlfriend Jenna (Jacinda Barrett). She is caring, attractive, and obviously loves him, but Michael fails to grasp his great luck. When he meets Kim (Rachel Bilson), an energetic college student, the temptation to cheat arises. Will Michael grow up and avoid making a terrible mistake?

Unfortunately, Michael suffers from the aversion to responsibility, a malady that strikes all of his buddies. Casey Affleck's Chris struggles to connect with his girlfriend Lisa (Lauren Lee Smith), who must constantly focus on their very fat baby. He does mean well, but Chris fails to realize that he's thinking selfishly. The other two guys are either hung up on a past love or unwilling to commit to anything beyond meaningless trysts. Their characters receive less screen time and also reveal a similar unwillingness to move forward. As the story progresses, minor lessons are learned and baby steps are taken, but the guys have a long way to go. Michael faces a serious relationship crisis to snap him into reality, and this revelation might be too late.

This story was adapted by award-winning writer Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby) from the Italian film L'Ultimo Bacio, a highly regarded picture that I have not seen. This version offers a brutally realistic look at relationships that might chill audiences expecting a lighter romance. It benefits considerably from the presence of Tom Wilkinson and Blythe Danner as Jenna's parents. This longtime married couple faces their own crisis when she reveals a secret and leaves him. However, their situation is more complex and is not a simple tale of a love gone stale. The characters are a bit thin, but Wilkinson and Danner perform very well and bring considerable depth to the roles. Both can say more without a word than even solid young actors like Braff and Barrett can say with a lengthy tirade.

Driving a Prius and wearing conservative sweaters, Braff's Michael is hardly the coolest guy in any room. He's also unable to speak his mind, which might solve the dilemma before it starts. Braff has become a caricature of himself on Scrubs with his constant mugging for the camera, but he brings an understated demeanor to this role. It's a tricky performance because we're asked to identify with a guy who's trashing his life. Even as the story progresses and Michael learns some valuable lessons, it's not clear if the future will be bright. Barrett does her usual solid job and reveals some cracks within Jenna's perfect facade. During a key scene with her mom, she reveals arrogant ideas about men and women that foreshadow her upcoming troubles. Michael is obviously the big problem here, but we do see a few hints that their situation might be more complicated.

Director Tony Goldwyn films The Last Kiss like a standard romantic comedy, which makes the nasty personal confrontations more startling. The main characters' story arcs do follow the conventional pattern of highs and lows, but the resolutions feel more hollow than expected. This is not a dreary independent film, and it does offer hope, but it's hard to say whether Michael, Chris, and his friends will actually grow up and become responsible adults. They appear headed in the right direction, but uncertainty remains about their handling of future crises. Haggis' script could become frustrating because it makes few excuses for the guys' immaturity. However, the dialogue rings true and helps to create believable characters. We may not always care for Michael, but we know people exactly like him, and that fact contributes to this interesting film.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The Last Kiss offers a solid 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that conveys the dreary story effectively. The colors are fairly muted, but this works for the story and reflects the characters' mental states. The black levels remain solid, and the grain is minimal, which leads to a consistent presentation.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: This release provides an impressive 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer that includes numerous enjoyable songs. Zach Braff worked on choosing the film's music, and its presence enhances the story. Their inclusion heightens the emotional impact and helps to deliver a memorable presentation. This disc also includes a 2.0-channel Dolby Surround track, which should work acceptably for less-complex sound systems.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Dreamgirls, Babel, Jackass Number Two, World Trade Center, An Inconvenient Truth
7 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
Storyboard
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Cary Brothers "Ride" video performance version with Zach Braff intro
  2. Gag Reel
Extras Review: The Last Kiss includes two commentaries and a notable collection of bonus features that offer insight into the production. The individual extras are described in the following sections:

Commentaries
This disc includes two feature-length discussions from the cast and crew. I would pick the Zach Braff/Tony Goldwyn commentary, which offers an interesting conversation on the film's creation. For the second track, Rachel Bilson, Michael Weston, and Eric Christian Olson join the duo. Their perspectives are notable, but the track is less insightful than the first offering.

Filmmaker's Perspective (2:33)
This brief introduction includes comments from Producer Gary Lucchesi and Goldwyn. They discuss the story's honesty about people's bad actions and its origins as an Italian movie.

Getting Together (26:42)
This documentary focuses almost entirely on casting and includes a considerable amount of plot summary and obvious character introductions. We also hear from Haggis and Goldwyn about their involvement and choices. The actors are all very optimistic, especially Jacinda Barrett, who left her honeymoon early to audition for the part. This feature does include some worthwhile comments, but it feels a bit slight and never fully delves into the characters.

Behind Our Favorite Scenes (8:26)
The actors and crew discussed the story's major scenes and offer fairly bland comments. The moments covered include the tree house conversation, pregnancy announcement, and an emotional moment from Barrett and Braff. The highlight is Goldwyn's look at a brief scene with Danner and Wilkinson that describes the creative process.

Last Thoughts (3:29)
This concluding featurette stresses the story's realism and intimacy—topics that are becoming a bit tired by this point. The actors also quickly discuss why they enjoy the picture.

Music Video (3:25)
Directed by Zach Braff, this music video for Ride by the Cary Brothers is pretty conventional. The song is fairly melodic, but it also matches the typical style. This video is presented in a solid 2.35:1 widescreen transfer.

Deleted Scenes (14:07)
This release includes seven deleted scenes that mostly add detail to scenes included in the actual film. The extended bachelor party includes more nudity and a longer scene between Braff and Michael Weston. We also see another nasty fight between Casey Affleck and Lauren Lee Smith. This section's highlight is the inclusion of two similar alternate endings, which include extra scenes after the original finale.

Gag Reel (2:44)
This brief collection of blown lines, funny faces, and laughs follows the standard gag reel format. It's nice to see the actors having a good time, but this extra is pretty much a throwaway.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

The success of The Last Kiss will largely depend on your expectations for the romance drama. If you're willing to watch flawed characters doing bad things, the story's realism makes it a worthwhile experience. However, the troubling actions and ambiguous ending could also lead to frustration. This interesting picture works because it delves into the gray areas, and it deserves a recommendation.

 


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