Why in the world did I decide to screen Dude, Where’s My Car? I’m not sure. Although I try to make sure we post reviews of all the big new releases, I can still pick and choose my selections, and Dude didn’t look to be high on my list. When the film hit screens in December 2000, I thought it looked inane and would be nothing more than another stupid teen comedy. While some offerings in that genre can be entertaining - such as 1999’s American Pie - most are just as idiotic as one might expect.
I saw little reason to believe differently in the case of Dude, and the film’s reviews did nothing to change my opinion. With a gross of $46 million, the movie didn’t exactly tear up the box office, but with a budget of only $13 million, that figured represented a nice profit. In any case, though the studio clearly made money on Dude, the film didn’t attract a very substantial audience and it quickly faded from view.
So I still haven’t been able to figure out why I chose to review this flick. Nonetheless, select it I did, and I must admit that I found Dude to offer a mildly pleasant surprise. I expected the worst, and while the film wasn’t anything special, it seemed genial and watchable for the most part.
Dude follows the exploits of two young stoners, Jesse (Ashton Kutcher of TV’s That ‘70s Show) and Chester (Seann William Scott from American Pie and Road Trip), as they attempt to locate the titular missing vehicle. They quickly figure out that they got tremendously wasted during the prior night, and apparently they had the times of their lives - too bad they can’t remember any of this. As the film proceeds, Jesse and Chester slow piece together the puzzles and figure out what happened during this night to end all nights. Their attempts are complicated by a cast of wacky characters, many of whom pester the buds to get possession of a mystical alien device. Somehow the boys got a hold of it, and its location may affect the future of the universe.
It’s a thin plot that exists only to put our protagonists in an ever-expanding series of wacky situations, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Actually, I think the story may have been a minor homage to that of 1984’s cult classic Repo Man, another film that mixed nutty comedy with a sci-fi subplot. RM maintained an uneasy balance between the two sides, and the same problem affects Dude. The movie tries so hard to promote the thriller aspects of the tale that the more normal comedic side occasionally takes a back seat. Frankly, the movie started to get tiresome at around the halfway point, and since it only runs for 83 minutes, that’s far too soon for the material to become slow.
Not that the first half of the flick offered many comedic gems. Actually, Dude’s greatest weakness is also its biggest strength. It’s a stupid movie, and folks who hate that kind of work will likely loathe it as well. However, I thought it was charmingly dumb, as the film pursues its inane course with such an earnest and good-natured tone that it became increasingly difficult to dislike it.
Much of the credit goes to our leads. I’d only seen Kutcher on That ‘70s Show, a program that I absolutely hated. As such, I expected little from him here, but I found him to provide a genial and fairly likable presence. He makes Jesse fun but not sleazy, and he comes across as a moronic but pleasant guy.
My prior feelings about Scott’s work were more mixed. I really liked him in American Pie, but the taint of Road Trip forced me to think less positively of him. Dude finally has Scott play someone other than AP’s Stifler; his RT character strongly mirrored his earlier role, but Chester’s much more kind-hearted and naïve. Scott’s not a comedic revelation as Chester, but he provides a cute innocence and simple tone to the character that allow him to be likable.
It’s really the sincere attitudes displayed by our two protagonists that make Dude watchable. The characters aren’t played as jerks, and though they smoke pot and dig strippers, they seem to actually be nice guys; they’re just moronic and frivolous. Ultimately, their lack of sophistication allows us to like them, and even though they’re clearly idiots, we don’t look down on them in many ways.
Dude worked best when it held close to situational comedic scenes. That’s why I didn’t care for the sci-fi plot; the movie’s most enjoyable moments revolved around segments that took everyday events and made them silly. Easily the film’s funniest bit takes place at a drive-through Chinese restaurant. I won’t discuss the gags; I don’t want to ruin the fun, and they wouldn’t sound interesting in print anyway. Nonetheless, this piece was a nice segment that proved to be surprisingly entertaining.
Most of Dude, Where’s My Car? is very hit or miss, and it mainly misses. The movie seems padded, even though it only lasts 83 minutes. Despite a variety of flaws, I still thought it provided a generally watchable experience. The movie lacked a slew of funny bits, but the earnest charm of its co-stars meant that it stayed mildly interesting throughout the film, and at times it became fairly entertaining. I don’t know if I’d ever want to see it again, but I generally liked the time I spent with Dude.
Dude, Where’s My Car? appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though the picture contained a few minor concerns, as a whole it provided a very solid visual experience.
Sharpness always looked nicely crisp and detailed throughout the movie. At no time did I discern any problems related to softness or fuzziness. At all times, I found the film to seem well-defined and accurate. Some minor moiré effects appeared due to elements such as blinds, but these were infrequent. In regard to print flaws, I saw a little grain at times, and a few examples of speckles and grit also cropped up on a few occasions. Overall, however, the movie looked clean and fresh.
