Lost in America (1985)
|Year Of Production||1985|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Albert Brooks|
Warner Home Video
|RPI||$14.95||Music||Arthur B. Rubenstein|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Hilarious. Hysterically funny. More big laughs than any film this year. So read the various blurb quotes slapped all over the slick cover for Lost In America. I can only assume that the film contained on the DVD and stuck in the case that had this slick was not the same Lost In America as that which the critics were watching. Even some of the reviews that I had read of the film indicated that it was a comedy and a quite decent one to boot. So it was that I stuck my name down to review the DVD. Big mistake. Huge mistake.
This is unfortunately one of the worst films to have passed through my player in recent months, and considering some of the stuff I have reviewed recently that is saying something. Supposedly a comedy, this was not in the slightest bit amusing - not even subtly and not even as a satire. Clichéd to within an inch of its celluloid life, this is so devoid of any comedic moments that it is actually an amazingly boring watch that only saves itself by rapidly running through the third act as if determined to get to the end whilst the viewer is still awake. It gets there just in the nick of time.
A homage of sorts to Easy Rider, this salutes all those that decide to toss in the towel and hit the open road. In this case, it is to prove that perhaps it is not such a sensible thing to do. David Howard (Albert Brooks) is an advertising executive stuck in a rut as his aspirations to become Senior Vice President of the agency he works for are continually shot down in flames. His wife Linda (Julie Hagerty) is equally stuck in a dead end job. She complains about their too-controlled life, so when David is again passed over for promotion to his dream position (actually, the fact that someone aspires to be a Senior Vice President is about the only amusing thing about this film - and a brilliantly insightful look at what ails corporate America) and does his noodle to such an extent that he is fired, the opportunity to hit the open road arises. Working out that if they sell up everything and buy a Winnebago they would still have over $125,000 left, the decision is made and they hit the road. How quintessentially American - the yuppie couple and their Winnebago doing America. Or is that terribly clichéd America? Either way, the first stop is Las Vegas and you can guess what happens. Nest egg goes up in smoke and family discord ensues as the couple head off across America to realise their dream - which now is simply to have money again.
Okay, maybe it is just me and Lost In America is a comedy classic. Maybe I just don't "get" Albert Brooks' humour. Maybe I was just wanting mindless entertainment and got cerebral boredom. Whatever, the fact is that nothing here was found by me to be the slightest bit enticing. Albert Brooks adopts a slow pace that his material does not sustain well (he co-wrote the screenplay as well as directed, edited and starred in the film). At times his monologues are ridiculously banal, his acting barely any better and his direction without spark. His choice for the way the film was shot (very matte, very flat looking imagery) does not work that well either. Adding to the mix is the lamentably untalented Julie Hagerty whose acting style is better suited for the slapstick style of Flying High rather than anything approaching the subtlety that Albert Brooks was obviously aiming for. The Winnebago does an excellent job though... We will of course totally ignore the preposterous notion of a parking space the size of a Winnebago being right out front of the building... oops, better not give away too much.
Given that even respected critics managed to find something of value here, perhaps this is one that you need to check out on your own. Certainly at the price point it is issued at (and the fact that I have already seen the DVD for sale at under $10), there is little downside to a purchase. However, this really is one that is perhaps for devotees of Albert Brooks. If you are wanting more mindless entertainment, then there are better places to seek it out.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced. The theatrical aspect ratio was 1.85:1 so the transfer is pretty well accurate.
Giving the benefit of the doubt to the transfer, I am assuming that the style of the film was that which the director wanted. Accordingly, we don't have an especially sharp transfer in most respects, although detail is still pretty good. The only time that the transfer really comes to life is in the night-time Las Vegas scenes, most especially with the reflections of the neon lights on the windscreen of the Winnebago. Shadow detail is about what we would expect from a film from the mid 1980's : good but with a few reservations in some scenes such as the trailer park. At least the transfer is free enough from any serious grain issues, with just the odd instance cropping up here and there.
One description I have found of the film (courtesy of DVD Angle) is "insipid". That is probably the best description I could possibly come up with. A road movie through some of the most amazing scenery in America, I was expecting a gorgeously vibrant look that really showed up the earthy colours of the countryside. What we actually get is this pasty, bland look that does its absolute best to deny the countryside its due. Aside from Las Vegas where the colours are at least a much closer approximation to the vividness to be found there, the rest just fails to come to life. Underdone tones and a distinct concentration on a dusty palette simply don't make this a visual film at all. At least there is no chance for colour bleed or oversaturation to become a problem.
There did not seem to be any MPEG artefacts in the transfer. The main issue is a minor but reasonably consistent problem with aliasing throughout the film. The usual suspects abound, mainly the cars (19:45 and 28:42), but also the fencing (49:48). It is minor league stuff in general and really does not detract from the transfer all that much, but it is there and you will notice it. Otherwise there was no problem with film-to-video artefacts. A few film artefacts, mainly dirt marks, were to be seen but all-in-all, the transfer is a little cleaner than I was expecting.
This is a single sided, single layered DVD so there is no layer change to be contended with.
There are just the two subtitle options on the DVD, English and English For The Hearing Impaired. Nothing much wrong with them at all.
There is a single soundtrack on the DVD, rather surprisingly an English Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack effort.
The dialogue comes up reasonably well in the transfer and it was easy to understand. There did not appear to be any problems with audio sync in the transfer.
The original music score comes from Arthur B. Rubinstein. I feel that the score was not at all well served by the soundtrack, probably requiring a bit more space within which to bloom. Adequate enough I suppose, but potentially it could have been served up a lot better, and probably would have then served the film better on the DVD.
Free from any obvious defects, the main issue here is that the mono soundtrack is rather flat sounding. This is a film that cries out for a bit of ambience and it simply does not get it. Sure the soundtrack does carry the dialogue well enough, but even some modest surround ambience would have lifted the film enormously.
|Surround Channel Use|
Nothing at all, not even the audio enhancement on the menu that can be found on the Region 1 release
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
From the reviews available, it would appear that the Region 1 release features not only a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack but some filmographies and the theatrical trailer. It also probably comes in a snapper case. It is not much but it is enough to make Region 1 the region of choice.
Lost In America ultimately bored me not quite to tears but certainly to something akin to dreariness. The film is not that amusing, whether taken as a straight out comedy or as a satire, and the artistic choices of the director simply don't aid the film at all. Fans will probably lap this up as the price is certainly right and the transfers are serviceable enough. However, others might be better advised to preview the disc before anteing up the few dollars required to acquire it.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|