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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Even Stevens Movie
The Even Stevens Movie
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // G // June 28, 2005
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 25, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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One of my secret shames -- only it's not that much of a secret and not that shameful -- is being in my early-to-mid-twenties and religiously watching Even Stevens on the Disney Channel. There's a 65 episode cap on The Disney Channel's original series, but the show was popular enough for Disney to shell out for a TV movie after finishing its three season run. It's the last summer together for the Stevens family -- state senator and mom Eileen (Donna Pescow), unemployed lawyer Steve (Tom Virtue), athletic overachiever Donnie (Nick Spano), the overly studious Ren (Christy Carlson Romano), and inventive slacker Louis (Shia LaBeouf) -- but instead of sitting at home and squabbling in Sacramento, they're offered a free vacation halfway around the world to the uncharted island paradise of Mandelino. The catch...? It's actually a tiny island off the California coast, and the Stevens family and the bacon-crazed kid next door Beans are the unwitting stars of a reality show called "Family Fakeout". After Louis seems to have destroyed the natives' palace, they're forced to fend for themselves on the unhospitable island, and their problems take an even sharper turn for the worse when "Family Fakeout" host-slash-producer Miles McDermott's (Tim Meadows) machinations manage to split the family into two angry factions.

The biggest difference between Even Stevens the show and Even Stevens the movie is that the TV show was often extremely funny, and the movie is...not. There's not a good, solid laugh during the entire hour and a half. Pretty much all of the comedy is lazy -- at one point, Steve revels in finally sparking a fire, and Beans quickly sneezes it out. "Beans!!!" Fart jokes. Yawn. It tries too hard to be zany...to build some sort of manic energy, with the family being chased by a vicious robotic squirrel and Louis' various schemes 'n contraptions going not-heesterically awry...but it all winds up feeling really forced and mechanical. Reality show spoofs, particularly jabs at Survivor, were pretty dated when The Even Stevens Movie first aired in 2003, and they hold up even worse now. Even though it's overflowing with nods to the original series, the movie botches everything that made the show work so well. The comedy's a lot less clever, the characters aren't nearly as interesting, and attempts at tossing in something resembling drama wind up feeling awfully clumsy. Even Stevens fans still might be intrigued enough to give this DVD a rental, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen the show before, and I really wouldn't recommend it to anyone who has, either.

Video: The full-frame video is sharper and boasts stronger colors than the original airings on the Disney Channel, but it's a little grainy, and some shots (particularly wider ones) look soft and boast lackluster detail. Hovering somewhere a little below average.

Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (448Kbps) sounds pretty much like a made-for-cable comedy, which is appropriate since that's...kinda what this is. Most of the action's anchored up front, the surrounds aren't particularly prominent, and the lower frequencies only leap in for the music and a few scattered sound effects. English subtitles are also optionally offered.

Supplements: The featured extra is an audio commentary with stars Christy Carlson Romano and Shia LeBeouf, who were recorded separately and then edited together. The packaging makes it sound as if the two of them are just talking over a few select scenes, but the commentary runs for the entire length of the movie. It's not the chattiest audio commentary, though -- Romano and LeBeouf spend much more time sitting back and watching the movie than they do talking about it, and when they do, it's usually something light like pointing out characters, talking about what a great time they had, mentioning where certain scenes were shot, and commenting on how some of the special effects were pulled off. Lots of comments on the amount of adlibbing. Lots of comments about the overwhelming amount of turquoise. Nothing all that interesting.

"The Even Stevens Survival Challenge" is a game designed to help players (two, minimum) find out how they'd fare if stranded on a tropical island. I don't have any toothpicks handy, so no survival challenge for me. If you want to invite some friends to your own island luau, some party planner stuff is packed onto the DVD-ROM side of the disc. The DVD includes a set of 16x9 animated menus, and the movie's twelve chapter stops are listed on an insert tucked into the solid white keepcase.

Conclusion: It might seem kind of silly to savage a completely inoffensive Disney-produced family comedy, but even being quite a bit older than The Disney Channel's tween demographic, I genuinely loved Even Stevens. I got a couple of my friends hooked on the show too, and they were as thoroughly disappointed with The Even Stevens Movie as I was. If you haven't caught Even Stevens before, keep an eye out for episodes like "The Secret World of Girls" and "Raiders of the Lost Sausage". They're funny -- promise! -- and hopefully full season sets aren't too far off. Steer clear of the movie, tho'. Skip It.
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