This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1998 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time
89:03 minutes
(not 104 minutes as stated on packaging) 
Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Wes Anderson
Touchstone Pictures
Warner Home Video
Starring Jason Schwartzman
Olivia Williams
Bill Murray
Brian Cox
Seymour Cassel
Mason Gamble
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music Mark Mothersbaugh

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
Czech (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision ?Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles Portuguese
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Perhaps I was expecting a little too much from this film, based upon what I had heard about it. Perhaps I was expecting a little too much from this film, based upon it being described as a comedy. Whatever the reason, I have to confess that the film has left me somewhat ambivalent. It certainly has not engaged me as an outright comedy, and I found little that was overtly comedic here. However, it is nonetheless quite an unusual film, and showcases something of a sublime comedic nature that is quite engrossing, if a little difficult to follow in its entirety.

    This is broadly the story of Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), a gifted 10th Grade student, on an academic scholarship, at Rushmore Academy. The fact that Max is on an academic scholarship is somewhat ironic, since he is quite possibly the worst student at the Academy. He spends most of his time on extracurricular activities, such as running various clubs and even creating new clubs, with very little time being spent on actual academic work, with the obvious result that he is permanently close to expulsion. Amongst his latest endeavours is to save the Latin program which was to be axed for a new Japanese program. He does such a good job that Latin becomes a compulsory subject for all grades from 9 to 12. As you may have gathered, he is not exactly the most popular person at school. And as to his recent crusading of the Latin program? Well, it was prompted because of having met first grade teacher Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams). Enamoured for perhaps the first time, he decides to create a new aquarium at Rushmore in honour of Rosemary, and to make it possible he enlists the financial support of his friend Herman Blume (Bill Murray), a wealthy steel tycoon who happens to be living the life from hell with two boorish sons, and a wife with an eye for younger men. Naturally Herman also falls under the spell of Olivia, creating some rather interesting problems in his friendship with Max. In an effort to prove his worth to Rosemary, Max proceeds with his plans for the aquarium and engages in a groundbreaking ceremony on Rushmore's baseball diamond, the result of which is his expulsion from Rushmore and his eventual enrolment at Grover Cleveland High School, eventual departure from that school and the commencement of work as a barber with his father Bert Fischer (Seymour Cassel). What follows is something of a farce as Max seeks revenge against Herman for his perceived usurping of Rosemary, with Herman engaging in somewhat childish retaliation. The result is of course that all their relationships go to pot before they realize what is important and attempt to rectify the situations and the downward spirals of their lives. It really is a rather complex plot and I fear that my somewhat bumbling efforts to provide a synopsis do the film a great deal of injustice.

    What really makes the film work though is a great degree of understatement, from both a performance point of view as well as from a directorial point of view. The stellar performance here, at least according to the critics, is that of Bill Murray, which garnered him numerous nominations for Best Supporting Actor in various awards: he won a number of them. This is a superbly sublime performance that really returns Bill Murray to the upper echelon of comedy performance. And much of this winning performance is carried on the back of a rather different style of comedy: this is not verbal comedy nor visual comedy, but something not quite visual and definitely not verbal. Complementing that performance is that from Jason Schwartzman who is rather good as the slightly lazy, slightly wacky, slightly disliked and unlikeable Max. And the rest of the cast support themselves and the story most engagingly. But really the star here is director Wes Anderson, for his touch is quite brilliant. The minimalist verbal approach to the film has required a delightful visual touch to carry the film, and this has been achieved very successfully.

    So an outward comedy this is not and a somewhat unusual film this definitely is. Whilst I would not be elevating this into the realms of the greatest films ever made, as some have done, it is nonetheless a most intriguing film that I would suspect rewards repeated viewings with the nuances it contains.

Transfer Quality


    Okay, it is a Buena Vista release, so heads for a lousy transfer, tails for a good transfer, right? The coin is tossed and the result is......... tails.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is generally very sharp throughout and has a rather strong definition to it. Whilst it is not the best Buena Vista transfer that I have seen, it certainly ranks up there with their better efforts, which makes quite a pleasant change. The transfer is nice and clear and this helps the overall feel of the film very much. Shadow detail is very good throughout. There are no problems with low level noise in the transfer.

    The colours come up very vibrantly indeed, and are of a uniformly rich tone throughout. Some of the primary colours come up extremely well and create a nice contrast between the privileged Rushmore Academy and the somewhat impoverished Grover Cleveland High School. There is nothing unbelievable about the rendering of the colours and overall this is a most natural looking transfer. There is no hint of oversaturation in the transfer at all.

   Mercifully, after three straight discs with wobble problems, I have pleasure in advising that there are no such problems here, and indeed there are no apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Being exceedingly churlish, film-to-video artefacts were comprised of some very minor and rather inconsequential aliasing in the transfer, but you would be hard pressed to find it distracting. Film artefacts were almost absent from the film, which is to be expected in a film of such recent vintage.

   In keeping with the Buena Vista tradition of cover errors however, the special features on the rear cover fail to make mention of the Czech subtitle option that is available on the disc.


   Once again, we have an audio transfer that is a quite decent 5.1 effort, without being too spectacular.

   There are two audio tracks on the DVD, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and a Czechoslovakian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack. Since my Czechoslovakian is pretty much non-existent, I of course stuck with the default English soundtrack.

    The dialogue was generally clear and easy to understand, although on a couple of occasions the audio level dropped a little too much to hear things clearly.

    There did not appear to be any audio sync problems with the transfer.

    The musical score comes from Mark Mothersbaugh, and a very good effort it is too, being very complementary to and supportive of the film. This, however is not a film that utilizes sound too much for effect, as you may have guessed, and so the demands of a score are not that great, and therefore the score may be overlooked a little in the overall scheme of the film.

    Despite the film not requiring huge demands of sound, since that is not its nature, we nonetheless have quite an engaging soundtrack on offer. Whilst the dialogue at times seems to be almost mono in nature, there is quite frequent use made of the surround channels for a nice ambience in the sound picture. There is some very effective use of an at times very aggressive bass channel, which really provides a complementary "sting" to the film. The overall soundtrack is quite clean and distortion free and the end result is quite an effective soundtrack.



    Nothing to get excited about, other than the fact that somewhat unusually for a Buena Vista release, the disc actually starts up at the menu, rather than going straight to the film. Could this be a start of a welcome trend? At least it would give the menu purpose in a typical extra-less Buena Vista release.

R4 vs R1

    Region 4 misses out on:     Region 1 misses out on:     Guess that makes the choice fairly clear - Region 4 if you want the plain jane variety of disc. However, if you have the money and the inclination, you can indulge in The Criterion Collection release of this film which includes a truckload of extras, including:     Fairly obviously, the Region 1 Criterion Collection version (yes, it is region coded) is the version of choice for this film if both a good quality transfer (16x9 enhanced too) and extras are required, and judicious buying could see the total landed cost ending up much the same as the cost of the Region 4 release.


    Rushmore is certainly a film that did not meet my expectations, but in a funny way exceeded my expectations at the same time. I would strongly suggest that this is a film that rewards repeated viewings, as much of what is going on in the film is based upon nuance. Whether you have the patience to earn the reward is of course the question that only you can answer.

    A good video transfer.

    A good audio transfer.

    If you want extras, write to Buena Vista Home Entertainment and complain long and loud.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
26th April 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL