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Studio: E1 Entertainment
Year: 2010
Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Hope Davis, Chi McBride, Max Thieriot, Brittany Robertson, Selma Blair, Keith Carradine, Shad "Bow Wow" Moss, Gabrielle Anwar, John Patrick Amedori, Evan Ross, Madeline Zima, Christina Hendricks, Jane Seymour, Rachael Leigh Cook, Evan Handler, Jermaine Williams, Steven Grayhm
Director: Vivi Friedman
Release Date: November 21, 2011
Rating: R for (sexual content, pervasive language, drug use and some violence)
Run Time: 01h:30m:20s
Genre(s): drama

“I’ll bet we’re the first family ever to be fired by their therapist.” - Eric Burnett (Max Thieriot)


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Not sure what to expect from this indie dark comedy, but with a huge, talented (for the most part) ensemble cast, and a ridiculous-looking Dermot Mulroney, this promises to at least be interesting stuff.

Movie Grade: D

DVD Grade: B

Everyone, at least to some extent, can relate to the concept of the dysfunctional family. However, if you’re one of the fortunate, scant few, that has a “perfect” family, then your idea of familial dysfunction is limited to the majority of families depicted in the movies. One such family, The Burnetts are chronicled in all of their over- the-top (fictional) excesses in 2010’s The Family Tree. Directed by Vivi Friedman, this film attempts to push the limits even further than they’ve been pushed in numerous other films, and with mixed results, at best. After the smallest of theatrical runs, The Family Tree makes its way to Blu-ray in the hopes of gaining at least somewhat of an audience this time. While the movie itself is full of its own forms of dysfunction, the disc is a surprisingly solid effort, at least on the technical front.

The Burnetts include Jack (Dermot Mulroney), the father of the family, who’s mired in a dead-end middle- management job, his wife, Bunnie (Hope Davis), a quintessential bored housewife, Kelly (Brittany Robertson), the prototypical sulking teenage daughter, and Eric (Max Thieroit), son and our resident narrator. Nearly everyone of the Burnetts has their dirty little secrets, though, with the worst being Bunnie’s kinky affair with their next-door- neighbor, Simon (Chi McBride). When one of their sexual encounters results in a severe head injury for Bunnie, she awakens in a hospital bed with a form of amnesia; unable to remember the bad times leading up to her problems with Jack, including any memory of Simon at all. Despite the inherent difficulties of short term memory loss, Bunnie’s accident turns out to be a good thing for her marriage, but as time goes on, the now threat of the return of her memory could push the Burnetts’ overall family unit back over the edge.

The Family Tree is trying, with all of its might, to be something akin to the endless American Beauty copycats that have permeated the cinematic landscape since that Oscar-winner’s debut. While the term “copycat” isn’t wholly negative in this case, many of these films don’t even come close to being anything more than a useless facsimile. There’s plenty of promise after the first quarter of The Family Tree, with Friedman setting a nice pace early on. Once Bunnie loses her memory, though, everything falls apart, and the film begins to spiral downward into the total mess that it eventually becomes. Near the halfway mark, we’re left not caring at all about any of the characters, let alone the parents, who are supposed to be the story’s centerpiece. It’s clearly time to leave the American Beauty formula alone and move onto some new story arcs.

One, if not the most annoying aspect of The Family Tree is the soundtrack. It all starts with the horrific song “Shut The F$&k Up” by Kari Kimmel, which we have to hear during both the opening and closing credits. This song is one of the most grating, irritating tunes I’ve heard in a long time, and it took all I had to keep my finger off of the fast- forward button anytime I heard it. While the rest of the music isn’t as annoying, it’s still irritating enough to make it memorable in the wrong way. The acting is equally irritating, but it’s clear that these people are only doing their best with the horrid script that they’ve been given to read from. It’s especially depressing to watch Hope Davis slumming it in junk like this. A mere decade ago, Davis was an indie film darling, doing excellent work in films like About Schmidt and The Secret Lives of Dentists. Now, she’s resorted to pseudo-indie films like this one with a D- list cast that’s lucky to even wind up on Blu-ray. Here’s hoping she gets back to her roots very soon to make this a distant memory.

Entertainment One brings The Family Tree to Blu-ray in the form of a mighty fine disc. The audio and video are top-notch, with the 1080p, high-definition transfer being the best part of the film. Presented in its original, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the transfer sports crisp, detailed images, bright, vivid colors, and great sharpness throughout. There’s nary a blemish to be found, with the only minor complaint being a few issues with contrast levels. The lossless DTS- HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also very impressive, boasting some nice, bass heavy moments and surround usage amidst what is a fairly dialogue-driven film. Said dialogue is always crystal clear, as it blends in extremely well with the rest of the mix. The only unthrilling aspect of the Blu-ray disc is the scant few extras that are offered, but the film isn’t really interesting enough to warrant behind-the-scenes footage about it.

Posted by: Chuck Aliaga - December 22, 2011, 12:31 pm - DVD Review
Keywords: dysfunctional family, suburban bliss

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