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Barry Egan (Adam Sandler), the owner of a struggling vanity plungers company, falls in love with Lena Leonard (Emily Watson), a woman his sister is trying to set him up with. On the run from a gang of thugs, Barry travels to Hawaii, using the frequent flier mile coupons clipped from several cartons of pudding cups, to meet up with this girl of his dreams.

Paul Thomas Anderson
Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Luis Guzman, Mary Lynn Rajskub
Writing Credits:
Paul Thomas Anderson

Box Office:
Budget $25 million.
Opening weekend $367,203 on 5 screens.
Domestic gross $17.791 million.
Rated R for strong language including a scene of sexual dialogue.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
English Dolby Surround
French Dolby Surround
English, French

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $28.96
Release Date: 6/24/2003

• 12 Scopitones
• 3 Theatrical Trailers
Blossoms & Blood-A Twelve-Minute Short Piece Featuring Music By Jon Brion and Directed by P.T. Anderson with Adam Sandler and Emily Watson
• Deleted Scenes
• Mattress Man Commercial
• Additional Artwork By Jeremy Blake

Search Titles:

TV - Mitsubishi CS-32310 32"; Subwoofer - JBL PB12; DVD Player - Toshiba SD-4700; Receiver - Sony STR-DE845; Center - Polk Audio CS175i; Front Channels - Polk Audio; Rear Channels - Polk Audio.


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Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Reviewed by David Williams (June 16, 2003)

Many of you were probably as bewildered as I was when PT Anderson announced his intention to cast Adam Sandler in a starring role in one of his films. You had to figure that PT Anderson had no plan to create some stupid frat house Sandler comedy, so most of us wondered how well Sandler would fare in one of Anderson’s admittedly off-the-wall features. It seemed to be an odd marriage, but Anderson is an odd guy and if he felt strongly enough that Sandler could pull something like this off, you had to believe him. Punch-Drunk Love is the fruit of their combined labors.

The film was “inspired” by the true story of a University of California engineering student who redeemed over 1,000,000 frequent flyer miles by purchasing $3000 worth of Healthy Choice Pudding. While this may seem as an odd inspiration for a romantic comedy, it’s just the type of territory director PT Anderson loves to dwell in … and excels in.

In Punch-Drunk Love, we’re introduced to Barry Egan (Adam Sandler), a mild-mannered owner of a company that manufactures decorative and novelty toilet plungers and between the docile and shy exterior is the repressed rage of an only brothers of seven sisters. As the only boy in the family, he’s been bossed around all his life by his siblings and there’s no part of his life that they don’t meddle in. They constantly call him at work and offer up unsolicited yammerings from everything to what he’s wearing to who he’s seeing to what he’s doing at work to what time he should show up at a family gathering.

On the morning that we meet Barry, he’s been witness to an unusual car wreck, as well as someone dropping off a small piano near his workplace (figure it out – it’s a PT Anderson film for goodness sakes!) and moments later, a hot Englishwoman, Lena (Emily Watson), shows up to drop her car off to be repaired. She’s a little early for the garage located next to Barry’s office and she asks if Barry can help her out. He can’t offer her much more than an apology, but little does he know that this chance meeting will lead him to the love of his life. (Barry isn’t aware until later than Lena works for one of his sisters and from the moment she saw his picture, she wanted to set up a “chance meeting” with him.)

When he goes home later that night, Barry decides to call a phone sex line to “connect” with someone from the opposite sex. After giving the company operating the line all kinds of personal information – pretty much everything but his penis size – he’s connected to someone who tries her best to get her scripted seduction to work on him. However, all he wants to do it talk … about nothing really … and the phone sex operator unsuccessfully tries to get him turned on.

Imagine Barry’s surprise when the next morning, he gets a call from the phone sex operator and she tries to shake him down for a few hundred bucks. Barry claims that he cannot help the woman with her money woes and when he refuses to help her again, she informs him that his decision is unwise, as she knows his social security number, his home address, his work address, and so on. Barry knows a shakedown when he sees it and he attempts to ignore the threats. But when the woman’s boss (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) learns of Barry’s attempts to simply walk away without paying up, he sends some of his goons on a trip from Utah to California to track Barry down and get their money.

