It's not often that I'm given a chance to see a whistling documentary, but Pucker Up: The Fine Art of Whistling (2005) is as catchy and entertaining as the subject it pays tribute to. Directed by the team of Kate Davis and David Heilbroner (who also helmed a segment of 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America), Pucker Up is a relatively straightforward but charming tale that revolves around the annual International Whistling Competition in Louisburg, NC. Our story introduces us to several colorful competitors from all walks of life, including an investment banker, a turkey hauler and a Dutch social worker. All share a passion for whistling, employing a number of unique styles to share their music with all who care to listen.
We follow several of these competitors from their home environments to the big showdown in North Carolina---and though the linear story doesn't break new ground in the way it's told, at least Pucker Up doesn't waste a lot of time telling it. Occasional breaks in the action provide a brief history of whistling, including footage and references to Al Jolson, Audrey Hepburn, Elvis Presley, members of Monty Python and more. More often than not, the competition is placed front and center: from backstage practice and early rounds all the way to a "whistle-off" to determine top honors, Pucker Up is paced well and doesn't overstay its welcome.
The broad range of personalities creates some interesting comments during the interviews: some are humble, some are slightly cocky but they're all there to have fun and share their talents. The 76-minute main feature closes with a brief "Where are they now?" segment, ensuring that the end of the competition doesn't equal the end of the whistling. All things considered, it's a satisfying journey---and if you can make it the entire way through without whistling along, more power to you.
As product of Q-Ball Productions, Image Entertainment and HVE, Pucker Up arrives on DVD in a compact package that fans should enjoy. The main feature is blessed with a solid technical presentation, though the bonus features are certainly on the slim side. All things considered, though, any fan of offbeat documentaries will certainly enjoy what's presented here. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality:
Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Pucker Up looks surprisingly good from start to finish. The modest budget and natural lighting conditions translate fairly well to DVD, boasting a natural color palette and decent black levels. Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and gets the job done; there obviously isn't much in the way of dynamics here, but the dialogue and music come through clearly. No subtitles or Closed Captioning options are included for the main feature or bonus material.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging:
Seen above, the musical menu designs are simple and easy to navigate. The 76-minute main feature has been divided into a scant 9 chapters, while no apparent layer change was detected during playback. This one-disc release is housed in a standard black keepcase and includes no inserts.
Not much to dig through here, only a quartet of Bonus Clips featuring two competitors from the film. The first three spotlight Steve "The Whistler" Herbst and include "A Private Lesson" (0:59), "Whistling In and Out" (0:47, not to be confused with Tenacious D's "Inward Singing") and "Countless Ways to Whistle" (0:49); the fourth features Ernie Barretto explaining and demonstrating his unique style (1:10). All are fairly self-explanatory and worth checking out, though the lack of more goodies is mildly disappointing. An interview or audio commentary with members of the "cast" and crew would've been nice to hear, but at least the main feature stands on its own fairly well.
Lightweight but entertaining, Pucker Up: The Fine Art of Whistling should appeal to music fans and followers of offbeat documentaries. It offers an occasionally tongue-in-cheek but sincere observation of the practice as serious business, capable of intriguing whistlers and outsiders alike. The DVD treatment by HVE boasts a good technical presentation but skimps on the extras, somewhat limiting the replay value of this otherwise serviceable release. Curious parties will be satisfied with a rental, but those who sincerely appreciate documentaries off the beaten path shouldn't mind diving right in. Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.