Billy Madison appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Not too many problems showed up during this very good transfer.
Sharpness mainly worked well. A smidgen of softness crept into some wider shots, but those remained minor. The majority of the flick looked concise and accurate. No shimmering or jaggies showed up, and only a little edge enhancement became apparent. As for source flaws, I noticed a bit of grain plus an occasional speck or mark. Those didn’t cause substantial distractions.
Colors worked well and offered some of the transfer’s strongest moments. The film provided a fairly natural but bright palette than translated well here. The tones occasionally looked a little heavy, but they usually seemed vibrant and distinctive. Black levels also appeared deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately opaque but not too thick. Not too much here caused complaints.
While the original release included just a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, the new Billy Madison added a DTS 5.1 mix. Given the passive nature of the movie’s audio, this surprised me. As anticipated, the two tracks sounded virtually identical, and I couldn’t discern any differences between the pair.
The audio seemed fine but it didn’t excel because of a lack of ambition. Like most comedies, the movie featured a limited soundfield that strongly favored the forward channels. It showed very nice stereo spread to the music as well as some general ambience from the sides. The surrounds added light reinforcement of those elements, but they contributed virtually no unique information.
Audio quality appeared good. Speech was natural and distinct, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, with good fidelity and no signs of distortion. Music seemed nicely bright and vibrant and also demonstrated nice bass response. Overall, the audio worked fine for the movie, but due to its lack of atmospheric ambition, I felt it merited only a “C+”.
How did the picture and audio of this new release compare with those on the old DVD? Despite the addition of the DTS track, the audio remained identical. However, I thought the new visual transfer offered an improvement over the prior one. It tightened up some of the original’s softness and also cleaned up matters; the new DVD featured fewer source flaws. It also lost the moderate edge enhancement of the original. Across the board, this was a noticeably superior image.
Whereas the prior release skimped on supplements, this “Special Edition” adds a smattering. First we get an audio commentary from director Tamra Davis, who offers a running, screen-specific discussion. She chats about subjects like her hiring, production design, and the atmosphere on the set. She wasn’t the film’s original director; she doesn’t name her fired predecessor, but she gets into what it was like to come onto the flick and also points out the scenes she didn’t shoot.
Probably the most interesting tidbits come from her anecdotes. In particular, her memories of downtime fun with Sandler and Chris Farley prove amusing and enjoyable. However, much of the time Davis simply talks about how wacky the movie’s action is; I heard the word “crazy” used more in this 90-minute commentary than at a Patsy Cline convention. The track also suffers from a fair amount of dead air. Davis offers a number of good points but overall, this piece doesn’t fare terribly well.
A large collection of deleted scenes pops up next. Massed into six chapters, we get a total of 42 cut sequences. All together, they run 32 minutes and 52 seconds. As one might infer from the running time and number of sliced scenes, most of them don’t last very long. The majority present fairly brief removals from existing elements, though a few unique sequences appear.
Cut scenes from virtually all parts of the movie show up here. Obviously, there are way too many for me to comment on all of them, but they include a lot of interesting bits. We see more of the movie’s musical number plus a more graphic depiction of what happens to the O’Doyle clan. Some of the segments veer across the line of good taste. One wisely-excised piece shows Sandler naked in the locker room with the third graders. Another hints at a much darker side to the Ernie character. All are interesting to see, even when they’re problematic.
Next we see a set of outtakes. This reel lasts three minutes and 43 seconds as it presents goofs and gaffes. It’s a little more interesting than usual because it includes a few true outtakes, and we see remnants of deleted scenes that don’t show up elsewhere.
Finally, we see some mildly interesting production notes that also appeared on the original disc. Unfortunately, this new set loses the Madison trailer from that showed up on the prior package. The disc does open with promos for the Fast Times/Dazed and Confused “Ultimate Party Collection” as well as The Chronicles of Riddick and The Bourne Supremacy.
Despite its various shortcomings, Billy Madison offers a consistently entertaining and frequently amusing experience. I think it remains Adam Sandler’s most winning effort. The DVD provides very good picture with decent sound and a roster of extras highlighted by a ton of deleted scenes.
I like the movie a lot, and the DVD works well enough to merit a recommendation. Available only in a two-pack with Happy Gilmore, it’s definitely the version to get if you don’t own a copy of the prior release. If you do have the earlier DVD, it’s a tougher decision. I like this one and am happy to have it, especially since the set includes Gilmore, a film I hadn’t seen. If you’re solely interested in Madison, you’ll probably want to stick with the original disc. The picture and supplements improve here, but they’re not so terrific I can unilaterally endorse a “double-dip”.
To rate this film, visit the original review of BILLY MADISON