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Danny DeVito
Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Gerrit Graham, Michael Richards, Steve Allen
Writing Credits:
Jim Mulholland and Michael Barrie

A New Jersey trucking company owner creates a hit TV show with help from his girlfriend in the ratings business.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $24.95
Release Date: 7/19/2016

• Four Danny DeVito Short Films
• Deleted Scenes
• “Making Of” Featurette
• Promo Spot
• Booklet


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; 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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The Ratings Game [Blu-Ray] (1984)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 8, 2016)

Though best-known as an actor, Danny DeVito enjoyed a decent directorial career as well. Movies like Throw Momma From the Train and Hoffa led him to a credible presence behind the camera, though he appears to have given up on features. We last saw DeVito as director of the 2003 flop Duplex, so I guess he now feels content to stay in front of the camera.

For DeVito’s feature-length directorial debut, we go to a cable TV movie: 1984’s The Ratings Game. Originally presented on Showtime, Vic DeSalvo co-owns a successful trucking company along with his brother Goody (Louis Giambalvo).

However, Vic aspires to something different: a career as a Hollywood producer. He fails to make an impression until he gets a last-ditch shot to create, write, direct and star in a show called Sittin’ Pretty.

Though the series is amateurish and awful, Vic feels inspired to continue with his dream, and he finds a way to game the system. When he meets and falls in love with Francine (Rhea Perlman), they use her experience at a TV ratings agency to catapult Vic to TV stardom.

While I don’t think DeVito ever became a great director, he proved to be perfectly competent and occasionally pretty good. The movies I cited earlier worked acceptably well, especially when DeVito stayed with his comedic roots.

With its focus on TV and its satirical bent, Game feels like something that should be up DeVito’s alley, and the movie does occasionally prosper. This usually occurs when DeVito bites the hand that feeds him and mocks the TV business. Game mocks bad TV programs well, and some of the film’s industry-centered barbs and comedy entertain.

Game also benefits from a lot of talent in its cast. Though short on true star power, the flick includes a slew of solid performers, and they add quality to the program. Heck, we even get a then-essentially unknown Jerry Seinfeld in a quick role as a TV executive. Game sputters too often because it lacks a lot of drive. Much of the film focuses on Vic and his relationship with Francine, and those elements drag. Despite their real-life marriage, DeVito and Perlman show little chemistry, and their characters can’t jump off the screen.

In addition, Game simply feels too long for a project of this sort. The script stretches various plot areas and conceits to their breaking point, and those factors make it a slow watch. We’re ready for it to end a good 40 minutes before it does so.

Again, Game doesn’t come as a bad movie, for it musters the occasional laugh and clever segment. It simply lacks consistency and seems too long and too sluggish to be better than mediocre.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C/ Bonus B-

The Ratings Game appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. While not without flaws, the image looked better than expected for a TV movie from 1984.

That’s mainly because Danny DeVito shot on film, not video, a factor that avoided the ugliness of the era’s tapes. Sharpness was largely fine. Some shots could be a bit tentative, and I can’t claim the movie boasted razor-sharp delineation. Nonetheless, it displayed appropriate definition the majority of the time.

I saw no jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. Print flaws cropped up throughout the movie, as I saw specks and marks. These weren’t dominant, but they became a more frequent companion than I’d like.

Colors appeared acceptable. The movie tended toward somewhat pale hues, which again seemed to reflect the source. The hues lacked much vivacity but they came across reasonably well.

Blacks were fairly rich, and low-light shots delivered decent clarity. Nothing here excelled, but the image seemed satisfactory given the source limitations.

On the other hand, the DTS-HD MA monaural audio of Ratings Games provided a weak affair. Speech always remained intelligible, but dialogue tended to seem lifeless, and I heard a little edginess at times.

Effects showed a little distortion and generally appeared flat and lackluster, without any heft or range. Music was a little stronger, but not by much, as the score appeared fairly thin and bland. Even when I accounted for its age, this was a mediocre soundtrack.

When we look at the set’s extras, the prime attraction comes from four Danny DeVito Short Films. We find The Selling of Vince D’Angelo (20:37), A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening (13:48), Minestrone (11:51) and The Sound Sleeper (11:52).

Selling looks at a sleazy political campaign, and Evening shows the exploits of some violent practical jokers. Minestrone features a glimpse of the methods and madness of a filmmaker, while Sleeper views a mystery woman who leads a secret life.

The oldest of the bunch, Sleeper and Minestrone are both the weirdest and the least effective. From the mid-1970s, these seem like self-conscious attempts at edginess and they flop, as neither one goes anywhere.

From the early 1980s, the other two fare much better – especially the cynical and edgy Selling. It gives us a politician who exploits various forms of bigotry while he lies and taunts – that could never happen in a US presidential race, could it? Modern-day relevance aside, Selling provides a darkly humorous tale, and Evening works well, too.

Deleted Scenes fill a total of six minutes, three seconds. We find “Parker Seeks Professional Help” (3:07), “Vic and Francine on the Red Carpet” (1:18) and “Meet the Twins” (1:38).

“Help” shows more of the beleaguered TV executive, while “Carpet” gives us a little more of the awards ceremony. “Twins” just offers outtakes from the sitcom shoot. With a guest appearance from Lainie Kazan, “Help” entertains, but the other two seem less useful.

In addition to a Promo Spot (1:41), we find a Making of featurette. In this six-minute, 50-second piece, we hear from actor/director Danny DeVito and actor Rhea Perlman. The show offers a few basics about the production but it mainly goes for a promotional bent.

The package completes with a booklet. It features photos, production notes/materials and credits. It becomes a good addition to the package.

At times, The Ratings Game provides a smattering of laughs. However, it runs too long to sustain its thin premise. The Blu-ray brings us average picture and audio along with some interesting supplements. It’s interesting to see Danny DeVito’s first feature-length film, but the end result sputters.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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