Carys Reitman (Bijou Phillips) has a weird habit: she gets her emotional kicks by sitting in the back at memorial services and mourning along with the families. At one of her impromptu visits, she accidentally knocks a ring off of the corpse's hand, and ends up taking it with her in order to save face in front of the bereaved. In particular, she doesn't want Tyler (Ian Somerhalder), the now ex-boyfriend of the woman in the coffin, to suspect that she's not actually a friend of the dead, but the story that follows (along with the ring itself) are the foundation for a mountain of lies that stand between her and true love.
Everyone knows that a good movie should have well-developed characters (at least, I hope they do), but I don't think enough screenwriters consider what character development really is. It doesn't have anything to do with the life that the character has led up to this point. Backstory is not character development. You can mock up all the history for a character you want, and the most use it will have in the big picture is material for the actor to internalize. As they say, actions speak louder than words, and so what's more important is the way the characters react to the events placed in front of them, and the characters around them. A movie should be a well-oiled machine, where all the movement of the parts has a logical progression.
Wake is not a well-oiled machine. It's a bunch of character bios unnaturally yanked towards an inevitable conclusion by the movie's moronic plot. When the ring first falls off of the corpse's finger (which itself is forced by Carys' need to hold the body's hand), there's absolutely no reason she can't just leave it in the bottom of the coffin when Tyler and the mourning parents step up behind her. Problem solved? Nope, it falls on the floor instead, where she quickly stands on it to hide it. Okay, so, kick it under the coffin. Problem solved? Nope, she faints and puts it in her pocket. Well, at the very least, she's friends with funeral home employee Shane (Danny Masterson), so she can probably toss it in some logical corner, and people will just figure it was an accident. No?
Alright, alright. She's stuck with the ring. I might be able to accept that, in order for the movie to continue, but continuing means numerous scenes of Carys stumbling through increasingly strained stories and lies about her friendship with Tyler's late fiance, both to him and to the deceased's parents. Every interaction she has with any of them usually brings up some pointless, specific question that Carys makes up an unnecessarily complicated answer for, but it's obvious that she should just define their "friendship" as somewhat distant. It'd make far more sense to say that she just happened on a former friend's funeral and figured she might go in instead of making up a non-existent art class (which requrires $400 in paint) and adding to the laundry list of things she's stringing Tyler along about, but the movie wants a bunch of guilt to pile onto Carys' shoulders.
Of course, neither of these things becomes important around the midway point, when the movie introduces an even more belabored angle: a slice of reheated Head Over Heels-style intrigue. Is Tyler actually a murderer trying to slip away with an unearned inheritance? The answer is moronically obvious, and as usual, it's the kind of question that would be answered in real life inside of an hour by asking questions and using logic. I'm an easygoing guy, and predictable movies don't automatically grate on my nerves, but characters taking the worst possible course of action does, and the entire third act of the movie (particularly the section where Carys and Tyler head off to a secluded lake house) really made me want to scream. The biggest impact any of this material has on anything is my newfound feeling that Somerhalder and Freddie Prinze Jr. are shockingly similar.
All in all, I understand why the predictable events of a romantic comedy will work time and time again; crowd-pleasers have pleased me before and will no doubt please me again. What I don't understand is why the structure of romantic comedies is necessary, why there always has to be something hanging over the couple's happiness that comes crashing down going into the third act. Worse, Wake ignores the vaguely interesting seeds buried way at the bottom (what would you do if you ended up with a dead person's prized possession by accident, and why does Carys need to hit up funerals to feel emotion) in order to play into every belabored beat, every strained and obvious moment. The resulting film will only please a viewer so desperate for romance, they'll settle for a movie where Danny Masterston is the most charming element, and that's not the kind of shame anyone wants on their conscience.
Urgh. It's hard for me to comprehend why lazy cover artists continue to work and get paid for shockingly shoddy composites like the one here, which completely fails to place Ian Somerhalder's head onto a suited body. You would think the massive rise in the number of Photoshop artists looking for assignments would flood out the mediocre hacks and help the cream rise to the top, but I guess not. A painfully punny tagline adds insult to injury, and the back cover isn't any better (the movie's about death, so of course they'd have a picnic in a graveyard!). No insert inside the Infiniti case, and the full-color disc art is a repeat of the cover artwork.
The Video, and Audio
E1's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen looks very soft, but it's also strong enough that you can see the dust particles floating through a random light on in Carys' room, and the colors are quite vivid. I've seen better SD-DVD transfers, but this is a solid B.
Not much is asked of the Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and it delivers that in spades. Directionality, music, dialogue, sound effects are all overwhelmingly adequate, and nothing more. Dolby Digital 2.0 is also included, as well as English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing.
A really dull audio commentary with director Ellie Kanner, writer/producer Lennox Wiseley, and producers Hal Schwartz and Bill Shraga is the largest extra here, in which Wiseley agonizes over nitpicks like continuity errors, and everyone else offers repetitive praise for the movie and mentions the other projects the cast members are in. A rote behind-the-scenes featurette (15:48) does not offer further enlightenment.
Trailers for Fix and Misconceptions play before the menu. Wake's original theatrical trailer is also accessible under the special features menu.
Skip it. Wake is no different than the millions of uninspired romantic comedies at the fingers of any Netflix user. Hell, I've even seen another romantic comedy that was predicated on death and funeral home (a micro-budget film called Expiration Date, in case you're wondering).
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