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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Steal This Movie
Steal This Movie
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Review by Adam Tyner | posted February 5, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
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Highly Recommended
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My familiarity with Abbie Hoffman prior to "Steal This Movie" was pretty much limited to an off-hand reference in Moxy Fruvous' song "Stuck In The '90s". Heck, I assumed from the name that Abbie was female. Yes, my familiarity with the not-too-distant past goes something like the They Might Be Giants song "Purple Toupee" -- rambling, incoherent, and largely inaccurate. Anyway, "Steal This Movie", whose title was inspired from a book by Abbie and Anita Hoffman (played by Vincent D'Onofrio and Janeane Garofalo in the film), is about Mr. (yes, Mister) Abbie Hoffman, a political activist whose idealism and unconventional methods have an extremely destructive effect on his life and those close to him. A more detailed synposis would be redundant for anyone familiar with Hoffman and would spoil some of the twists and turns for those that aren't. Although the film seems a bit too sympathetic towards Abbie -- even when "Steal This Movie" paints him in a slightly negative light, there's always an underlying excuse provided -- I came out afterwards feeling entertained and informed, even moreso after watching the provided interviews and commentaries. As for the disc itself:

Video: With more than a little of the film shot to match up with vintage footage, some of "Steal This Movie" is intentionally grainy, with dust and specks added in to give it that authentic feel. To a far, far lesser extent, these carry over to the rest of the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. Light film grain is visible elsewhere, along with just a few more dust and specks appear than I'm accustomed to seeing from such a recent release. Still, nothing distracting or particularly disappointing, and a pretty solid looking disc, all things considered.

Audio: "Steal This Movie" doesn't have much in the way of bullets whizzing by or tanker trucks rolling over before culminating in some massive explosion, the sorts of things that typically curl the toes of DVD fans, but this Trimark release shows that music and dialogue can still make for a great sounding disc. Period music roars from every speaker, and I'm guessing some pretty hefty remastering had to be done to get the songs to sound that rich and powerful. The music never overwhelms the focus of "Steal This Movie", the dialogue, which comes through nice and clean.

Supplements: Whenever I pop in a Trimark disc, I always start off by looking at the disc's "hidden" trailers. Surprisingly, this one only had a "Steal This Movie" soundtrack promo. This is easily the most loaded special edition I've seen from Trimark to date (and probably ever will, now that Trimark has been gobbled up by Lion's Gate).

There are two commentary tracks, the first from the two stars of the film and the second from director Robert Greenwald and cinematographer Denis Lenoir. Commentaries featuring only actors tend to be funny and entertaining, though more anecdotal than technical, and director commentaries are typically a bit less exuberant, but fat-packed with information. As you could probably guess by that statement, yes, "Steal This Movie" follows that trend. Reading on bulletin boards how many people dislike actors yapping in commentaries, having two separate commentaries was probably a smart movie on Trimark's part. As I'm not particularly interested in the technical aspects of filmmaking, the Greenwald/Lenoir commentary didn't interest me quite as much Garofalo, whose as consistently hilarious here as she is in her stand-up routine. With as hyper and goofy as D'Onofrio has been in some of the other films I've seen him in, I was a little surprised by how subdued he seemed here, though maybe that's just compared to the hypercaffeinated Garofalo. In any event, both are worth a listen and add a tremendous amount of replay value to the disc. Commentary from Greenwald is also an option on eight brief deleted scenes, most of which seemed a bit redundant.

A series of interviews is also included, and seeing Garofalo and Anita Hoffman together was more than a little surprising. Garofalo mentions doing some voice-overs with Hoffman in the room, and since Hoffman died in '96, does this mean "Steal This Movie" was completed that long ago? Wow. The majority of the surviving major characters portrayed in the film are featured in brief interview segments, along with several members of the cast and crew. Seeing actors with the actual people they portrayed is a nice change from the typical fluff interviews where someone just spouts off how great it is to work with a particular actor/actress/director.

I'm curious where the Pigasus promos originated. One is too much to be shown on television, and they seem a little too unprofessional to be included as a trailer on other Trimark releases. In any event, there are two of 'em, along with the theatrical trailer.

Finally, some pre-production materials are covered, including a short interview about getting the design and visual look of the film down, along with four storyboards.

Most supplements on DVDs seem to be unsubstantial and promotional in nature, but the extras on "Steal This Movie" actually complement the film very well.

Conclusion: Being largely unaware of the actual events surrounding the film, I can't really comment on how accurately and unbiased "Steal This Movie" is. I enjoyed it enough to want to read up more on Hoffman, something I should probably have done before tossing together this review so as to make myself come off sounding a bit brighter. Hoffman enthusiasts might take issue with the film itself, but for the ignorant but intrigued like myself, an entertaining, informative film featuring a slew of extras and a solid presentation at a decent price can't help but rate "Steal This Movie" highly recommended.
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