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Paul Schneider
Paul Giamatti, Billy Crudup, Anna Camp, David Hornsby, Garret Dillahunt, Brent King, Elizabeth Marvel, Denis O'Hare, Kristen Wiig
Writing Credits:
Zene Baker (story), Paul Schneider

Based on a true story, this comic tale of three would-be entrepreneurs set out to invent a rocket belt. The venturesome partnership soon takes an unhealthy toll as their mismatched personalities clash and some unexpected success lead to retaliations and kidnapping in this parable of American dreams and delusions.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $22.99
Release Date: 6/29/2010

• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

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Pretty Bird (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 1, 2010)

Despite a reasonably high-profile cast, Pretty Bird languished in release limbo for years. Shot in 2007, the movie didn’t get wide public display until its DVD issue in late June 2010.

Was it worth the wait? Not really; while not a total dud, Bird fails to qualify as a lost gem.

Curtis Prentiss (Billy Crudup) aspires to be an entrepreneur, and he wants to develop a “rocket belt” for personal use. He recruits his old pal Kenny Owenby (David Hornsby) to finance the effort and signs up unemployed scientist Rick Honeycutt (Paul Giamatti) as the brains behind the operation. They launch “Fantastic Technologies” and attempt to make their sci-fi dream a reality.

Going into Bird, I viewed its cast as a positive. Now that I’ve watched it, I must amend that attitude. Elsewhere, the actors have provided good work, but here, they seem miscast.

Actually, that’s mainly true in Crudup’s case. He plays a dope with a dream and an unflappable belief in himself. It’s an inherently simple, comedic role, and Crudup seems totally wrong for it. He displays little in the way of the chops necessary for this sort of personality, and he comes across like he’s doing an impersonation of a comedic actor.

I’ve liked Crudup elsewhere, but Bird needs an actual funnyman in the part. Maybe the filmmakers thought an actor with a dramatic background would add layers to the role, but this doesn’t occur. If anything, Crudup’s failed attempts to amuse rob the part of any depth; Crudup’s Curtis is a one-dimensional moron. Someone like Steve Carell or Jim Carrey might’ve done something with the character, but in Crudup’s hands, Curtis becomes nothing more than an unfunny annoyance.

At least Crudup’s performance matches the broad work of most of his castmates. On the other hand, Giamatti seems to be in a totally different movie. Though he attempts a few funny takes, he usually seems shockingly intense and gruff for a fairly light film such as this. Granted, Rick is supposed to be the realist of the bunch, but Giamatti’s darkness creates an odd contrast with the goofiness of the other actors. I actually think he gives us a good turn in isolation, but he just doesn’t fit into this particular movie.

Not that I’m sure what would fit in this melange of styles. I think co-writer/director Paul Schneider aspires for a Coen brothers vibe, but Bird tends to flirt with a variety of influences and never really settles in one place for very long.

Maybe Pretty Bird intends to lampoon all the inspirational movies about “impossible dreamers” and their quests. Or maybe it wants us to embrace its characters and root for them – at least until it takes an dark, absurd twist in the third act. Based on the end result, it’s tough to tell what the filmmakers wanted to do with the story – and I’m not even sure they know.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus D-

Pretty Bird appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was an acceptable transfer.

For the most part, sharpness appeared adequate to good. Wide shots tended to look somewhat soft and ill-defined, but the majority of the movie came across as reasonably concise. No jagged edges or moiré effects, but a little edge enhancement popped up and I noticed light digital noise at times. In terms of source defects, I witnessed an occasional speck but nothing more than that.

The film went with a subdued palette that looked fine. Colors never exactly popped off the screen, and they sometimes seemed a little runny, but overall, they were reasonably accurate. Blacks appeared dark and dense, while shadows demonstrated good clarity. This was more than adequate SD presentation.

As for the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, it remained pretty low-key. General ambience ruled the day, as little more exciting than that appeared. A dream or two used the surrounds well, and some shots of flight boasted a bit more evocative material, but those were rare. Most of the movie gave us general ambience and that was about it.

Audio quality seemed acceptable. Speech appeared natural and concise, as the lines always remained intelligible. Music seemed full and rich, while effects showed good accuracy. Nothing here stood out as particularly memorable, but the track was fine for a film of this sort.

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for She’s Out of My League and The Goods. These show up under Previews along with snippets for Echelon Conspiracy and The Cry of the Owl. No other extras appear on the disc.

With a good cast and a moderately interesting premise, Pretty Bird boasted decent potential. Unfortunately, it ends up as a mess of a film that can’t establish a consistent tone or narrative. The DVD gives us acceptable picture and audio but includes no supplements. Bird is far from awful, but it’s never better than just okay.

Viewer Film Ratings: -- Stars Number of Votes: 0
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