When Lena heads off for a business trip to Hawaii, Barry decides to cash in some of his Healthy Choice frequent flyer miles to follow her – not only to be with her, but to escape the heat for a few days. But when he finds out that he can’t redeem them for 6-8 weeks, he decides to take the plunge and actually purchase a ticket to follow her there. The two are able to spend some quality time together and their love for each other blossoms during their time away and alone. When the couple gets back from Hawaii, Hoffman’s baddies are still around trying to collect, but Barry’s love for Lena has given him strength he never knew he had and he uses it to stand up to the blackmailing bastards. He also uses it to confess this transgression – and all of his past ones – to Lena, in order to clear the air.

As the couple’s adoration for each other continues to grow, we learn that unconditional love from another can save us from lots of things and in Barry’s case (as well as Lena’s), it’s a life of awkward, solitary confinement in a world that just doesn’t seem to understand.

To Anderson’s credit, he is able to get a performance out of Sandler that I didn’t think existed. That being said, his character is Punch-Drunk isn’t as much of a departure as you might think. He’s still a “loveable loser” here, but he’s so heartbreakingly normal that there’s an instant connection and kinship with his character that I’ve never had before. While it could be said that Sandler has always connected with audiences (hence, his unexplained popularity), it’s doubtful that most of us know what it’s like to inherit billions of dollars overnight (Mr. Deeds) or get a shot at playing on the PGA Tour (Happy Gilmore). However, what makes his role great in Punch-Drunk Love is that we’ve all known what it’s like at one time or another to be in love with someone who loves us back despite all of our faults … warts and all. Sandler’s scenes with Emily Watson (who’s great in the film as well) are charming and tremendously powerful and the duo plays off of each other quite nicely. Anderson staples Luis Guzman and Philip Seymour Hoffman show up in Punch-Drunk as well and as usual, own their respective roles.

Not quite the masterpiece or classic that I had hoped, but still a great way to spend a couple of hours. PT Anderson has failed to deliver another Hard Eight, Magnolia, or Boogie Nights, but an off day for Anderson is better than many directors on their best and Punch-Drunk Love proves that Anderson can still make an engaging film. It also shows that there’s more to Adam Sandler’s craft than just the goofy clown we’ve seen way too many times already.

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

Columbia’s Superbit Deluxe version of Punch-Drunk Love is presented in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with anamorphic treatment and an entire, extras-free platter in which to strut its stuff. With their Superbit collection, the studio’s intent is to provide viewers with the absolute best video and audio transfers available by maxxing out the bitrate on the disc. So far, it appears that the studio has succeeded, as the general consensus seems to be that the transfers are consistently top-notch and very high quality … and the transfer for Punch-Drunk Love is no different.

The film was very crisp and detailed throughout, with nary an instance of softness of breakup noted and the film looks as sharp and clean as one would expect from such a recent release. Cinematographer Robert Elswit has teamed up with Paul Thomas Anderson to create a visually striking film (heck, just look at the opening sequence) that was very pleasing on Columbia’s DVD and in turn, the viewer’s eye. The film uses a lot of filtering and extreme hues to help tell its tale, as Punch-Drunk Love varies wildly from dark and gloomy to bright, stark, and cheery and Columbia’s transfer reproduces all these instances very faithfully. Colors were accurate and natural and never bled or looked oversaturated at any time, with consistently natural-looking fleshtones. Black levels were absolutely solid and allowed for excellent shadow detail and delineation and a very film-like appearance.

Flaws were minor and were relegated to some slight grain in some of the darker scenes, as well as some shimmer and ringing in a few areas as well. I also noticed an occasional white spot/flake on the print, but they were definitely gone as quickly as they were noted and were of the non-distracting variety. Other than that however, the transfer and the corresponding master print, seemed to be in great shape.

While the studio has had better transfers in their Superbit line, Punch-Drunk Love looks grandiose and fans of the film will be very pleased with the studio’s efforts. This was a very nice looking film.

Columbia has given Punch-Drunk Love two very well done audio transfers – one in Dolby Digital and one in DTS – and while I didn’t expect much from the film in the way of sonic activity, I was pleasantly surprised at Columbia’s results. For a drama, the film contained a very active mix that kept you engaged for a good portion of the film.

