Rushmore appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. I had no complaints about this terrific transfer.
Sharpness appeared strong and crisp throughout the movie. Even the widest shots still offered good definition, with nary a smidgen of softness along the way. I saw no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. Source flaws were a non-factor, as I witnessed no specks, marks or other debris.
Colors were a strong point, as they seemed consistently accurate and well-saturated. The movie featured a warm palette that looked vivid and full, Black levels were appropriately deep and shadow detail seemed good, with no excessive opacity or darkness. I felt quite impressed by this solid presentation.
The DTS-HD MA 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.
How does this Blu-Ray compare with the Criterion DVD from 2000? In terms of scope, the audio remained similar, but the track seemed a bit warmer and fuller. Visuals demonstrated a more obvious uptick, as the Blu-ray looked notably tighter, cleaner and more dynamic. It also lacked the ugly edge haloes that consistently marred the prior release. The Blu-ray’s transfer totally blew away the fairly ugly DVD presentation.
We get many of the same extras as the DVD. First up is 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 a crude sketch of the painting of the Blume family as well as the final work. We also can check out a movie poster created by artist Guy Peelaert. They’re interesting to see.
I’m not sure if any other Criterion Blu-rays I’ve reviewed lost extras from their original DVDs, but to my surprise, this Rushmore lacks a bunch of materials on the 2000 release. The Blu-ray’s “Archiva” was more substantial, and it includes two other similar domains; both "Grover Cleveland Society for the Performing Arts" and "Rushmore Academy Productions" showed odds and ends like publicity stills, “play programs” and sets, and other cool elements. Why do these pieces disappear here? I don’t know, but their absence disappoints.
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 Blu-ray delivers excellent visuals as well as very good audio and supplements. It’s too bad the Blu-ray drops some of the bonus materials from the old DVD, but otherwise, it’s a substantial improvement, especially since it boasts radically improved picture quality.