Welcome to the Dollhouse (Beyond Home Ent) (1995)

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Released 8-Jul-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 84:04
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Todd Solondz
Studio
Distributor

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Heather Matarazzo
Angela Pietropinto
Bill Buell
Brendan Sexton III
Daria Kalinina
Matthew Faber
Eric Mabius
Victoria Davis
Christina Brucato
Christina Vidal
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $24.95 Music Jill Wisoff


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.75:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Those with a passion for American independent cinema will no doubt be aware of the work of writer/director, Todd Solondz. His films convey troubled adolescence and fractured relationships through stories of confronting social dysfunction. While other filmmakers may shun such issues or hide behind the glow of Hollywood optimism, Solondz prefers an honest approach. To balance this, his films sustain a theme of subtle humour, albeit of a dark nature. Todd Solondz never shirks from the issues portrayed in his films and for this he isn't without critics - but in my opinion, this style of filmmaking is a blessing.

    Welcome To The Dollhouse is Solondz's second feature and the first of his films to really flag his abilities to a world audience. The film was the deserving winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 1996.

    The film opens with a lingering shot of a family portrait - this is the Wiener family. Judging by the photo on the wall they appear to be your standard American family - mum, dad and three kids. But like many other seemingly normal families, this one is far from idyllic.

    Mum and dad (Angela Pietropinto and Bill Buell) simply adore their youngest daughter, Missy (Daria Kalinina), who gets all the love and attention. The eldest child is the nerdy teenage son, Mark (Matthew Faber). He excels at high school and also plays in a woeful garage band with two other nerdy friends. The middle child is daughter, Dawn (Heather Matarazzo). Dawn doesn't fit in with the other kids at her junior high school. She dresses very plainly, is uncoordinated, wears ugly thick glasses and has a boring hairstyle. Dawn's life is generally pretty miserable - she suffers a constant barrage of bullying at school and gets very little sympathy from teachers. Although she tries to negotiate on many levels, nothing seems to stop the persistence of her tormentors. Even at home, life isn't much better for Dawn, as she is always living in the shadow of her two siblings.

     In a desperate bid to find some credibility, Mark's band begins looking for a handsome and charismatic lead singer. They enlist the services of a young womanising heartthrob, Steve Rodgers (Eric Mabius). In return for playing in their nerdy band, Mark agrees to tutor Steve in Computer Science. Naturally, Dawn instantly falls in love with the older Steve and she begins to fantasise that they could end up as boyfriend and girlfriend. Meanwhile, one of Dawn's most persistent tormentors begins to take a more profound interest in her.

    While Welcome To The Dollhouse was originally marketed to the world as a comedy, the core theme here is obviously a very serious one. The issue of school bullying and preadolescent isolation is painful and often incredibly tragic. Todd Solondz has balanced the drama and comedy with great skill and compassion. It's also worth noting, Solondz added an epilogue to the story of Dawn Wiener at the beginning of his excellent 2004 film, Palindromes.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Welcome To The Dollhouse is presented in a precisely measured aspect ratio of 1.75:1, which is 16x9 enhanced. The films correct aspect ratio is 1.85:1.

    Unfortunately, the degree of sharpness and clarity in this transfer is really quite poor. The image is incredibly soft and is comparable to VHS standard. Regrettably, this seems to be a consistent  issue with every DVD edition of Welcome To The Dollhouse on a worldwide scale. Blacks were mostly clean, but were not of a quality standard. Shadow detail was also poor and undefined.

    Colours in the transfer bordered on a pass mark, suffering mostly from over-saturation. Bright reds and greens presented as the biggest problems - although bleeding was minimal. Overall, skin tones were washed out and unnatural in appearance.

     There were quite a few artefacts evident in the transfer, but most were not overly annoying. The most significant of these artefacts was the presence of  noise reduction. This was noticed on a few occasions and was mainly evident on the faces of characters. Film artefacts were present, but were minor and infrequent.

     There are no subtitles available on this DVD.

    This disc is a DVD-5, single layer disc, so there is no layer change to negotiate.

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

Audio

    There is only one audio track available on the DVD, Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), which is surround encoded.

    For the most part, dialogue quality was good, although I did need to increase my volume above normal listening levels.

    I didn't notice any adverse issues with audio sync.

     The original music used in the film is credited to Jill Wisoff. Her contemporary music score compliments the film well. Solondz also uses some classical pieces including, Tchaikovsky's, The Nutcracker Suite and Swan Lake. Another featured classical piece is Solveig's Song from Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg.

    Using Pro-Logic, surround activity was really limited to music and ambient sound.

    Likewise, the subwoofer only came to life during passages of music.

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

Extras

Menu

The main menu features very subtle animation, is 16x9 enhanced and features a sample of the title song from the film.

Theatrical Trailer

Welcome To The Dollhouse (1:39)

R4 vs R1

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

    I will compare this local, all region release of Welcome To The Dollhouse with the R1edition, released by Columbia TriStar. The R1 edition is a dual sided disc, which contains both the anamorphic 1.85:1 and full-screen versions of the film. Subtitles include, English, French and Spanish. The extras are minimal, but they include, cast & crew bios with filmographies, production notes and the theatrical trailer.

    The R2 edition released by Artificial Eye in 2005 is similar in terms of extras to the R1 version. However the R2 does not contain any subtitles and it is a single sided disc, containing a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. All versions seem to carry the same Dolby Digital 2.0, surround encoded audio track. All versions also appear to be lacking a quality video transfer.

    Unless any of the above is important to you, there seems very little reason to track down a copy from overseas.

Summary

    The social issues explored in Welcome To The Dollhouse are still as relevant today as they were 15 years ago when the film was made. It's really unfortunate that to date anyway, this film hasn't received the respect of a decent transfer in any shape or form. Maybe sometime in the future, a possible release on Blu Ray might finally correct this - here's hoping.

    As stated the video transfer is quite poor and is comparable to VHS standard.

    The audio transfer is also very basic, but acceptable.

    The only extra is the theatrical trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Monday, September 28, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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