As far as the Dolby Digital and DTS tracks are concerned, I didn’t notice a whole heck of a lot of difference between the tracks, although I preferred the DTS option over the Dolby Digital one. As is usually the case, the bass seemed a bit more deep and forceful in the DTS mix and everything just comes across as a bit more open, spacious, and full.

Punch-Drunk Love contains a very expansive soundstage that opens up even the simplest of movements within it, as I’ve never heard simple things like footsteps, passing trains/cars/cabs, and pencils rolling across desks sound so good. The front surrounds displayed some really nice separation and every effect came across as crystal clear and distinct. Rear surrounds were engaged in some of the more active sequences and the studio did a really nice job of making many of the quieter sequences quite ambient and engaging as well. While not a balls-out assault on your home theater setup, the film still managed to take advantage of each and every opportunity presented to it aurally and the results were quite pleasing.

The film contains a very interesting and percussive score from Jon Brion that adds brilliantly to the peculiarity of the film itself. It sounded very rich and did a really nice job of dancing around your surround setup and engaging each and every one of your speakers at some point during the film. Overall, the track exhibited excellent dynamics and fidelity, with very crisp sounding highs and a firm and forceful low-end. Dialogue was crisp and distinct at all times and harshness or edginess were never an issue, as everything was clean and intelligible.

Columbia has also included an English Dolby Surround 2.0 track, as well as English and French subtitles.

As with most Superbit releases, extras aren’t really the thrust of the package and that’s no different with Columbia’s release of Punch-Drunk Love. Using the first disc for the film only, Columbia has added the few extras provided on a disc all by themselves. (As a funny aside and in true PT Anderson flair, the extras all come with optional Korean subtitles!)

Blossoms and Blood (12:02) starts things out and this supplement is nothing more than a montage of film clips and Jeremy Blake imagery set to Jon Brion’s score. There’s not a whole lot to learn here, as the supplement serves as nothing more than a fancy music video. The supplement is presented in widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1.

Follow are twelve Scopitones (“First”, “Harp Finger”, “Punchy Doorbell”, “Mysterio”, “Boy Businessman”, “Healthy Choice”, “He Needs”, “Lena”, “Come and Get Me”, “Exit Love Story”, “Wamanalo Walk”, and “Sissy Lake’s Love”) that run on average around 10-15 seconds each and serve as more examples of Jeremy Blake’s interesting work in the area. Columbia has included a –PLAY ALL- feature for the pieces as well.

Three Theatrical Trailers are followed by a Mattress Man Commercial (0:51) that “stars” Philip Seymour Hoffman as the character he played in the film. Kinda funny, but too short to be really engaging.

Next up are two Deleted Scenes (“Sisters Call” - 7:18 and “Are You From California?” – 2:23) that are a nice addition to the set, but don’t really add a lot to the story in the end. This is followed by Art (2:42), a selection of artwork from the film that again, shows Jeremy Blake’s influence. This bit runs as a slideshow that can only be controlled by using the –FF- or –PAUSE- buttons on your DVD remote.

Finishing off the extras is a really nice 12-page Insert Booklet that features more of Jeremy Blake’s artwork. (Are you catching a trend here?)

Why Columbia felt the need to generate a second disc to put less that 30-minutes of material on is beyond me. However, I’ll take something over nothing any day and what the studio has included is much appreciated. Not exactly the mother lode that fans may be expecting, but seeing as it’s very doubtful the film will be revisited on DVD for some time, it’s the best we’re gonna get as far as supplements are concerned.

Punch-Drunk Love is the type of romance that could only come from the universe that someone like PT Anderson lives in and he gets a surprisingly good and miraculously restrained performance from one of the most annoying actors of the day, Adam Sandler. At its core, Punch-Drunk Love introduces us to two odd, lonely, and entirely transparent people who simply can’t believe that they’ve found someone who loves them unconditionally – something we can all relate to.

Columbia’s Superbit Deluxe version of the film is quite nice where it counts – audio and video – but is lacking at best in the supplements arena. Fans of PT Anderson or the film itself should pick this set up the second that it streets and for those of you unfamiliar with Anderson, or those of you expecting a “typical” performance out of Sandler, you might want to rent this one first. (I can just see the disappointment on some poor teenaged girl’s face when she picks this one up expecting a run-of-the-mill Sandler flick!)

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1481 Stars Number of Votes: 108
5 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.