After an autistic savant inherits three million dollars from his deceased father, his younger brother, in an attempt to trick him out of the money, learns some valuable lessons of life.
Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino, Gerald R. Molen, Jack Murdock, Michael D. Roberts, Ralph Seymour, Lucinda Jenney, Bonnie Hunt
Roanld Bass, Barry Morrow
Won for Best Picture; Best Director; Best Screenplay; Best Actor-Dustin Hoffman.
Nominated for Best Cinematography; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration; Best Film Editing; Best Original Score-Hans Zimmer.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround
Spanish Digital Mono
English, Spanish, French
Runtime: 133 min.
Release Date: 9/3/1997
• Theatrical Trailer
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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Rain Man (1988)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 3, 1997)
Someday I may understand why a hack like Barry Levinson enjoys such a
stellar reputation as a filmmaker, but not today. For now, I'll have to
remain mystified as I discuss the jewel in his crown, 1988's Rain
Man, that year's top-grossing film and also the winner of the Best
That money-prize sweep happens fairly infrequently, as it only seems to
occur about once or twice a decade. The Nineties saw it twice, with Titanic in 1997 and Forrest Gump in 1994, and the Seventies
also got a two-fer, with Rocky in 1976 and The Godfather in
1972. For the Eighties, however, Rain Man was it, and even that
victory occurred only because 1988 was a pretty weak year at the box office;
except for in 1987, it would have placed no higher than second in any of the
other years during that decade.
Still, $172 million for a drama about an autistic man and his selfish
brother isn't too shabby; too bad the movie itself bites. As much as I
dislike Rain Man, I can't claim it's the worst movie in the Levinson
pantheon, not with such dreck as Toys and Avalon to his
discredit. Nonetheless, RM remains a clunker, one whose lack of
charm comes through more clearly on every viewing.
One reason I so dislike Levinson's work is because he telegraphs his
emotions so bluntly. Leni Riefenstahl didn't manipulate audiences as
harshly as does Levinson. Avalon marked the nadir of this tendency,
but RM suffers from it as well. with scene after scene that clearly
sets up the audience for his desired emotional reaction, whether through
mystical awe (the diner bit) or fear (the fire in the kitchen) or cuteness
(most of the rest of this drivel).
Oh, that cuteness! That was easily the most insufferable aspect of this
movie. Some would claim Rain Man did more to educate the American
public about autism than any other work, but I feel it did more to
miseducate people about the disorder, for Raymond (Dustin Hoffman)
barely resembles any autistic person I've ever met, and since I work with
some autistic kids through my job, I feel pretty qualified to say that.
As portrayed in this movie, Raymond is either an adorable little pixie (most
of the film) or is a screeching terror (occasionally). It's clear that the
latter instances occur only to added "depth" to the story; they let Levinson
think he's making a serious picture that tells us what it's really
like to be around someone with autism.
What a crock. Hoffman got a very-undeserved Oscar for his work as Raymond,
which shows how ridiculous the Academy Awards can be (especially since this
deprived Tom Hanks a prize for his wonderfully rich and nuanced turn in
Big). As played by Hoffman, Raymond is nothing more than a
one-dimensional cartoon character with no basis in reality. This isn't
acting of any scope or talent; I could play the role equally well,
and I don't say that out of bravado - Hoffman just does nothing subtle or
special in the part.
Better is Tom Cruise as Raymond's scam artist brother Charlie who
essentially kidnaps Raymond to cash in on an inheritance but who -
inevitably - develops love and affection for the cute l'il fella. Cruise is
stuck with all the work in the movie since he has to react realistically to
the events around him - unlike Hoffman, who acts in a vacuum - and he shows
the only real character development in the film, since Raymond is exactly
the same at the end as at the beginning. Still, there's only so much Cruise
can do with material this stale and transparent; he performs adequately but
gives us little reason to care.
Rain Man felt like a series of vaguely connected "moments". We find
a series of scenes with no great relationship to each other except for the
fact they let us see more wackiness from Raymond. He adds toothpicks, he
counts cards, he farts, he says "K-Mart sucks". None of this has anything
to do with anything, but that dude sure is cute, isn't he?
Nope. Back in grad school, I wrote a paper that condemned the inaccuracies
in Rain Man and even more fully cataloged my disgust with it; I wish
I still had it around, as I could have just posted it and saved me some
trouble. That was almost a decade ago, and another viewing of this
"classic" hasn't changed my mind; if anything, my interactions with real
autistic people have made me even more annoyed at the film. This is
sentimental hogwash and nothing more.
The DVD Grades: Picture B / Audio B+ / Bonus D-
Rain Man appears in both its original theatrical aspect ratio of
approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen edition on this single-sided,
double-layered DVD; the letterboxed image has been enhanced for 16X9
televisions. Only the widescreen side was screened for this review. The
picture displayed some flaws but generally looked pretty good.
Sharpness seemed consistently decent although it probably could have
appeared a slight bit more crisp; the image never truly looked soft, per se,
but it was a bit dull at times. Moiré effects and jagged edges are not a
problem, and I noticed only a few instances of artifacts from the anamorphic
downconversion on my 4X3 TV. Print flaws presented a few concerns, though
not a tremendous amount; I detected slight grain at times, and a few
blotches, speckles and nicks mar the presentation on occasion.
Colors seemed adequately saturated and were generally accurate, though some
gauziness appeared at times. Films from the Eighties often display
similarly muddled hues, and these were not bad to any extent; they just had
that "Eighties look" and seemed a little less realistic than I'd like.
Black levels seemed very good, with consistently rich and deep tones, and
shadow detail was excellent; the film offers many low-light situations, and
these came through winningly. The mild concerns I've raised caused me to
lower my grade to a "B", but overall, Rain Man presents a pretty
To my surprise, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was quite strong. To begin
with, I was startled to find a 5.1 mix - I expected Dolby Surround - and I
also didn't think it'd sound so good; the track betrays a few problems, but
it usually seems very clear and bold. The soundfield sticks mainly to the
front; music spreads nicely to the sides, with a modicum of ambient sound
blending on the left and right as well. The surrounds support the score
very nicely - it's easily the best part of the mix - and they also add some
mild reinforcement for effects. It's not a dazzling mix, but it works well.
The quality seems inconsistent but generally positive. Dialogue is the
weakest aspect; although it sounds distinct and intelligible, it can appear
dull or flat, and it also displays some slight distortion on occasion.
Effects also suffer from some muddiness, but they usually seem clear and
realistic, and they betray some solid low end at times. Best of all is the
music, which sounds terrifically bright and bold, with excellent dynamic
range; the bass shook the walls much better than I'd expect from a 1988
film. It didn't make me like the movie, but the soundtrack nonetheless
added to the experience.
Time for my now-standard complaint: why do films that win Best Picture so
often end up with virtually featureless DVDs? Rain Man includes a
theatrical trailer but nothing else. Blehh!
Not that they'd make this dreck any more palatable. I've disliked a fair
number of Best Picture winners, but I reserve a special level of distaste
for this junk. Honestly, Rain Man can be an entertaining film but
it's so insanely phony and artificially sentimental that it makes me
nauseous. The DVD provides pretty good picture and sound but includes
virtually no extras. Unless you need your sugar high for the day, Rain
Man is a film to skip.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.1408 Stars
| Number of Votes: 71