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First Look presents
The Amateurs (2005)

“Today, I’m too tired of it. More unaccepting than usual.”
- Andy Sargentee (Jeff Bridges)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: February 11, 2008

Stars: Jeff Bridges
Other Stars: Ted Danson, William Fichtner, Patrick Fugit, Lauren Graham, Glenne Headly, Tim Blake Nelson, Joe Pantoliano, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Tom Bower, Steven Weber, Judy Greer
Director: Michael Traeger

MPAA Rating: R for (sexual content and language)
Run Time: 01h:38m:14s
Release Date: February 12, 2008
UPC: 00687797121592
Genre: comedy


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

DVD Review

The Amateurs doesn’t exactly have the best track record out of the box. It began life in 2005, known then as The Moguls, and armed with an intriguing premise: a down on his luck guy gets his small-town friends together to make pornographic films. It sounds like a winner to me, and Im sure millions of other males as well. Filmmaker Michael Traeger takes his first turn behind the camera, creating a mixed comedic bag that can’t quite realize its potential.

Andy Sargentee (Jeff Bridges) is a down-on-his-luck guy living in the small town of Butterface Falls. He’s still trying to cope with a recent divorce and his ex-wife, Thelma’s (Jeanne Tripplehorn) new life with the rich Howard (Steven Weber), when he has a seemingly brilliant idea. Andy has decided to shoot a porno film, but to pull it off he needs the cooperation (and money) of his friends, Barney (Tim Blake Nelson), Moose (Ted Danson), Floyd (Tom Bower), Otis (William Fichtner), and the aptly named Some Idiot (Joe Pantoliano). This group is completely out of their element, but with the help of some local ladies (Glenne Hedley, Lauren Graham, and Judy Greer), and an aspiring young camera man named Emmett (Patrick Fugit), they just might find success.

After Andy’s friends are introduced and we are given an initial look at his loser status among his family and friends, it’s right onto the amateur adult filmmaking. There’s some outlandish material here, as we see Andy and company struggle to cast the most important aspect of their films, the ladies. It’s here where The Amateurs is at its strongest, as it plays on our surprise at what these “normal” schlubs will do to realize their dream, while throwing numerous plot curveballs at us when we least expect them. There aren’t enough of these strong points, though, and the movie suffers as a result.

The cast is an impressive lot of today’s best male character actors. Jeff Bridges is basically impersonating an older version of his “The Dude” character from The Big Lebowski, right down to his long hair. He does a fine job carrying the film; Bridges rarely disappoints. The criminally underrated Fichtner excels once again, as the dirtiest-minded of these aspiring porn directors, and the dynamic Tim Blake Nelson gives a reserved, effective performance. Danson is serviceable as the group’s closet homosexual, and Pantoliano does a nice job living up to his character’s distinct name.

Such an off-the-wall premise is ripe with potential, but, unfortunately, director Traeger doesn’t know what to do with it during much of the film. Too much focus is put on each of these small-town characters individual quirks and problems, that we aren’t able to completely enjoy the craziness of the general storyline. In other words, there simply isn’t enough porn in a movie that’s supposed to be about… well… porn. I’m not calling for a deluge of X-Rated material, but Traeger, and his audience, would have been better served by the omission of much of the melodrama, and more of a detailed look at this crazy idea.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation does its best with the intended soft look of the production, but the colors do suffer occasionally. They appear slightly muted at times, but there aren’t any major problems. Contrast and shadow levels are strong, while grain and dirt are virtually nonexistent.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The surprising inclusion of a DTS track, accompanied by a Dolby Digital 5.1 counterpart, makes for some interesting audio choices. The DTS offers a bit more bass and slightly more liberal surround usage, but these two tracks are very similar. Both also give us crystal clear dialogue that has no problem meshing with the overall mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
11 Other Trailer(s) featuring King of California, Day Zero, Sex and Breakfast, The Contract, 10 Items or Less, Journey to the End of the Night, The Proposition, Relative Strangers, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Paris Je T’aime, Smiley Face
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Jeff Bridges, director Michael Traeger, and producer Aaron Ryder
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. The Amateurs Photography Book
Extras Review: The extras include an audio commentary track with Jeff Bridges, director Michael Traeger, and producer Aaron Ryder. This trio talks about the film and are seemingly very proud of it, with Bridges being especially interesting throughout.

Behind the Scenes with the Amateurs is a 25-minute piece that gives us a comprehensive look at the making of the film. We see cast and crew interviews, but there’s also some fun footage of the cast doing some candid things on the set.

The Amateurs Photography Book is 36 minutes of still photos taken by Jeff Bridges during the shoot. He narrates each picture, along with Traeger and Ryder.

There’s also the theatrical trailer for The Amateurs and previews for other First Look DVDs.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

While it’s not the surprising little indie gem it could have been, the long-on-the-shelf comedy The Amateurs combines a strong cast and nutty premise to make it worth a rental. First Look's DVD gives the film some love, presenting it with sharp technical aspects and informative extras.

 


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