DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main

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.

Barry Levinson
Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino, Gerald R. Molen, Jack Murdock, Michael D. Roberts, Ralph Seymour, Lucinda Jenney, Bonnie Hunt
Writing Credits:
Roanld Bass, Barry Morrow

Rated R

Academy Awards:
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.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Spanish Monaural
Portuguese Monaural
German DTS 5.1
Italian DTS 5.1
Russian DTS 5.1
Castillian DTS 5.1
Czech DTS 5.1
Hungarian Monaural
Polish Dolby Digital 5.1
Bahasa Indonesian
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 134 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 2/15/2011

• Audio Commentary with Director Barry Levinson
• Audio Commentary with Writer Barry Morrow
• Audio Commentary with Writer Ronald Bass
• Original Featurette
• Deleted Scene
• Photo Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer


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.


Rain Man [Blu-Ray] (1988)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 25, 2011)

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 Picture Oscar.

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. 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, Rain Man 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 Rain Man suffers from it as well. We find 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 reasonably 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 li’l 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 myself some trouble. That was more than 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 Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B / Bonus B+

Rain Man appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a decent but unexceptional image.

Sharpness seemed reasonably good. Sporadic examples of softness cropped up, but these stayed pretty modest. Most of the flick came across as fairly detailed and tight. No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes were light, if occasionally annoying.

Print flaws remained minor. The occasional speck popped up, but those remained rare, as most of the movie looked clean. Grain showed some "management", which hurt fine detail, but this use of noise reduction didn't seem too heavy.

Colors appeared surprisingly vibrant. The palette stayed in a natural vein, and the disc displayed these hues well. Despite the occasional instance of muddy 80s colors, the tones usually came across as fairly lively and full.

Black levels seemed very good, with consistently rich and deep tones, and shadow detail was positive; the film offered many low-light situations, and these came through well. Expect a watchable but not great image.

To my surprise, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack was also strong. The track betrayed a few problems, but it usually seemed clear and concise. The soundfield stuck mainly to the front; music spread nicely to the sides, with a modicum of ambient sound blending on the left and right as well. The surrounds supported the score very nicely - it's easily the best part of the mix - and they also added some mild reinforcement for effects. It's not a dazzling mix, but it worked well.

The quality seemed inconsistent but generally positive. Dialogue was the weakest aspect; although it sounded distinct and intelligible, it could appear dull or flat, and it also displayed some slight distortion on occasion. Effects also suffered from some muddiness, but they usually seemed clear and realistic, and they betrayed some solid low end at times. Best of all was the music, which sounded bright and bold, with fne dynamic range; the bass rocked 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.

The Blu-ray repeats the extras from the 2004 DVD, and we find no fewer than three separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Barry Levinson, who offers a running, screen-specific piece. When he speaks, Levinson gives us some great information. He goes into many aspects of the production. Levinson discusses shooting in sequence and its effect on the production, reshoots, casting some actors, decisions related to the rhythmic score, cinematographic choices, editing, improvs, and many other elements.

The key phrase in the prior paragraph should be “when he speaks”. Unfortunately, Levinson fades into the background too much of the time. Many empty spaces appear in this track and he can disappear for fairly long stretches. The quality of the information seems strong enough for me to recommend this commentary, but the many gaps create many frustrations.

Next we find a chat from writer Barry Morrow, who also offers his own running, screen-specific piece. I admit I didn’t expect much from this conversation, but Morrow provides a consistently informative and engaging commentary. He starts with the roots of Rain Man and how his own interactions with the mentally disabled led him to write it.

Morrow gives us many stories of his experiences with real-life “rain men” and tosses out many great stories about the production. We learn of casting and crew possibilities, the script’s path to the screen, and what’s happened to him since the movie’s release, especially in regard to the reactions the flick engendered. Heck, he even addresses those of us who dislike the film! Morrow remains very likable and interesting in this terrific track.

Finally, we get a piece with writer Ronald Bass, who offers his own running, screen-specific discussion. Bass starts strong as he goes over his involvement in the flick, the development he did with Steven Spielberg and mentions of other directorial possibilities, research and character development, and variations in different versions of the scripts.

Unfortunately, Bass peters out before too long. After a while, his comments become appear less frequently, and he mostly just narrates the film and tells us what we see on the screen. Some good moments still pop up at times, such as when Bass tells a funny Oscar anecdote. Nonetheless, the last half of the track makes for slow going. Most of the good material shows up early in this inconsistent piece.

A few featurettes ensue. The Journey of Rain Man goes for 22 minutes, seven seconds and provides notes from Levinson, Morrow, Bass, producer Mark Johnson, co-producer Gerald R. Molen, UCLA Department of Psychology clinical social worker Diane Bass, associate producer Gail Mutrux, composer Hans Zimmer, and actor Valeria Golina. “Journey” looks at how various participants came onto the project and its development, script, characters and story, research and realism, cast and performances, music, the movie’s release and reception. “Journey” delivers a fairly general “making of“ piece, and it’s fine in that regard. You’ll find some redundant material after all those commentaries, but it ties things up in a neat manner.

Lifting the Fog: A Look at the Mysteries of Autism runs 20 minutes, 13 seconds and includes comments from Morrow, Autism Research Institute director Dr. Bernard Rimland, Autism Service Center’s Dr. Ruth Sullivan, psychiatrists Dr. Darold Treffert and Dr. Arnold Rosen, autistic men Joseph Sullivan, Mark Rimland and Peter Guthrie, and Guthrie’s brother Kevin. The program looks at aspects of autism and shows us the influences for Dustin Hoffman’s performance. This is a basic show but it offers some interesting notes.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get one deleted scene. It goes for two minutes, 13 seconds and shows Raymond as he navigates a convenience store by himself. It’s an interesting snippet, but it doesn’t tell us anything new about the characters.

Does the Blu-ray omit anything from the SE DVD? Yes, but not much. It drops a useless promo featurette and a minor photo gallery. It adds the “Journey” and “Fog” programs, though.

I've disliked a fair number of Best Picture winners, but I reserve a special level of distaste for Rain Man. Honestly, it can be an entertaining film but it's so insanely phony and artificially sentimental that it makes me nauseous. The Blu-ray provides pretty good picture and sound as well as a decent roster of extras. The three audio commentaries bring out a lot of useful information, mostly thanks to the one excellent track from writer Barry Morrow; the other two seem much more erratic. I feel pleased with the Blu-ray but still can’t stand the movie itself.

To rate this film, visit the original review of RAIN MAN

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main