Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
"I mean, this is our time to fight. Leave Green Mountain behind and see the world. I mean, come on, we're going to be in this together."- Tim (Brian Krause)
Stars: Balthazar Getty, Brian Krause, Jason London, Wil Wheaton , Chris Young
Director: Gabe Torres
MPAA Rating: PG for (strong language)
Run Time: 01h:31m:22s
Release Date: 2004-03-16
DVD ReviewWhen Pearl Harbor was attacked, thousands of young men had a decision to make: To fight or not to fight. It may seem clear cut, but as anyone can imagine, it is a harrowing, life-altering decision. Most of these kids had a mythic, Hollywood view of war, expecting to find glory, exotic locales, and constant victory without price. They believed they were fighting for something greater than themselves. Indeed, during WWII, the forces of the Axis presented a grave threat to the world that needed to be stopped. Gabe Torres' December attempts to capture the uncertainty of such a decision through a group of young boarding school boys.
Listening to President Roosevelt's speech, a group of friends realizes their days of worrying about chemistry finals and potential girlfriends have temporarily ended. Each must decide whether they will answer the call to arms. Tim (Brian Krause) begins packing immediately. He is the school's star swimmer and full of patriotism, not realizing the dangers inherent in war. He is the ring leader and expects all to follow his lead. However, his circle of friends is not as enthusiastic.
Russell (Jason London) sees Captain America as his hero, yet he is afraid to die. Stuart (Chris Brayton) is the brainiac. His father owns a factory, and by his logic, staying to help war production is just as honorable as fighting. His father disagrees. Two brothers, Kipp (Wil Wheaton) and Allister Gibbs (Balthazar Getty) are on opposite sides. Allister wants to fight, even though he is too young; Kipp, through a telling book, realizes the horror of war and tries to stop his friends from going. Accusations of cowardice fly, mixed with speeches of patriotism. Ultimately, these friends must work through their different viewpoints and make the fateful decision.
December fails for many reasons. Granted, this is an intriguing concept. The film takes place entirely within the grounds of a posh boarding school—actually, most of the film takes place in the same dorm room. With good writing and good actors, this may work. First, the script is way too heavy handed. The entire film is essentially a series of heavy dramatic scenes. We see either an argument, a fight, or an apology session, over and over and over again. There is no real emotional climax. The entire film tries to pull at the emotions of the audience, resulting in awkwardly forced scenes that begin to blend into one another.
Also, the film suffers from a fair amount of overacting. These are talented kids, but clearly, they are trying too hard. There is too much emoting, verbal soul searching and outward honesty to be realistic. Don't any of these kids internalize anything? It eventually becomes a tell-all talk show. I find less fault in the actors, though—the material lends itself to this kind of performance. It's in the nature of the beast, er, I mean script, and probably could not have been avoided. I appreciate what Torres' was trying to accomplish, but in the final analysis, it simply does not work.
Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||no|
Image Transfer Review: Columbia has provided a rather dismal full-screen transfer. First, why is this not in widescreen? The film appears to be presented open matte, showing extra headroom in just about every shot, but it is possible this was cropped from a wider ratio. Regardless, this is clearly not what the director intended and is inexcusable. Second, the image is in pretty poor shape. Colors are washed out and detail suffers. Noise and film grain is evident, along with some minor motion blurring. Titles are a jaggy mess. Overall, an ugly, but watchable transfer.
Image Transfer Grade: C
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby surround track does the job, decoding nicely via ProLogic. Ambient fill is good, especially during the stock footage showed before the cast credits. Dialogue is firmly anchored in the front soundstage. Don't expect any great dynamic range.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring A Few Good Men, Dr. Strangelove, A Soldier's Story, The War Lover
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Extras Review: The only extras a four theatrical trailers, listed above.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsGabe Torres' tale of a group of friends on the cusp of WWII is a noble effort, but fails from too much sap. The film's heavy-handed script bogs down the potential, ultimately forming an endless string of excessively emotive scenes, with little variation. There must be a range of emotion in a film if the power is to come through. Columbia's DVD reflects the film. In short, avoid this one.
Matt Peterson 2004-03-15