I've summarized a few odd movie plots in my day, but try this one on for size: a group of childhood "geniuses" grows up to become a group of twenty-something social misfits who use their love of odd inventions to save a local pool hall owned by Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Written and directed by Brian Petersen, who also co-stars, it's obvious from square one that Think Tank (2007)---referring to said group's name, of course---is truly an odd duck. The DVD packaging proudly states "From the producers of Napoleon Dynamite", implying a gaggle of oddball characters, uncomfortably dry humor and a quasi-1980s atmosphere. During certain stretches of the film's 92-minute lifespan, it's a fairly accurate comparison. Other times...not so much.
To its credit (and discredit, when the jokes don't land), Think Tank proudly wears a badge of goofiness from start to finish. When our leader speaks about Tron in hushed tones and compiles a list of endangered and extinct candy bars from years past, it's obvious enough that Think Tank is directed towards a specific audience. Even so, there are times where the goofiness should lead somewhere...and it really doesn't. A number of supporting characters and story elements are piled on and eventually fall flat, including the expanded "Think Tank 2.0" and a few superfluous family members. This is still a linear story with an introduction, middle ground and conclusion...but the middle ground could've easily been trimmed by 15-20 minutes, if not more.
Which brings us to the film's second nagging dilemma: since this slightly bloated cut only runs 92 minutes, it's no surprise that Think Tank grasps at straws to pad out a few stretches. Members of the cast, presumably in their mid-twenties, remark during the DVD's audio commentary that this story was conceived roughly seven years ago. In most respects, it's hardly a surprise: this feels like a kitchen-table project conjured up by high school or college kids, but the seven-year delay makes Think Tank feel a bit past its prime. With an admittedly large number of script rewrites, it's no wonder the multitude of good, bad and mediocre story elements butt heads along the way.
Even so, there's a certain amount of heart and winning charm that helps to keep things afloat. It's hard not to chuckle at a few moments of outright buffoonery, root for an unlikely romance and even empathize with a few characters during Think Tank. The film's use of music is also excellent during a few key sequences, most notably a second-act montage featuring a catchy track by The Innocence Mission. By and large, this is a film that wears its heart on its sleeve...and since Think Tank's heart is often in the right place, it's easier to forgive a few stumbles along the way.
Presented on DVD by Monarch Video, Think Tank seems perfectly suited for the small screen. The disc's technical presentation is fine in most respects, while a handful of light extras preserves the film's homemade spirit. This may not be a recommend blind buy, but there's enough here to entertain the target audience for a few hours.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for 16x9 displays, Think Tank looks great for an admittedly low-budget production. The film's warm but natural color palette is bright and generally consistent, though several indoor sequences appear slightly muddy. Overall, this is a satisfying visual presentation that fans will enjoy.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround or 2.0 Stereo and isn't quite as impressive. Though a few clever surround effects can be heard along the way, portions of the dialogue sound thin and flat; additionally, some of the music is mixed a bit high in the rear channels and occasionally fights for attention. Unfortunately, no subtitles or Closed Captions are included during the main feature or bonus material.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the quirky menu designs are basic and easy to navigate. The 92-minute main feature has been divided into 18 chapters, while no obvious layer change was detected during playback. This one-disc release is housed in a standard black keepcase and includes no inserts of any kind.
First up is an Audio Commentary featuring Tank members Greg Neil, Keith Paugh, David C. Thompson and Brian Petersen. As expected, this is a very casual and chatty track: from production stories to hints about the story origins, it's obvious that these four participants are comfortable with each other. This commentary won't sway those who didn't like the main feature, but it may help some viewers appreciate the heart that went into it.
The rest of the bonus features are fairly brief and lightweight. A Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (11:58) resembles more of a loose set tour than anything else, while a text-based Invention Gallery details some of the Think Tank's creations. Two goofy Trials are also on board; these short video snippets include a marginally reckless bike stunt (0:24) and the trusty Diet Cola & Mentos experiment (2:42). Closing things out are a few Character Bios and a Stills Gallery of production photos.
All bonus features are presented in 1.33:1 and anamorphic widescreen formats; like the main feature, no subtitles or Closed Captions are included. A few deleted and extended scenes are mentioned during the audio commentary, but these are nowhere to be found.
There's no doubt that Think Tank has its heart in the right place, but several snags keep this from being a more enjoyable production. Our story is sometimes needlessly cluttered with supporting characters and strange plot twists, though the winning performances of our main characters keep things grounded. Fans of Napoleon Dynamite will undoubtedly find a few similarities along the way, for better or for worse. Monarch's DVD package is thin but appropriate, combining a decent technical presentation with a handful of light bonus features. Think Tank shouldn't be considered blind buy material, but there's still enough here to warrant a weekend spin. Rent It.
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.