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New Line Home Cinema presents

Frequency (2000)

"Now I want you to go upstairs and write this down, buy Yahoo. You got that Space Cowboy. Y-a-h-o-o. It's a magic word and I never want you to forget it."- John (Jim Caviezel)

Stars: Dennis Quaid, Jim Caviezel
Other Stars: Andre Braugher, Elizabeth Mitchell, Noah Emmerich
Director: Gregory Hoblit

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense violence and disturbing images
Run Time: 01h:58m:33s
Release Date: 2000-10-31
Genre: sci-fi

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B-AA B+


DVD Review

It is my theory that it is impossible to make a time-travel movie that actually works. Back to the Future has one major flaw in the second film in the series that basically invalidates the rest of the series. Terminator 2 makes your head hurt just trying to work out the sequence of events, and the idea of a paradox must not have crossed Jim Cameron's mind when he was writing it. Austin Powers 2 was just a joke (although maybe that was the point). And Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time - well, you get the idea. Frequency suffers from many of these same problems. The film gets mixed up in pseudo-science and the third act really bogs down. Fortunately, the story up to that point is very entertaining and even (gasp!) heartwarming. I know, I know, but guys can cry too, right? Uh... right?

In the middle of an amazing solar storm, fireman Frank (Dennis Quaid) is talking on his ham radio when he contacts John (Jim Caviezel). The two converse about their work, their families, and baseball. Soon, however, John realizes that he isn't talking to just anybody. The man on the other end of the line is his father, who has been dead for 30 years. At first Frank is skeptical, but when John's predictions begin to come true there is little doubt about the truth. An important twist of fate then occurs, and all I'll say is that any good science-fiction fan knows, you can't just muck about as you please with the space-time continuum.

There are a lot of good things about this film. I really liked the aspects that dealt with changing the past. Who hasn't wished for the ability to go back and prevent the death of a loved one? Unfortunately, the film doesn't stop there. I think an emotional, touching film about the relationship between a father and son would have been more than enough basis for a film like this, especially with the great premise. Instead, writer Emmerich ties the "magic radio" elements into the murder case. This is certainly thrilling while it is going on, but a lot of the killer stuff is underdeveloped (I mean, that plot thread doesn't even begin until halfway through the movie!). Also, up to this point, the "talking-across-time" elements worked basically by their own terms, but here they begin to blur until the end of the film, which I watched three times and still could not piece together.

Gregory Hoblit was the right guy to produce this script. He has done some good work in the same thriller area (most notably the Edward Norton vehicle Primal Fear). Here he does a good job balancing the rather uneven screenplay, giving adequate time to the father/son relationship and the eventual (and conventional) thriller climax. After a slow start, the film really gets going and doesn't let up. He was able to keep me in the moment, and I didn't pick out all of the plot holes and inconsistencies until I actually sat down and thought about the film. One bad spot is the totally inexcusable and overly sappy ending, featuring a song by (shudder) Garth Brooks.

The acting is good as well. I wouldn't call myself a Dennis Quaid fan, but he really played the part of Frank well. I bought his whole troubled father routine, and he had real chemistry with Andre Braugher (who gives a great performance as the cop, Satch). James Caviezel hasn't been in much else, and he does decent work here, but he was a bit too wimpy for my taste. He just didn't scream "hard-edged cop" to me. Still, both did a great job interacting with their respective microphones, and considering they mostly don't share the screen, they have a surprising amount of chemistry.

I wish Frequency had been a bit less ambitious with its plot. It tries to do too much, and as a result, the final third of the film is a bit patchwork and muddled. Still, the setup is great, and the relationships are dealt with honestly and the characters are likeable. Look at it this way, a lot of older guys left Frequency with tears in their eyes. My dad thought it was the best film of its kind since Field of Dreams. So rent it for dad. You know, you haven't called him in a while. It doesn't HAVE to be Father's Day to do something nice! And while you're at it, kiss Grandma goodnight and tell your mother you love her.

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


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: I don't think there has ever been a new release from New Line that hasn't looked great. Frequency upholds this fine tradition, with an excellent anamorphic transfer. Black level is solid, colors are crisp, and I noted no color bleeding. Fine detail is excellent, with no shimmer or edge enhancement. I rally can't find anything to criticize here.

Image Transfer Grade: A

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Sigh. Reviewing these New Lines discs is so boring - A - A - A - Frequency features one of the better soundtracks I have heard lately. The surrounds are very active throughout, especially in the action scenes. There are a lot of front to back imaging and panning effects, and they never sound cheap or gimmicky. Dialogue is clear with no audible hiss, and Michael Kamen's score makes good use of the surround channels.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Deleted Scenes
Isolated Music Score with remote access
1 Documentaries
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Director Gregory Hoblit, second commentary with Actor Noah Emmerich and Writer Toby Emmerich
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 00h:32m:38s

Extra Extras:
  1. Animated solar galleries
Extras Review: Frequency is presented as part of New Line's Platinum Series and it boasts some excellent extras, but if you don't like commentaries, there isn't a lot here for you. Why? Well, because besides a documentary, the extras on this disc are pretty much just the commentary tracks.

That necessarily isn't a bad thing. I happen to really enjoy a good commentary, and Frequency has not one, not two, but THREE feature length tracks. The first features director Gregory Hoblit. Hoblit discusses the transformation of the script, the actors, and the difficulties in blending so many themes into a single film. For the most part he is entertaining and it is clear that he has a lot of love for the film, but there are a lot of pauses in the first half-hour or so. The track with the Emmerich brothers, writer Toby and actor Noah, is a more entertaining listen, perhaps because the two had each other to play off of. Toby does most of the talking, as he discusses everything and anything, from casting, to script development, to the musical score, to special effects. There aren't many pauses here, and it too makes for a good listen. Finally, the composer Michael Kamen recorded comments that play in-between the film's musical cues. Usually I dislike Kamen's work (especially the scores for The Iron Giant and X-Men), but his work here is better—he really captures the film's emotional aspects without making the score seem overpowering and cheesy. I found his comments on the composing process to be quite interesting.

The final major extra is the documentary, The Science and Technology Behind Frequency. Far from the usual HBO special, this is an in-depth 40-minute discussion of the theoretical science explored in the film. I really enjoy stuff like this (one of my favorite TV specials focused on the probability of the technology of Star Trek), and the feature is very well produced. It features film clips, interviews, and scientific demonstrations. For those of you with 16:9 displays, the documentary is enhanced for widescreen sets, as are all the extras on the disc—a rarity that also separates New Line.

Aside from the usual cast and crew bios and the theatrical trailer, New Line has included an alternate angle segment where you can view the creation of the solar effects in the film through four separate animation stages. One of the coolest extras is a trivia subtitle track, like the ones on The Abyss and Free Enterprise. During the film, subtitles will pop up featuring science facts or anecdotes about the film. These go by pretty fast, and I wouldn't expect to concentrate on the film while this track is playing. This is a feature I really like, and I hope New Line keeps using it.

Rounding out the disc are some extensive DVD-ROM supplements, including script access, the website, and a game demo. A good overall package, but I would've liked to have seen more that wasn't in commentary form, as watching the film over and over can get a bit tiring (but maybe I'm thinking like a reviewer!)

Extras Grade: B+

Final Comments

Despite the fact that the time-travel aspect gets a little muddled and unwieldy by the end of the film, Frequency makes for an entertaining two hours. Dads and sons should get a kick out of the tear-jerker father/son reunion, and fans of Field of Dreams should check it out.

Joel Cunningham 2000-11-10