Airheads (1994)

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Released 27-Mar-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 88:27
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Michael Lehmann
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Brendan Fraser
Steve Buscemi
Adam Sandler
Chris Farley
Michael McKean
Judd Nelson
Michael Richards
Case ?
RPI $31.95 Music Carter Burwell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 4.0 L-C-R-S (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    It's not often that I watch a film and then can't decide whether I like it or not, and Airheads just happens to be one of them.

    Don't get me wrong, there is nothing "deep" about the film - no hidden meaning or ambiguous ending. As far as I can tell it is a very straightforward cross between This Is Spinal Tap! and Wayne's World. Maybe that's why I can't make up my mind - I adore Spinal Tap and hate Wayne's World so if you merge the two ...

    The film pretty much faded into obscurity right from the day it was released and these days is notable simply because it featured a cast of relative unknowns each of whom then individually went on to fame and fortune - I don't think they did much work together since the film. The film also featured a large number of cameo performances. So all in all it's probably worth watching this film simply to do some star-spotting.

    Chazz (Brendan Fraser), Rex (Steve Buscemi) and Pip (Adam Sandler) all want to be rock and roll stars so badly that they are prepared to do whatever it takes - even though their combined intelligence is probably struggling to achieve double digits. They have formed a band called "The Lone Rangers" (let your mind chew over this just a little bit) and have recorded what they believe to be a killer demo song, except nobody wants to hear it.

    Having seen another band, "Sons of Thunder" (Monty Colvin, Alan Doss, Ben Huggins, and Dane Sonnier - in reality actual members of a band called Galactic Cowboys), achieve relative success (that is, getting paid to gig at the local nightclub) simply because their song got played over the local heavy rock radio station "Rebel Radio" KPPX, the boys decide that's what they need to do - get their song on air.

    Through sheer luck rather than anything else, they manage to sneak into the radio station in front of DJ Ian (Joe Mantegna). At first the DJ humours them but when the station manager Milo (Michael McKean) threatens to throw them out Rex gets angry and whips out a toy water machine gun filled with pepper sauce. Fortunately, or unfortunately, everyone thinks the toy gun is real and next thing you know the police arrive and the situation goes completely out of control. The police thinks the boys are holding the radio station hostage and Sergeant O’Malley (Ernie Hudson) initiates negotiation procedures and asks the boys what their demands are. The boys come up with what they think are impossible requests to give them some time to consider their next steps - starting with an air plane, a motorcycle helmet filled with ice cream, a naked picture of a certain lady from The Golden Girls, a record label executive with a recording contract ...

    What follows next is a comedy of errors. All the boys want is for the radio station to broadcast their song, but the broadcasting equipment doesn't take the tape format. When they eventually track down an old tape player, it chews up the tape. The only other copy is in the hands of Chazz's girlfriend Kayla (Amy Locane) but she's just had a major fight with Chazz and is nowhere to be found. In the meantime, the police - in the form of rookie cop Officer Wilson (Chris Farley) - seem to be actually succeeding in meeting their outlandish demands ...

    The first part of the film is very predictable and stale as director Michael Lehmann and screenwriter Rich Wilkes attempt to excruciatingly milk every potential laugh from essentially one dumb situation. The second part of the film - as a set of "fans" attracted by the boys' outrageous behaviour start gathering outside the station - turns out to be a non too subtle indictment of how much the music industry has lost its "roots" and the film turns around into a disestablishmentarian rally against over-commercialism. Guess what, our "a few notes short of a chord" boys turn out to have the True Spirit of Rock and Roll (whatever that is) after all!

    There's some interesting (and not so interesting) cameo appearances. Harold Ramis plays a "fake" record executive, Judd Nelson the real (and much slimier) one. Michael Richards (Seinfeld's "Kramer") plays a bumbling accountant stuck in the air conditioning ducts in the radio station, and towards the end a bunch of real headbangers join in the crowd (including Lemmy from Motorhead - he's the guy who proudly proclaims he used to be the editor of the school newspaper). Even the casting of Michael McKean ("David" from Spinal Tap) as sleazy station manager Milo is a statement in itself.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a 16x9 enhanced transfer presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. I am not sure whether this is the intended aspect ratio or not, since the theatrical trailer appears to be in 2.35:1 and the film was shot in Panavision. However, comedies like these are seldom presented in a "scope" aspect ratio. I did not notice any instances of truncated framing (if anything the tops and bottoms appear slightly cut off as opposed to the sides). Also the opening titles appear to be formatted for 1.85:1 (although it is not unusual for studios to reformat opening titles if the theatrical release are printed in multiple aspect ratios).

    In general, this is a very pleasing transfer. Detail levels are generally okay, even if the transfer appear just a tad soft to be considered reference quality. Shadow detail is acceptable. Colour saturation levels are quite good - again perhaps just a little bit short of reference quality.

    The film source itself is relatively free of grain, which is surprising considering the age of the film. Fortunately, there are no glaring instances of film-to-video artefacts such as aliasing and MPEG artefacts are confined to a bit of ringing around opening titles (obviously, not the titles shot against a black background but the titles superimposed on camera footage).

    A slight amount of edge enhancement has been applied, but very carefully and judiciously as the transfer falls just short of annoying halo effects. Well done!

    There are a number of subtitle tracks present on this single sided single layered disc (mainly Scandinavian languages in addition to English for the Hearing Impaired). I turned on the English subtitle track briefly and it offers the usual level of accuracy (some dialogue truncated to fit into two lines of on-screen text). The subtitle track names background songs being played but does not provide lyric transcriptions.

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

Audio

    There is only one audio track on this disc: English Dolby Digital 4.0 L-C-R-S (384Kb/s).

    Given that this must be one of the earliest releases in Dolby Digital, I am surprised at the fidelity. The dialogue sounds quite crisp and the overall sound track is punchy and dynamic. Also some care has been taken to mix ambience and music into the monaural rear channel. Indeed, the rear speakers seemed to be pretty active most of the time.

    However, Joe Mantegna sounds distorted at times, particular when he is supposed to be on air and he shouts into the microphone. Perhaps this is intentional. Otherwise, dialogue quality (as I've noted above) is very good and I did not detect any audio synchronisation issues.

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

Extras

    Extras on this disc are limited to a theatrical trailer.

Menu

    Static but 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer (2:23)

    Very unusually, the theatrical trailer appears to be in 2.35:1 with 16x9 enhancement, although the audio track is only Dolby Digital 2.0. On reflection, the tops and bottoms on the frame appear somewhat truncated - indicating that perhaps the trailer has been masked to achieve a "scope" aspect ratio.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    Purely on the strength of the extras (although I admit they don't appear to be all that compelling) I would be tempted to vote for the Region 1 version.

Summary

    Airheads stars Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi and Adam Sandler before they became successful so obviously the film did not contribute to their success, however it is worth watching simply to spot the cameo appearances. The audio and video transfers are relatively good given the film's age. Extras are limited to a theatrical trailer (in comparison to the R1 version which has some additional materials including a featurette and music videos).

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Monday, April 08, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3300
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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