The Wackness (2008)

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Released 18-Mar-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 95:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jonathan Levine
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Ben Kingsley
Josh Peck
Famke Janssen
Olivia Thirlby
Mary-Kate Olsen
Jane Adams
Method Man
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music David Torn


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   

Know what your problem is, Shapiro?
It's that you have this really s***ty way of looking at things,
you know? I don't have that problem.
I just look at the dopeness.
But you, it's like you just look at the wackness, you know?

Stephanie to Luke

Maybe Stephanie's right. Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) is in an era-defining funk. It is 1994 and the streets of Guiliani's New York are pumping with hip hop beats. The long , hot summer approaches. But Luke is on a downer. He is in his last year of high school and Luke doesn't have a very bright future. He gets invited to all the school parties but not really invited. See, Luke is a pretty industrious drug dealer, expected to supply for his school mates, sometimes without cash in hand, but is never part of the "in crowd".

Luke's problems have driven him to seek professional help in the form of Dr Jeffrey Squires (Ben Kingsley). In a neat turn Luke pays for his therapy sessions with weed as the ageing doctor tries to soften the impact of maturity.

Squires has his own problems. His wife Kristen (Famke Janssen) is remote when not being openly spiteful. His step-daughter Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby) is also finishing her last year of school and has little time for her loser "dad".

About the only thing going for Luke is the briskness of the drug trade. Pushing a fake icecream cart around town he dispenses the product of his supplier Percy (Method Man) to all manner of New York oddities including the hippie Union (Mary-Kate Olsen). At home Luke's parents are on the verge of their own crisis, hardly able to afford the rent in Manhattan.

Whilst this all sounds like the latest wrist slashing indie drama in fact The Wackness is an off-beat but engaging comic-drama interspersed with some classic 90's hip hop.

Director Jonathon Levine, who also wrote the script, tells the tale as if it were his own and the actors clearly relish their opportunities. Josh Peck is best known for his Nickelodeon kids comedy show Drake and Josh. Here he slumps around in a constant limbo between cool and uncool. Thirlby, of Juno fame, plays another savvy teenager. She is the front and centre love interest of the film as Luke comes of age in more ways than one, with Stephanie the object of his affection. Famke Janssen is probably known for her schlock roles in the X-Men movies and as the nasty/sexy Zenia Onatopp from the James Bond film, GoldenEye. In between these big budget films she has, in fact, played a number of challenging and downbeat roles and she plays the desperately sad Kristin with precision.

Ben Kingsley has played just about every character there is in his long career. Since bursting onto the international stage with an Oscar for Gandhi, Kingsley has turned in a number of studied, quality performances. Even so, few were ready for his incendiary turn as the muscular, vicious Don Logan in Sexy Beast. Kingsley doesn't often get to play loose, however, and he clearly relished the role here as the drugged out frat boy who, like some dissolute Peter Pan, has refused to grow up.

As an offbeat coming of age story The Wackness works well and will satisfy those who like their nostalgia done bittersweet.

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Transfer Quality

Video

  The Wackness was originally shot on 35mm film and projected at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

The DVD case only describes the film as having an anamorphic widescreen 16:9 transfer. It does not indicate the exact aspect ratio. Fortunately, the transfer is in the film's original aspect ratio and it is 16x9 enhanced.

The transfer is reasonably sharp throughout and the flesh tones are accurate. Although the film uses the many colours of New York as a backdrop, the scenes in Dr Squires office are dimly lit and suffused with the deep browns of his furniture and office walls. The softness and sepia tinge to many scenes can be put down to the decision to set the film in the 90's and the corresponding nostalgia.

There are no technical problems with the transfer. There was no aliasing to be seen nor were there any compression issues. This is not surprising given that the film is allowed to stretch out over a dual layered DVD.

There are no subtitles which is an issue of some disappointment for the reasons set out below.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

  The DVD case for The Wackness proclaims that it has a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack which, one would have thought, would run at a decent 448Kb/s.

Again the information on the case is misleading. There is only a 2.0 soundtrack which operates at 224Kb/s. How we in Region 4 came to receive the diminished track is a mystery as the versions available in other regions feature the 5.1 track. I did notice a bit of sub-woofer action during the music suggesting that the track 2.0 is surround encoded.

It is our site practice not to look at other reviews prior to submitting our comments. However, in order to determine what Region 4 is missing I perused a few reliable sites for their comments on the expansiveness of the surround track. Apparently rear channel usage is rare and apart from the soundtrack there is not really much for the surround to do apart from support the music track. In short, it seems like a disappointment though not a deal breaker so far as this DVD is concerned.

The dialogue is a little muddy though which makes for some straining as the leads tend to talk in quick but low tones. The lack of subtitles compounds this problem. The dialogue is in audio sync.

The soundtrack is a blast from the past affair for those who hooked into the mid 90's hip hop groove. There is NAS, The Notorious B.I.G., A Tribe Called Quest and many others.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Theatrical Trailer

This is a bare-bones affair with only a lonely trailer for attention

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version has oodles of extras by comparison including:

No contest. Fans should buy the Region 1.

Summary

 The Wackness is an indie coming of age story that succeeds in avoiding boredom despite the whiny self absorbed people at its core.

The transfer is good though some may find the sepia tones a little bold.

No extras is a real disappointment

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, June 01, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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