09 February 2009

DVD: "The Best of Times"

The Best of Times
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode
Written by Ron Shelton
Starring: Robin Williams, Kurt Russell, Pamela Reed, Donald Moffat
DVD Release Date: 2 February 1999
MPAA Rating: PG-13
List Price: $9.98
Cinescope Personality Types: Loyal Warrior, Dedicated Idealist

The Film
In 1972, Jack (Williams) failed to catch Reno's (Russell) throw to win the annual game against rival Bakersfield.  The small town of Taft has not forgotten its closest brush with victory, and Jack has reached a breaking point in his life 13 years after the fact.  In a scheme that only vintage Williams can make believable, Jack nudges, cajoles and outright blackmails into participation the entire town to dust itself off and re-play the game.  Both men also have to contend with dissatisfied wives--Jack's has grown tired of his obsession with dropping the ball and Reno's has tired of forgoing her ambitions to leave town for L.A. and become a singer.

The DVD
The listing for the DVD on Amazon and DVD Empire indicate a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, but our DVD plays in 4:3.  I don't know if this is an erroneous listing, or if we happen to have an out of production, full screen copy.  Spottiswoode shot the film in such a way that it never feels like a completely butchered transfer, though.  In fact, I had to check to verify this even had a theatrical release, because it looks surprisingly good in the 4:3 aspect ratio.  Also, our DVD insert says there should be cast and crew information, and the original trailer.  The DVD menu only lets us choose between "Play" and "Scenes."  Very disappointing to not only have no features, but to be misled about even two uninteresting ones.

The Recommendation
I had never heard of the film until my wife brought it to my attention.  This was originally released in 1986, before Robin Williams became a self-caricature.  Ron Shelton wrote the screenplay, his second and last before becoming a director with his next film, Bull Durham.  The highlight of the film, though, is being reminded that nobody in the history of Hollywood ever played Joe Six Pack quite like Kurt Russell.  The list price is $9.98, though it can surely be found for less.  With this much talent, The Best of Times is worthy of a blind buy.  (If you can find a release with the proper aspect ratio, obviously go with that version.)

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