My first experience with Kozmo.com came in the student newspaper office at my alma mater, American University. The editor-in-chief was sick, but also on deadline, and needed medication. So he surfed by Kozmo, ordered a bottle of over-the-counter cold syrup and a soda. Under an hour later, a deliveryman stopped by the office and dropped off the order. A nifty idea, I thought, but when would it be useful?
Over the next two years, it became "useful" quite often. Kozmo was the ultimate tool for a college student without a car. Having a Krispy Kreme craving at two in the morning? Kozmo. Is the soda machine downstairs out of Coke? Kozmo. Is the newsstand sold out of this month's men's magazine with picture spread of Shannon Elizabeth? Have I said too much?
But as the need for instant gratification wore off, the appeal of Kozmo wore off, to the point that I hadn't visited the site in months when the following appeared on the first page:
Thank you for your business. While we wish it weren't so, Kozmo has closed operations. We truly enjoyed serving you and sincerely appreciate your enthusiastic support. …
From all of us here at Kozmo, it was our pleasure to serve you.
E-Dreams is a full-length documentary that claims to take us on "the wild ride of Kozmo.com." Instead, the viewer gets little more than an extended personal biography of Kozmo co-founder Joseph Park and a warmed-over, airbrushed version of the site's timeline.
Starting with Park and co-founder Yong Kang giving up their jobs and moving into an office space together, E-Dreams tracks the company from its first Web presence through Park's removal. The film shows behind-the-scenes footage at Kozmo delivery centers, board meetings and business-to-business calls. It dips into the personal life of Park, as well, as the audience gets to meet his family and see him celebrating the company's many successes.
E-Dreams paints a very rosy picture of the company's good times. We see employees celebrating, lots of footage of Park on talk shows and positive press clippings. But we rarely see any negative footage, and when we do it is quickly glossed over.
For instance, Kozmo ran into trouble with cash deliveries in some markets. It turns out the giant orange messenger bag became a beacon to robbers; riders were getting mugged on a regular basis. Kozmo decided to only accept credit card purchases in some areas. In other areas, Kozmo did not serve all parts of a town, based on "Internet penetration and other factors," according to the company. Minorities, though, disproportionately populated those neighborhoods, and soon Kozmo was staring down a discriminatory lawsuit. There's not a word about this in the 93 minutes of E-Dreams.
The film's objectivity can be encapsulated in one scene, when Park is talking about a market analyst that questioned the company's value as a stock. "This Jupiter guy (Ken Casser, analyst for Jupiter Communications) just does not understand how we make money," Park said. We've got to go to this guy … and walk him through how we make money. He keeps saying the same thing."
Of course, Casser ended up being right. But never does Park explain to anyone, especially the camera, how his business is supposed to make money.
Presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, E-Dreams is a solid transfer. However, the original film was shot on digital video, and the added "film look" makes the picture very soft, bordering on blurry at times.
E-Dreams has two sound options: 2.0 and Dolby Digital 5.1. Why the latter is included is a mystery; this dialogue-heavy film rarely takes advantage of the feature. All of the interviews are clear, though, which is the most important part.
The DVD features a full-length commentary track featuring Park and filmmaker Wonsuk Chin. The duo very rarely add anything new to the presentation, often simply restating whatever is being said on screen. It's an active track, but full of sound and fury, etc., etc.
There is also a poorly shot featurette called "Catching Up With Joseph Park and Yong Kang," kind of an epilogue to the film. The sound is terrible and loaded with echo, the narrative itself relies on title cards with prompting questions and it ends so abruptly that it seems like the DVD skipped.
Kozmo.com was one of many fascinating stories of the tech bubble, a time when ideas were more important than the bottom line and revenue trumped profit. But documentaries like E-Dreams do no favors to those stories by spending so much time only giving the rise and glossing over or ignoring the fall of companies. E-Dreams is only worth a rental for those curious about Kozmo.com, and then only as a jumping off point for further research.