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Visual Entertainment presents

The Great New Wonderful (2005)

"No, actually, he's a selfish, incorrigible monster with a heart made of sh** and splinters."- Mr. Peersall (Stephen Colbert)

Stars: Stephen Colbert, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jim Gaffigan
Other Stars: Olympia Dukakis, Judy Greer, Tom McCarthy, Naseeruddin Shah, Tony Shaloub, Edie Falco, Will Arnett, Sharat Saxena
Director: Danny Leiner

MPAA Rating: R for (language, some sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:28m:24s
Release Date: 2006-09-12
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A AB+A- B+


DVD Review

Those expecting more of the same scatological humor and gross-out sight gags from the director of Dude, Where's My Car? and Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle are in for a letdown—his follow-up film, 2005's The Great New Wonderful finds Danny Leiner taking a much different route. Sailing more along the lines of a typical indie ensemble dramedy, this project is a brilliant blend of insightful, realistic issues and dark comedy that demands to find a broader audience now that it's on DVD.

It's September 2002 in New York City, right before the one-year anniversary of the terror attacks. Emme (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a pastry chef for the elite who has a live-in boyfriend (Will Arnett) and is trying to beat out her rival, Safarah (Edie Falco) for a huge client. Allison (Judy Greer) and David (Tom McCarthy) are a married couple dealing with their overweight son, who is mentally unstable, constantly in trouble at school, and putting a major wall between their marriage. Avi (Naseeruddin Shah) and Satish (Sharat Saxena) play good cop/bad cop as they are assigned to provide security for a high-ranking political figure from India.

Meanwhile, Judy (Olympia Dukakis) is sick of going through the same boring routine, day after day, with her tuned-out husband. When she meets a kind, fun-loving man, Judy sees a way to a happier life. Across town, a mild-mannered office worker named Sandie (Jim Gaffigan) is involved in therapy sessions with Dr. Trabulous (Tony Shalhoub). Regardless of how sunny Sandie's views on life are, Trabulous always manages to see the dark side of his psyche.

Powered by an amazing cast, Leiner offers a brisk and unforgettable experience that should spark some great post-viewing discussion. Love or hate them, every character is memorable, and a few really stand out, thanks to some incredible performances. Gyllenhaal brings her usual infectious charm to Emme, while Dukakis reminds us of her Moonstruck work. Judy Greer is far removed from her more common goofy roles, giving us an idea of just how good she can be when playing it straight. The only character I couldn't quite get on board with was Sandie, despite Gaffigan's wonderful performance. The drastic personality turn Sandie takes by the end of the film is just too readily telegraphed to make the character as believable as the rest. Stephen Colbert appears in briefly in a pair of scenes and delivers the most memorable line in the film.

While the separate stories are interwoven throughout the running time, the tales and characters are kept separate. Similar projects like Short Cuts and Grand Canyon feature at least some intermingling between the various characters, but Leiner avoids this technique. It can be argued that without such interaction, the stories should have been told in their entirety and separately, but the interweaving style creates a beautiful, crisp flow that never falters. And one of the nice touches here is how Leiner keeps the subject of September 11th in the backdrop.

Whether you know what you're getting into or stumble onto it by accident, The Great New Wonderful's title says it all.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This impressive anamorphic widescreen transfer features sharp, very detailed images. A nice, bright color scheme is evident as well, while shadow and contrast levels are impressive. There is a bit of a shimmer effect during the opening credits, and some dirt is evident, but none of these flaws are overly distracting.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: There's a choice between Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio, and, while not the most dynamic of tracks, the surrounds are used nicely to accommodate an excellent soundtrack. While the two tracks aren't very different, we do get a hint of bass and a bit more depth with the 5.1. Both options offer amazingly crisp, clear dialogue.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Edmond
7 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Danny Leiner and writer Sam Catlin.
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Watch the Movie One Story at a Time - Five collections of clips from each separate story arch.
  2. NYC Behind the Scenes - Unused footage shot on location in the Big Apple.
  3. Character Stills
  4. NYC Outreach Program - Text-based information on this important program.
Extras Review: This very nice collection of extra features includes an audio commentary track by director Danny Leiner and writer Sam Catlin. These two have a great chemistry together and are very funny as they discuss all there is to know about the making of the feature.

The most interesting of the supplements is the ability to watch each of the five sub-stories individually as Emme's Story, Sandie's Story, Judy's Story, David and Allison's Story, and Avi and Satish's Story, and each is a compilation of clips from the film in the order that they appeared.

There are seven deleted scenes that run a total of 12 minutes. These include an alternate opening and feature alternate audio by Leiner and Catlin.

NYC Behind the Scenes is a two-minute collection of unused location footage, as well as 90 seconds of production stills. Finishing up the extras are the theatrical trailer, a preview of the upcoming DVD release for Edmond, and some information on the NYC Outreach Program that helps those affected by the 9/11 tragedy.

Extras Grade: B+

Final Comments

Visual Entertainment's DVD makes discovering this ensemble film all the more enjoyable thanks to excellent audio and video presentations. A surprisingly healthy extras collection doesn't hurt either, providing insightful information on the making of this hidden gem.

Chuck Aliaga 2006-09-21