Once again, New Line proves why they lead the pack when it comes to good-looking DVD transfers for their films. Presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with anamorphic widescreen treatment, About Schmidt looks grandiose and shows that New Line is still at the top of their game.
The film, by its very nature, contains a lot of drab and downcast hues that add to the tone of the story and the DVD is able to accurately reflect these tones perfectly. Simply put, About Schmidt is a gray picture about gray people looking for meaning in their gray lives … it’s plain, it’s simple, and it’s meant to be that way. New Line’s gorgeous transfer accentuates that fact and allows the image to remain consistently detailed and razor-sharp throughout.
Being such a recent release from a major studio (with a couple of big name stars to boot), the master print seems to be in immaculate condition and there are little in the way of flaws to distract us from the film itself. Colors were intentionally subdued and soft and there wasn’t any sort of bleeding, smearing, or oversaturation noted at any time. Black levels were consistently deep and solid, without any breakup or murkiness and it allowed for excellent shadow detail and delineation throughout. Fleshtones were bland and pasty and fell right in line with the other soft hues found in the picture.
Flaws were minimal, as I noted a slight bit of grain and shimmer in the transfer, as well as a tiny amount of edge enhancement. Other than that however, About Schmidt was as close to perfect as they come. Ultimately, About Schmidt was a fine looking presentation and quite enjoyable from beginning to end. Kudos to New Line for another pristine transfer.
New Line has given About Schmidt dueling Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 audio transfers that fit the material at hand quite well. While not very bombastic, the audio is given an open and expansive soundstage to work in. However, much like the picture itself, the overall aural experience is meant to be subdued and placid, with dialogue making up the majority of the mix.
The differences between the Dolby Digital and DTS tracks were miniscule, although the DTS track was seemingly a bit more rich and full … especially during moments featuring the melancholic score. Although there weren’t a whole lot of effects or impressive surround-heavy moments featured in the film, the DTS track seemed to be a bit more robust than its Dolby counterpart. There where definitely no major differences between the two and if you can only decode the Dolby signal, you won’t be missing much.
As stated earlier, dialogue was the main attraction in the track and it was delicately balanced and clear throughout the film. There was never any harshness or edginess detected at any time, as About Schmidt was consistently comprehensible and intelligible. Surround usage was somewhat limited and while there were some fragile moments of ambience created in the film, it wasn’t a whole lot to get excited about and you’ve heard much better in other New Line films to be sure. However, it’s hard to fault New Line, as they did the best with the material they were given and my comments shouldn’t be construed into the track sounding bad. The LFE chimed in from time to time to support the effects and the score heard in About Schmidt, but it was a far cry from forceful and insistent. While the track wasn’t the best in New Line’s stable, as I said before, it fit the material well.
New Line has also included a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track in English, English and Spanish subtitles, and English Closed Captions.
New Line doesn’t give About Schmidt too much in the way of supplements and fans of the film will probably find themselves wanting a bit more. I find myself hard pressed to say that folks will enjoy the quantity of what’s included, but it’s all we’re gonna get so we might as well enjoy it.
First off, we find nine Deleted Scenes that are in “rough” form, but presented in anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1. Each scene also includes a text-based introduction from director Alexander Payne. Scenes included are “Scene 17” (3:51), “Scene 22” (1:54), “Scenes 34-37” (1:34), “Scenes 68-71” (5:15), “Scenes 88-93” (3:47), “Scene 103” (2:06), “Scenes 110-113” (5:12), “Scene 152” (2:51), and “Scene 161” (2:51). (The text-based introductions account for about 40 to 50 seconds on average of the total running time.) The included scenes were all top-notch and as amusing to watch as what actually made the cut in About Schmidt. Payne’s text-based explanations about the scene – as well as why he felt it needed to be cut – are quite interesting, enlightening, and amusing and ultimately, these scenes were a great addition to the DVD. (After reading Payne’s introductions to the scenes, it really made me wish he could have provided a feature length commentary for the film.) In order to help us see where the scene was supposed to run in the actual film, Payne has included a few seconds of the footage that made the film before and after the deleted footage. Unfortunately, New Line has not included a –PLAY ALL- selection for the scenes.
Woodmen Tower Sequences are next and here, we get five different versions of footage shot of the Woodmen Tower (the actual corporate offices of the “Woodmen of the World” insurance company) used in the film. With a text introduction given by Payne on the extra, we learn that he wanted a lot of footage shot of the Woodmen Tower to be used in the opening scroll (as is Xanadu in the opening sequence of “Citizen Kane” he states) and he got back so much footage, he decided to let some of his assistants and editing room crew members run wild in creating their own opening to help them hone their editing skills. What we have here are the finished products for our consumption. Nothing great, but slightly interesting nonetheless.
Finishing off the disc is the film’s Theatrical Trailer, as well as Trailers for other New Line films, I Am Sam and Unconditional Love.
About Schmidt admittedly doesn’t contain a great selection of supplements to go along with the film, but this is one of those times where extras and the like don’t matter, as the film is reason enough to take the plunge. That being said, New Line’s top-notch audio and video transfers definitely make the lack of addendums easier to swallow. As I said before, About Schmidt comes highly, highly recommended.