Rushmore appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not a disaster, the picture came with a mix of problems.
Sharpness tended to be iffy, especially in wider shots. Close-ups looked decent, but anything broader lacked much definition and could seem blocky. The presence of some prominent edge enhancement didn’t helped, as those obvious haloes made the image rather mushy. I noticed no issues with jaggies or shimmring, but print flaws cropped up through the movie. These weren’t heavy, but they demonstrated occasional specks and marks.
Colors were fairly good. The image’s general mediocrity tended to make them less dynamic than I’d like, but they worked better than the other elements and usually showed reasonable vivacity. Blacks demonstrated fair depth, and shadows were pretty clear. This was a disappointing transfer.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack suited the movie pretty well but won't win any awards. The soundstage appeared nicely broad at the appropriate times and could really be quite engulfing on occasion. It's a talky little film, so the focus is mainly up front, but the audio expanded when necessary. Surround usage was quite good at times, especially during Max's theatrical extravaganzas. Even general atmosphere – like at Herman’s plant – tended to be engulfing. Given the movie’s focus on dialogue, I was surprised at how much activity the speakers offered.
Sound quality seemed fine. Dialogue always appeared crisp and natural, and I had no trouble understanding it. Music could be a little distorted at times, but that was clearly due to source material; most of the songs came from the Sixties and Seventies and will never sound perfect. Despite those flaws, the tunes were reproduced well and showed some good range. Effects also seemed realistic and adequate for the tasks at hand. Rushmore won't be anyone's demo track, but it worked well for the film.
When we head to the set’s extras, we start with an audio commentary from director Wes Anderson, cowriter/coproducer Owen Wilson, and actor Jason Schwartzman. Like many Criterion tracks, each participant was recorded separately and their remarks were edited into this piece. They cover story and characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, and a mix of other topics.
It's a pretty good chat, with a fair amount of interesting statements about the film and its creation. It does an effective job of filling me in on the details, and I find it enjoyable and stimulating.
With The Making of Rushmore, we find a 16-minute, 48-second documentary. It provides a smattering of soundbites from cast and crew, but mostly it focuses on footage from the set. At times, it acts as essentially a visual credit reel; we see shots from the production accompanied by the names of the participants.
That side of things gets tedious, but otherwise, this turns into an enjoyable piece. We see a lot of good bits from the set and these help allow us to get a nice “you are there” perspective. It’s not a program with a lot of information on display, but it’s fun to check out images from the shoot.
A full episode of The Charlie Rose Show appears. The first 33 minutes feature Rose's interview with Bill Murray, while the final 21 minutes show Roses' chat with Wes Anderson. Rose is not a very entertaining interviewer, and I'm not sure he's so bright either; he seems convinced that the story had something to do with Max wanting his face on Mount Rushmore.
Rose has a knack for provoking long discussions with participants but making them ultimately unmemorable; his talk with Quentin Tarantino on Criterion's laserdisc edition of Pulp Fiction appeared similarly flat. As such, this program might be worth a look but don't expect a lot from it. We get some basic discussions of the film from Murray and Anderson but Rose is unable to provoke much meaningful insight.
(One interesting - to me, anyway - footnote: I noticed at least two times that Murray seemed to quote his own films. "Nobody likes a whiner" comes right from Quick Change, and “I’m a mudder” appears to allude to Caddyshack. The weird thing is that he didn't say these as part of his shtick or in any obvious way; they were just part of the conversation and wouldn't stand out if you didn't know his work.
We also find a film to storyboard comparison for the movie's opening scene; this shows the picture in the top half and the board in the bottom; it goes for one minute, 55 seconds. Another area presents the same storyboards plus some from four other scenes on their own. I'm not a big fan of storyboards but these are more interesting than most, mainly because they don't restrict themselves to just drawings; we see a lot of text notes from Wes Anderson as well. (Note that the comparison part just shows the drawings; you'll have to consult the main storyboard section to see Anderson's text.)
Auditions gives us try-outs for six of the actors: Jason Schwartzman, Mason Gamble, Sara Tanaka, Stephen McCole, and Ronnie and Keith McCawley. Schwartzman's segment shows both a videotape and a film clip, whereas the others all feature simply video shots. The collection runs a total of eight minutes, 40 seconds, and it's pretty interesting to see these early attempts by the actors, especially when their first tries are so different from the final efforts.
The 1999 MTV Movie Award shorts offers four different clips that ran during that program. There's an introduction from Max, plus brief "plays" that parody The Truman Show, Armageddon, and Out of Sight. Like Rushmore itself, they aren't super-funny, but they're enjoyable and witty nonetheless.
Under Archiva Graphica, we get some stillframes. These show posters, production stills, and odds and ends from the flick. Similar components pop up under Grover Cleveland Society for the Performing Arts and Rushmore Academy Productions; they show programs, pictures and other tidbits from Max’s extracurricular efforts. All are fun to see.
The package’s booklet is less substantial than usual for Criterion, but it does include critic Dave Kehr's useful comments about the film plus a bunch of little cartoons from Eric Anderson. We also find a special collectible poster: with “a map of Rushmore's key events”. While I don't know how collectible it is, it does offer a fun cartoon look at the film.
Does Rushmore provide a wholly satisfying character drama/comedy? No, it falters at times, especially during its somewhat sluggish third act. Nonetheless, it has enough wit and spark to make it worthwhile. The DVD offers very good supplements and positive audio but picture quality seems subpar. This is a generally solid movie but a lackluster visual presentation.
To rate this film visit the Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] review of RUSHMORE