by Bill Hawk

Fox, 2004, color, 92 mins.- Fox DVD

Vince Vaughn: “I’ve found that if you have a goal, that you might not reach it. But if you don’t have one, then you are never disappointed.”

Underachiever Vaughn, proprietor of the rundown “Average Joe’s Gym,” has a problem. He’s about to lose the mortgage on his business…which is more of a joke than a business, but he still doesn’t want to have it turned into a parking lot for rival Ben Stiller’s glitzy “GloboGym.” Especially since Stiller looks like a crazed weight-lifting biker from the 1970s, and has an attitude to match. Fortunately, when Vaughn and his oddball core of clients put their heads together, they come up with a scheme to get the needed moolah- by winning the yearly dodgeball tournament in Las Vegas. After hooking up with legendary- and somewhat insane- trainer Rip Torn, and adding bank auditor Christine Taylor to the team, they just manage to squeak into the big event. Once there, they will have to mix it up with the likes of wannabe Samurais, lumberjacks, hip-hoppers and cops before a final showdown with Stiller’s team. Will they be able to defeat an outfit whose motto is “We’re better than you, and we know it,” or will this bunch of good-hearted misfits wind up as an obscure footnote in the annals of an obscure sporting event?

Only somebody who’s seen a bunch of sports movies knows for sure……
This picture delivers some mild tweaks to the old sports underdog formula without subverting it. It’s a pleasant enough diversion, but its PG-13 rating reins it in, preventing it from attaining the raucousness of, say, “Kingpin.” Having said that, it is not without its virtues, which include good pacing and performances. Stiller, with his Harley-ridin’ moustache, wild-eyed glare, and “No pain, no gain” physique, provides a sharp contrast to Vaughn’s laid-back leading man and Taylor’s grounded-but-spunky romantic interest. The supporting players- which include some surprise cameos- are fun, and the helming of writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber gets us right into the ball-hurling action. So if you’re looking for something that isn’t too outrageous or raunchy, that celebrates the underdog, and that has lots and lots of people getting hit by balls, this might be just the thing. Disc extras include audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, and a blooper reel.

Selznick International, 1939, color, 238 mins.- Warner Bros. Collector’s Edition DVD

Clark Gable: “You’re a heartless creature, but that’s part of your charm.”

When this film came out, climaxing a mania that was unleashed by Margaret Mitchell’s tremendously successful novel, it was the biggest, most expensive, and most profitable motion picture ever made- and it still casts a long shadow. This romanticized epic represents the pinnacle of the magnificent fakery that was Hollywood’s Golden Age, and thus is a historic document in its own right. The labors and travails of the production team assembled by producer David O. Selznick are legendary- as is the cast. Leigh, whose personality meshed with her character’s, handles Scarlett’s turn-on-a-dime behavior with aplomb. She and everybody else in this picture earned a little slice of immortality- except, of course, for Gable, who already had it. If you want to know why this man was known as the King Of Hollywood, look no further than this.

As for the technical departments, they remain as impressive as ever, especially as a representation of the lush grandeur of the old three-strip Technicolor process used to film the story. And what a story, stuffed- and perhaps overstuffed- with enough flawed characters, earthshaking events, and tragedies to fill a bunch of smaller movies. If you’re a real movie fan, see it for its colorful spectacle and its glittering stars, or to understand what is meant by “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore”- but by all means see it. The restored presentation, spread across 2 discs, is outstanding. And 2 more discs of extras include a detailed documentary, bios of Gable and Leigh, and a new interview with Olivia De Havilland, who is still very much “On” in her late eighties.

Warner Bros., 1999, color, 86 mins.- Warner Bros. Special Edition DVD

Christopher McDonald: “You know, Hogarth, we live in a strange and wondrous time- The Atomic Age. But there’s a dark side to progress, Hogarth. Ever hear of Sputnik?”

Yeah, lots of cats were uptight about the Reds having a beeping metallic ball in orbit back in those Atomic Days. But that’s nothing compared to another celestial gadget that splashes down in the ocean off of a small town in Maine- a gadget that any boy with an imagination stimulated by comic books and B-movies would love to play with. Such is the case with young Hogarth (voiced by Eli Marienthal), who sets off into the woods to investigate some odd goings-on and makes the acquaintance of the “Iron Giant”- a huge, alien mechanical man. It soon becomes apparent that the robotic visitor, while suffering from some sort of memory loss, is more than a mere machine, and the youngster does his best to convey some 1950s American values to his new pal. But the flipside of those values shows up in the form of a government agent (voiced by McDonald), whose paranoid xenophobia stirs up a whole mess of trouble. With the aid of a beatnik “Artist” (voice of Harry Connick, Jr.), Hogarth is able to hide the truth from the Feds, the military, and his mom (voice of Jennifer Aniston)- but for how long?

One of the better animated pictures of recent years, this charming effort was co-written and directed by Brad Bird, known more recently for “The Incredibles.” The film’s world, realized with a combination of traditional animation and that newfangled computer stuff, is a lush, colorful one populated by some nifty character designs. The titular mechano-guy has a pleasingly retro look, with big rivets, glowing eyes, a mouth that could pass for a steam shovel, and a voice that reflects his predilection for chewing on scrap iron (courtesy of the vocal stylings of Mr.Vin Diesel). The story has a lot of humor and some thoughtful moments as well, although it must be said that it puts across an anti-weapon, pro-self-determination message with all of the subtlety of, well, a giant robot. Still, it’s good fare for the kiddies, and adults will appreciate the care and craft that went into it. Extras on this version include audio commentary, animatics of deleted scenes, featurettes (watch for the “Duck and cover” song), and stills.

For more "DVD Movie Reviews" click here to view back issues.

© Melt Magazine 2005