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DVD Review: DARE


Studio: Image Entertainment
Year: 2009
Cast: Emmy Rossum, Zach Gilford, Ashley Springer, Ana Gasteyer, Rooney Mara, Sandra Bernhard, Alan Cumming
Director: Adam Salky
Release Date: March 2, 2010, 4:24 pm
Rating: R for (sexual content, language and alcohol use - all involving teens)
Run Time: 01h:30m:40s

ìI think you should pick me up at 6:30 so Iím not stressed about being late.î - Alexa Walker (Emmy Rossum)

DARE
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On the surface, this appears to be a typical flick involving high school seniors discovering sex and the complexity of relationships. However, an interesting cast has me thinking positively about what the film has in store.

Movie Grade: C

DVD Grade: C

Am I the only movie buff out there who believes that Alan Cumming doesnít get enough good gigs these days? He first caught many eyes with his too-brief role as a hotel desk clerk in Stanley Kubrickís Eyes Wide Shut, and has appeared in numerous films since. Cumming is an electric presence, exhibiting such a wide range of acting skills that heís seamlessly blended into nearly every character heís ever portrayed. The problem is, while heís been in numerous films, his roles are usually of the small variety, and the same is the case in the new drama Dare. Cumming shows up briefly in an early scene, during which he exhibits such raw, powerful, emotion that the film never quite lives up to the precedent it sets. If this isnít a reason to get him juicier roles, let alone give Dare a look on DVD, I donít know what is.

Alexa (Emmy Rossum) is a high school student who tries to focus on her excellence in the drama department and not the fact that sheís a bit socially awkward. Ben (Ashley Springer) is her best friend, and a kid who is even more socially awkward than Alexa, especially when it comes to his sexuality. Into their lives comes Johnny (Zach Gilford), the school jock and seemingly untouchable object of most school girlsí desires. When heís chosen to act opposite Alexa in a school production, their relationship takes a dramatic turn, and with Ben also in the mix, this trio is soon involved in the ultimate of strange relationships.

Thereís a good, dark comedy in the same vein as Cruel Intentions buried somewhere within Dare, just screaming to come out. Unfortunately, that movie never makes it to the surface, and weíre left with a film that has a hard time deciding what it wants to be or what kind of message it wants to deliver. Director Adam Salky goes all dark and broody on us from the get-go, presenting a trio of main characters whose lives are directly intertwined in a myriad of ways. He essentially tells the same story three times, and from each of the main charactersí points of view, creating a slight, Pulp Fiction effect. The main problem is that none of the three storylines really pays off in a major, satisfying way. Sure, each is engaging at times, but weíre left scratching our heads at the end as to where the substance was among the style.

Still, I can see Dare becoming something of a cult classic among its high school-age target audience, and thereís enough here to warrant a second-chance viewing on my part as well. Rossum is quite good as the virginal Alexa, making a very believable transition from a wallflower into an over-sexed, powerful woman right before our eyes. Plus, most of the characters could easily pass for actual high school/early college students that youíd encounter in any U.S. institution today. The ability for the filmís audience to easily make a connection with these emotionally confused characters can both help and hurt such a story, however.

Many films of its ilk take things way over the top, portraying such young adults as booze-happy fraternity and sorority pledges or brooding, vampire lovers. Director Adam Salky chose to go the realism route in such a film going era, despite the risks. Sure, the more cerebral among us want such realism, but current box office figures dictate that the masses would rather see beer chugging and neck-biting in their teenage adventures, thank you very much. Hence, the probable reason that Dare only made it into a handful of theaters and is just now getting a chance at a wide audience, thanks to Imageís DVD. This DVD leaves much to be desired, technically, with a shoddy video transfer and only occasional liveliness from the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. There are some decent extras, including a ìDareî Short that gives us a brief look at one of the plot points that ballooned into the feature film.

Chuck Aliaga March 2, 2010, 4:24 pm