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review added: 10/28/02



Swingers
Collector's Series - 1996 (2002) - Miramax

review by Brad Pilcher of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Swingers: Collector's Series Film Rating: C+

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

Specs and Features

96 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary (with director Doug Liman and editor Stephen Mirrione), illustrated commentary (with writer/actor Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn), Making it Hollywood documentary series (includes Art Imitates Life: Writing the Story, Life Creates Art: Getting Swingers Made, Life Imitates Art: Swingers Culture and Art Creates Life: Life After Swingers), gallery of Swingers memorabilia, Swingblade short film, deleted footage taken from raw dailies, sneak peek trailers (for 40 Days and 40 Nights, Pulp Fiction: CE, Jackie Brown: CE and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back), film-themed menu screens, scene access (14 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

"There's nothing wrong with letting the girls know that you're money and that you want to party."

I don't think much of Swingers as a film. Yes, it's hip. It's cool. It has witty dialogue. It epitomizes mid-nineties swing culture, the music, the homage to the Rat Pack and their era. It's an amusing take on the singles scene in L.A. But all of those things fail to overcome the fact that the story is largely aimless, with little in the way of an actual plot. So go ahead. Lend me your hate mail. Fill up my ears with your vitriol.

However, before you do, let me tell you that I do think the new Collector's Edition from Miramax saves the film. The extras give this film a sense of context, giving us more information on how the film was conceived and developed, its place in the mid-nineties swing culture landscape, and its role in the rise of Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn (such as it was).

For those who never actually saw the movie, Swingers is sort of a paragon of mid-nineties cool, wrapped up in the guise of indie filmmaking. Centering on writer/actor Jon Favreau's character of Mike, an aspiring comedian-actor who's girlfriend of six years dumped him six months ago. He bolted to L.A. with his pals, and he's spent that time pining over her while his friends try to get him back into the dating scene. His friends, led by Vince Vaughn's character of Trent, are a rough approximation of the Rat Pack. All of them spend the movie drifting from diner, to club, to party, to videogame hockey match looking for a hot score. There's even a brief jaunt to Vegas.

Now onto the DVD, which is light-years beyond the earlier movie-only release. The video is crisper, with less grain and deeper blacks. The contrasts are no longer washed out, and artifacting has been cleaned up. Now, this isn't perfect. There are some scenes where the colors blend together, overwhelming some of the crisper footage. But all things being equal, this is a solid transfer that is superior to the movie-only release.

The sound, on the other hand, is a disappointment. This is essentially the same Dolby Digital 2.0 track from the movie-only version. It sounds like they may have punched up the dialogue just a bit, but the atmospheric effects and music still manage to show up a bit heavier than they should, occasionally interfering with the dialogue. As special editions go, it's unfortunate that some studios feel like slapping some extras onto a disc is all that's needed. The film's presentation is key, and in this case, the audio could be better.

The extras are a nice mix of documentaries and deleted footage, with the commentaries as highlights. First, the documentaries included run through the conceptualization and realization of this film, with a bit on the "swinger" culture the film is based on. There's even a bit of material on Life after Swingers, which just comes off as fluff on the players. These documentaries aren't bad, giving a nice background on how this film got made. The contextual stuff that shows how this film played for Favreau and Vaughn's careers, highlighting the swinger culture of the mid-nineties, etc., is by far the best material. This isn't the greatest series of background material you'll ever see, but it helps enjoy the film as something more than just another hip flick.

The two audio commentary tracks are an interesting mix. First up is a standard commentary with the director and editor of the film. These two guys weren't heavyweights when this film was made, though they've gone on to do more notable (and better) work (an Oscar for editor Mirrione in Traffic and a nice box office on The Bourne Identity for director Liman). They spend most of the time talking about what they cut, what editing challenges they faced, and how they feel about the final product considering what they had to work with. It's hardly inspiring, and will only really appeal to die-hard fans of the film. The second commentary features the illustrated "Madden-style" option, which was on the Made special edition. Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau do their thing once again, and you can tell they're comfortable here. Still, something is missing. As opposed to Made, which was clearly a labor of love for these guys, this seems like more a movie that put them on the map. They talk it up, they do some funny things, but they never gush over it and really let you inside their little world. They spend so much time discussing some of the same subject matter that the director and editor went over, that you sometimes feel like these guys don't love this movie near as much as so many fans do.

Moving over to the deleted scenes, they're essentially raw dailies slapped together for your viewing pleasure. They're a nice addition, but nothing really special. Most of these are essentially alternate or extended takes on scenes already in the movie, and this will in no way compare to the footage included on the Made DVD (Favreau and Vaughn's next project together). A brief 3-minute short film, Swingblade, which is a parody trailer fusion of Swingers and Sling Blade, joins a gallery of movie paraphernalia to round out the largely average extras.

Plenty of people love this film, and plenty of people could not care less. For both sets of viewers, this DVD is the must-have if you're going to put Swingers into your collection. The extras give it a bit more purpose than the movie had on its own (even if they don't rise above the average category) and the presentation is marginally better than on the movie-only release. All in all, it's a worthwhile title, and the only major detraction is that no single supplemental extra is included which makes this a blow away release.

I hate to sound lethargic about the movie, but all I can offer is a shrug.

Brad Pilcher
bradpilcher@thedigitalbits.com




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