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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Mr. Saturday Night
Mr. Saturday Night
MGM // R // June 4, 2002
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted May 18, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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The Movie:

While I still don't entirely find Billy Crystal's 1992 directorial effort "Mr. Saturday Night" entertaining, it's a film that's grown on me over the now 10-years since its release. A Very Personal Project for Crystal, the film stars the director as Buddy Young, Jr., an aging, bitter comedian whose life throughout four decades is explored in this picture.

Starting with some terrific lines (the script was written by Crystal and the famed writing team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandell) about the mountains of not-particularly-healthy food that awaited them at dinnertime, Buddy and his brother, Stan (David Paymer) entertain for the family. Years pass and Buddy's brother is now his manager. The film bounces back and forth throughout the years, occasionally returning to the present, where Buddy is now entertaining senior centers and not getting the same sort of reaction he got years prior. His brother believes that it's finally time to close the curtain on his career.

The film really walks a fine line between being too sentimental and genuinely heartbreaking. There's a particular quality about David Paymer's terrific performance that allows him to be intelligent, hurt and sympathetic; after years of withstanding Buddy's sarcastic comments and insults, he realizes that when he says that "he can't do this anymore" this time, he really means it. This takes place in an early scene in a diner - Buddy's gotten older, but there's finally a flicker of recognition after all these years that he may have hurt or neglected those who have loved him.

Crystal's performance is the best of a series of fine efforts contained in the film. You get the feeling that he knows a wealth comedians similar to Buddy Young, Jr. He has the timing down, he connects with the sort of arc that some of these entertainers must face, going with the lows and highs of the great years until they finally find themselves fading. As previously noted, Paymer's performance is a delight; the two work off one another believably and really seem like brothers. Julie Warner is sweet and engaging as Crystal's wife, while Helen Hunt is fine in an early performance as a possible new agent for Buddy.

If anything, Crystal could have even made the film better had some editing been done. At 119 minutes, there are a few scenes in the picture that could have been deleted to help the pace of the film. As is, it's not a groundbreaking or hugely memorable picture, but there's some really poignant and sharply funny moments,as well as strong performances.


VIDEO: MGM presents "Mr. Saturday Night" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation is fairly good considering the age of the title, but there are some instances where the transfer seemed slightly inconsistent. The film's beautiful cinematography by Don Peterman can look striking at times, as many scenes appear crisp and well-defined. On the other hand, a few dimly-lit interior scenes looked slightly softer in comparison.

The picture showed some flaws that surpassed simply being minor, but the image remained watchable and problems did not appear frequently. Edge enhancement is mild at times and does cause some irritation. No artifacts were noticed, though. The print seemed to be in fine condition: there were the occasional specks and a mark or two as well as some slight grain, but these faults didn't cause enormous concern.

Colors were fairly well presented. While the film's warm color palette was usually crisp and well-saturated, colors could, on a couple of occasions, look slightly soft and smeary. Overall, this is a very nice presentation that's a bit rough around the edges at times. The previous Polygram DVD release was presented in pan & scan, so it's nice that MGM has finally offered a proper widescreen edition.

SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby 2.0 by MGM. The great majority of the film is dialogue-driven, capturing either Buddy's conversations or his act. The only other elements present are audience sounds during the performance sequences and Marc Shaiman's score. Audio quality was fine, as dialogue and music remained crisp and clear.

MENUS: Very nice main menu with a montage of clips from the movie. Sub-menus aren't animated, but are easily navigated.

EXTRAS: Although not billed as such and not indicated on the front cover, MGM has provided enough supplements for the title to be considered for "special edition" status.

Commentary: This is a commentary from director/writer/actor Billy Crystal and actor David Paymer. Both of the participants were recorded together, although Crystal is the only one speaking for much of the movie, as Paymer doesn't join until later in the film. As with Crystal's commentary for "61", this is a wonderful, superb track that has some detailed discussion about the production process (in this case, the make-up used to make Crystal and Paymer look considerably older gets a lot of chat) and story, as well as some big laughs as Crystal riffs on what's happening in the movie.

Featurettes: MGM has provided three short featurettes for the DVD, The Buddy Young, Jr. Story is a 6 minute featurette that has Crystal discussing where the character came from (an HBO special and on Saturday Night Live). See What We Did? is a 24-minute documentary that provides a more general overlook at the story and production from Crystal, who also recalls his career in comedy and what it was like to direct his first feature. Make-Up is a 6-minute featurette focusing on the impressive make-up in the picture. There is also a "play all" option.

Deleted Scenes: Crystal provides a new, quick introduction to an old featurette that has him introducing several deleted sequences. Most of the material is quite good, although they were probably deleted for pacing reasons. The piece runs just shy of 20 minutes - using the chapter advance button on the remote, viewers can skip ahead to the next scene being introduced.

Gag Reel: This is an eight-minute gag reel that has to be one of the funniest I've ever seen. There are a few little clips that aren't as funny, but there are also some goofs or jokes that I thought were absolutely hilarious.

Trailer: Last, but not least, a trailer in 1.85:1 widescreen and 2.0 audio.

Final Thoughts: Great performances from Crystal and Paymer hold the interest in this comedy/drama that goes a bit overlong, but has some truly fantastic moments. MGM's new DVD edition offers good audio/video and some very nice supplements all for the terrific low price of $14.95 (or less in some stores). Highly Recommended.

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