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review added: 8/14/02



Showtime
Widescreen Edition - 2002 (2002) - Warner

review by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Showtime (Widescreen Edition) Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/D-/C+

Specs and Features
95 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 52:26), audio commentary with Tom Dey and Jorge Saralegui, behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted scenes, theatrical trailer, filmographies, Amaray keep case packaging, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 5.1) subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned


Let's face it; Reality TV is tired out and boring. Back in 2000, it seemed fresh, but after the numerous reincarnations Survivor and other "reality" shows, the genre is lacking energy and punch, and it seems high time for the fad to pack its bags. It's also past time that parodies of these shows go away, as the idea of parodying something that's already a parody of itself is as tired as the subject it's lampooning. Still, Showtime manages to eek out some laughs and clever observations as it spoofs both reality TV and parodies of reality TV.

Mitch (Robert De Niro) is a loose cannon, an L.A.P.D. detective who shot the camera of a news photographer while chasing a perpetrator. A maverick TV producer, Chase Renzi (Renee Russo), sees Mitch's personality as the hook for an audience her network's dwindling ratings desperately needs. So she proceeds to sue the police department to make a settlement deal that forces Mitch to be the subject of a new reality series. Of course, every cop needs a partner and so Chase hires cop/struggling actor Trey (Eddie Murphy) to create an oil-and-water relationship for the show. Naturally, the show is an overnight success and both Mitch and Trey become stars. Trey sees this new fame as an opportunity to finally becoming a full-time actor, while Mitch would rather stay anonymous and concentrate on his work. But Mitch and Trey have to put their differences aside if they're going to crack a case that could save thousands of lives... and hit the ratings mother load.

The first thing to note about Showtime, is that this film doesn't take itself seriously at all. And, to that extent, it stretches believability to new heights. Robert De Niro's character notes at the beginning of the film that police work is normally boring - that car chases, for example, don't often result in crashes and huge balls of fire. Yet the film gives us exactly that. It includes a cartoony action sequence, about an hour and ten minutes into the film, that makes True Lies look like a documentary. This kind of "believability stretch" is more than a little distracting, and I think detracts from the film, which is otherwise filled with some great "quiet" moments between De Niro and Murphy.

Speaking of De Niro and Murphy, their chemistry is unsurprisingly good. De Niro is the low-key straight man to Murphy's funnyman, and the major strength of the film is in the few scenes where they banter back and forth. Also worth seeing is William Shatner's cameo (as himself), giving advice to De Niro and Murphy on how to be good TV cops. Renee Russo is a little too cartoony, but fits the mold and energy of the film.

The video transfer on this disc is quite nice. Flesh tones appear natural and the disc nicely reproduces the very wild color scheme of the film's art direction. The black levels are satisfying as well. I found edge enhancement a little intrusive at times, especially during chapter 14's parking garage scenes. But, overall, this is not a bad transfer.

On the other hand, the audio mix is not good at all. The surrounds are quite active and help to put you right into the action. Music, especially in the club scene, makes good use of this. But here's where the problem is, and in my view it's a fatal problem: the surrounds are used too much and the center channel volume is too low. I checked to see if there was a problem with my own equipment - if my center channel had been turned down - and it wasn't me. I certainly hope it was just my copy of the disc, because it's very bad. I had to use subtitles to watch much of the film.

The extras on the disc are pretty standard. First up, you get an audio commentary with Tom Dey (the director) and Jorge Saralegui (the producer). It's not a horrible track, but not that great either. They offer the normal "This shot is nice"/"It was fun to work with Shatner" sort of comments. They're not exactly incisive, and I would have liked participation from the actors on the track given the type of movie this is. Robert De Niro or Eddie Murphy may have been too expensive to get, but Renee Russo might have been a nice addition, which would have made me want to hear this again.

The behind-the-scenes featurette is another HBO Inside Look installment that Warner seems to favor when padding their DVDs. It's the usual promotional fluff, made a little more entertaining by William Shatner as narrator. Also included are nine deleted scenes, which in whole run about thirteen minutes, and are mostly made up of Eddie Murphy ad-libbing to the camera. They don't add too much to the story and basically show us events that we pretty much got wind of in the final film. The trailer is presented in anamorphic widescreen and your standard filmographies are here too.

As a side note, there are separate widescreen and full screen versions of this film on DVD. A red band on the cover indicates the widescreen version, which (as you can imagine) we prefer.

As a film, Showtime has a few laughs and is an overall entertaining comedy. I can understand why it wasn't horribly successful at the box office, but it' does make the perfect rental. Just beware of a possible bad sound mix.

Graham Greenlee
grahamgreenlee@thedigitalbits.com




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