Colors seemed nicely bright and vibrant. The film featured a variety of vivid and bold hues, and the DVD replicated all of these to good effect. For example, check out the shots in the Kitty Kat Club to see some excellent colored lighting; as with all of the hues, these scenes were clean and accurate, and they showed no signs of noise or bleeding. Black levels also appeared solidly deep and rich, and shadow detail was clear and appropriately heavy. Ultimately, the mix of minor print flaws meant that Dude wouldn’t offer a stellar transfer, but as a whole, it looked very good.
Although most of the film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack worked well, it contained some problems that made it often seem less than satisfactory. Most comedies feature limited soundfields, and that was also the case for Dude. The audio largely concentrated in the forward channels, where I heard fairly broad and well-placed sound. These speakers added a nice general ambience, and some convincing panning and movement occurred across them. Music offered solid stereo imaging and popped up effectively from all five channels. There wasn’t a tremendous amount of unique audio to be heard in from the surrounds, but I thought they contributed decent reinforcement of the music and effects. Overall, the soundfield matched the material; it provided modest breadth to the track but it didn’t show a great deal of activity.
Most of the audio sounded good, with only one major exception: speech. Through much of the movie, dialogue seemed rather edgy and brittle. Not surprisingly, loud lines displayed the most consistent problems, but even some quieter speech still appeared rough and problematic. Without a doubt, there was too much distortion to be heard in the dialogue. While those elements remained intelligible, they seemed much more flawed than they should have.
Otherwise, I thought the audio appeared generally positive. Music was nicely bright and rich, and the tunes displayed solid dynamic range. At times, bass response became quite loud and distinct, but it showed no boomy or loose tendencies. Effects were also clear and accurate, and they offered few signs of distortion; I heard some rough tones to a few elements such as screeching tires, but most of the effects were clean and realistic. Ultimately, much of Dude sounded good, but the problems attached to much of the speech caused me to lower my audio rating to a “B-“.
I can’t call Dude a jam-packed special edition, but it does contribute a moderate mix of extras. First up is a running audio commentary from director Danny Leiner and actors Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott. All three were recorded together for this rollicking screen-specific affair. While not quite as out of control as the drunken track found on Cannibal! The Musical, this chaotic piece remains one of the most wild commentaries I’ve heard.
At times, the track could be a tough listen due to the lack of organization. All three men tried to speak at the same time on many occasions, and the track generally lacked coherence. However, it was amusing to hear the presentation, especially since it was so earthy at times. The actors especially showed little restraint as they aired their thoughts, most of which revolved around the hottest women. We actually learn a little about the movie along the way, but the main emphasis is simply on goofy fun. As a whole, I thought the commentary could be a little grating at times, but fans of the film should definitely enjoy it.
During that track, we hear a lot about scenes that had to be altered to net Dude its all-important “PG-13” rating. In the Extended Scenes area, we find the original pieces. There are seven clips in all. They run between 15 second and three minutes in length for a total of about nine minutes and 25 seconds worth of material. Of course, much of that footage also appears in the movie itself; the added bits take up relatively little space.
Virtually all of the extra bits were removed due to raunchy content. For example, when the boys first meet the fivesome of hot chicks, most of the lines originally referred to “oral pleasure”; in the final flick, all but one just say “pleasure”. The extended scene shows the clip with its “oral” intact. (For the record, it was fun to compare the edited version with the full one to see how they cut out the “oral”s.) Ultimately, the extended snippets weren’t tremendously interesting, but I’m happy they were included on the DVD. Unfortunately, no true deleted scenes appear on the disc.
A few other minor extras round out the package. The Featurette lasts only four minutes and 20 seconds, and while it’s mainly a puffy promotional piece, it provides a little more fun than usual due to a few shots from the “DudeCam”. This aspect shows some candid snippets from cast members and it’s mildly fun. At least it means that the featurette stands out from the standard glorified trailer.
We get the film’s original theatrical trailer plus a music promo and three other TV spots. There’s also a dull music video for Grand Theft Audio’s “Stoopid Ass”. This clip combines the usual lip-synch performances with bits of the movie and it left me cold.
Overall, however, I didn’t mind the time I spent with Dude, Where’s My Car? No, it wasn’t a tremendously fun experience, but I thought the movie was watchable and amiable enough. Would I ever care to view it again? Probably not, but then again, I’m not a member of the film’s target audience; for a 34-year-old like myself to not loathe Dude was probably a major achievement. The DVD provides very good picture with generally solid sound that falters only due to some poorly-recorded dialogue. The supplements are fairly minor but they added some value to the package. Ultimately, fans of pleasantly moronic teen comedies will get a kick out of Dude, Where’s My Car? As for other folks, I don’t think you should go out of your way to pursue it, but you shouldn’t necessarily avoid it either. Within the constraints of its genre, Dude provides a moderately interesting piece.