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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Message In A Bottle
Message In A Bottle
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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 4, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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"Message In A Bottle" is one of those films where sentences seem to take forever. Predictable drama is the order of the day and the boredom is added to be the fact that everyone here seems be so muted and uninterested in the proceedings that the already long 131 minute film seems to go for hours. The movie is so lacking in energy that fights feel like they're deposited in the midst of the film because the filmmakers thought it'd be nice. Either way, the energy level doesn't change in this film no matter what. Everything is done with little interest, and as I watched(with little interest in what was going on), I was almost ready to turn the film off after halfway through the picture.

This is really Kevin Costner's least interesting performance. I'm thankful that he's finally decided to go back to sports films(this fall's "For The Love Of The Game"), because his best performance, in my opinion, remains to be director Ron Shelton's "Tin Cup"; a film where he's at his most spirited and funny. Robin Wright Penn is fine, but she doesn't convince us that this person would go to the lengths that she does to find Costner's character. If anything, Paul Newman steals the film as Costner's father. He has a way with dialogue that makes his performance seem funny, smart and simply he's excellent and doesn't even have to try. Penn plays a Tribune reporter who finds a bottle on the beach containing a poem written by Garrett, Costner's character. She tracks him down, finds him, and the rest is simply a back and forth as the two slowly(very slowly) fall in love.

The film seems endless as the two leads go back and forth with unoriginal, inane small talk substituting for conversation. It certainly doesn't help matters in a film where we're presented with two characters trying to get together, and I simply didn't care. Maybe I didn't care because how this film presents love, or the act of falling in love, is completely unnatural and completely "Hollywood". It's a fantasy, and not even a very interesting one at that. It tries, weakly, to manipulate our emotions- it's not possible in a film that presents us with such uninteresting characters we can hardly care about their attraction. The film could have used some serious trimming as it goes on far too long in quite a few scenes that don't feel as if they have a point in the film as a whole.

I haven't read the best-seller that this was based on. I can only hope this adaptation is far different from the novel, because if it isn't, I'm amazed that this material sold that many books. I won't ruin the ending, but I'll say it's pretty darn lame.

The DVD VIDEO: A very good 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation by Warner Brothers. Although some of the images seem a little soft, it definitely seems like that was more of a style choice by the filmmaker than messy DVD work. Colors are accurate and realistic, from the sort of bland, washed-out look of the newsroom to the autumn look of the forests surrounding the blue of the ocean. Speaking of the ocean, it's these scenes that look most impressive as the blue of the skys seem pure, the images are consistently lovely and sharp, and the seas sparkle as the boat sails on. Colors are nicely saturated and don't suffer from color bleeding.

There's only some slight shimmering in terms of problems, and even instances of shimmering are few and far between, nothing terribly distracting. No instances of pixelization or problems with the print. Detail ranges from good to very good throughout. There's a few sunsets sprinkled throughout the picture and they look great, all of the colors and hues are beautiful.

SOUND: Really quite an uneventful and uninteresting soundtrack. Occasionally, ambient sounds are presented, but not with exceptional detail. What remains here is the sappy score and enjoyable dialogue quality, clean and clear but not terribly full. Don't expect much out of the sound mix for "Message".

MENUS: An animated main menu that starts off with a clip from the movie and finally goes into the main menu. The clip that they put together is very cool, but it goes on too long. I really just want the menus to come up so I can start watching the film.

EXTRAS:
Commentary: A suprisingly interesting commentary by director Luis Mandoki that takes a good, well-thought out look at the details that went into the production, such as not only how the sets that were used to represent the Chicago Tribune were built, but the ideas that went into the look and feel of sets like these. There's a lot of similar talk throughout and I found it very interesting to hear about the concepts of how these characters were meant to interact with their environment and how these environments were chosen. This is a subject for many commentaries, but I think the details presented here, such as how the newsroom was meant to have a feel where the characters were anonymous and lost in the midst of the urban workday in contrast with the warm tones and emotions of the exteriors. There's really a very pleasing amount of technical information, but always explained nicely for those who don't know what the technical terms mean, such as when Mandoki talks about why he chose to shoot the film in 2.35:1. It's not really an energetically presented commentary, but I think it's well constructed and thought-out and I think those interested in the more technical aspects of film will find a few solid bits of information and there's also a lot of very informative discussion about choosing the actors and how they worked on their roles. As the track goes on, there are a few more pauses and it gets a little less interesting, but overall, I was pleased and enjoyed the talk. Definitely more interesting than listening to the film itself.

Special FX Scenes: There are 5 "bottles" hidden throughout the menus. If you find one of the bottles, click it and you watch a scene that has commentary about how special effects were used in the making of that scene. Interesting, but I really don't care to spend time trying to find things on a disc. I just want things like this to be organized in a menu where I can go right to them.

Deleted Scenes: 3 deleted scenes that aren't terribly interesting and would only have added to the already far too long length of the picture. The scenes can be watched with or without commentary.

Final thoughts: If you liked this movie, by all means go ahead: Warner has done a nice job on the disc in terms of audio/video. If you haven't seen it, I don't even recommend a rental- it's just beyond boring and definitely one of the worst films I've seen this year. Not recommended.

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