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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Without a Paddle
Without a Paddle
Paramount // PG-13 // January 11, 2005
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 13, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:


Director Steven Brill's often bizarre (and yes, occasionally a bit funny) take on "Deliverance" was not met with good reviews, but audiences came anyway, turning the little movie into a nearly $60m sleeper hit. The film focuses on Dan (Seth Green), Jerry (Matthew Lillard) and Tom (Dax Shepard), three childhood friends who have gone in very separate directions after graduation. When another one of their friends passes away, the three hit the road and wind up back together in Oregon. After recalling some old stories, the three decide that they need an adventure of their own, and find that their friend had already started looking for possible lost treasure.

So, off they go, riding down the rapids with plenty of booze and prepared for camping and fun. Of course, it's the fish-out-of-water situation, as the three run across bears, hillbilly pot farmers (Abraham Benrubi and Ethan Suplee), waterfalls, hippie tree-living girls (Rachel Blanchard and Christina Moore) and bad weather, while all reminding each other that they really like girls. The picture even attempts to throw in the usual elements of one-dimensional character development - Tom is a gambler who needs to collect himself before getting on with his life, Dan is a dorky doctor who can't get anything from the ladies and Jerry - surprise, surprise - can't commit to his girlfriend.

The picture goes from one oddball episode to another, seemin almost entirely made-up as the production went along. Occasionally, it's pretty funny, but the second half starts to become weaker as the picture turns into a long chase sequence, with a mountain man (Burt Reynolds, no less) helping the three. There's really not more plot than that. Making matters worse is the ending, where the film comes to a complete stop in order to highlight what seems like at least 10 different "life lessons" the three have learned along the way.

The cast isn't terrible, and the three lead actors give it a good try - Shepard was one of the reasons why "Punk'd" can never hope to be as good as its first season, Green is often amusing and Lillard can be funny when he doesn't overdo it. The film's visually solid, as well - great locations and fairly nice cinematography can be found here. "Without a Paddle" is a decent time-waster (a "Star Wars" reference is funny), but the idea could have lead to something more amusing had this gone through some script refinement and maybe decided what it wanted to be - a comedy, an adventure or something in-between.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Without a Paddle" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen by Paramount Home Video. The picture quality is surprisingly good - this is easily one of the finer transfers of a recent release by the studio. Sharpness and definition are top-notch throughout much of the presentation, with good small object detail. A couple of wide shots look a tad soft on occasion, but the majority of the film looked sharp and "film-like".

Only a little bit of shimmering showed up throughout the presentation. No shimmering was spotted, nor were any instances of pixelation or print flaws. The print looked crisp and clean, with no dirt, specks, marks or even grain. Colors appeared bright, natural and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults.

SOUND: "Without a Paddle" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's soundtrack is mostly a "comedy" mix, but the surrounds do kick in on occasion to deliver some sound effects, such as gunfire. Audio quality was fine, with a crisp, clear score, natural-sounding dialogue and a bit of bass on occasion.

EXTRAS: "Without a Paddle" gets no less than two audio commentaries - one from director Steven Brill and the other from director Steven Brill and the cast. The commentary with Brill and the cast is amusing, as the actors provide some very funny stories from the set, and provide some very funny goofs on the final scenes. The director/cast commentary is a video commentary (small box appears in the corner with footage of the cast and crew chatting), but the video clips don't come up too often.

Aside from the two commentaries, we get MTV's "Making the Movie", which is an 18-minute promotional piece that takes a look at the making of the film. 13 deleted scenes (a bunch of them extensions of scenes) are also included, with optional director's commentary. Finally, we get the film's trailer, MTV promos and previews for other Paramount titles.

Final Thoughts: "Without a Paddle" is occasionally amusing, but the idea and cast could have combined for something much more clever. Paramount's DVD edition provides excellent audio/video quality and a few good supplements. Rent it.

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