VIPs is the story of young Marcelo, a young man from Brazil who dreams of not being the outsider in his day to day life by actually dreaming large and putting actions behind them. Yes, he does go about achieving this, but no, not always in a legal fashion. In fact, the stuff Marcelo gets into can be considered scams by some and not legal by others. Some might say that they're the both the same thing. But are they really?
Early on as a student Marcelo is bullied by his fellow classmates and put on the spot by his teachers. Marcelo, the quick wit that he is, mimics them and humiliates them while doing so. Marcelo, along with his mother, is taken to the school's guidance counselor and he is given the familiar lecture of "if you don't change your ways you will be a loser all of your life." Once Marcelo returns home his pilot father greets him and he gives him some sound advice of going out there to find whom he truly is. Marcelo always wanted to be a pilot when he grew up, so he becomes a pilot. Like, literally.
As Marcelo journeys all over Brazil he begins to adapt to his surroundings and assuming the identities of VIPs. VIP = Very Important Person + s = Very Important Persons. Plural. That's where the hijinks ensue. Marcelo assumes the identity of a pilot, a cartel member, a rock star, a mogul, and a freedom fighter. I was just waiting for the signage of "based on actual events" to appear at the end of the credits, because nowadays even the most exaggerated scenarios seem to be based on true events.
VIPs has a lot of heart and it's a lot of fun to watch Marcelo assume all of these identities and the adulation that goes with being rich and famous. That's good. The bad are the consequences that may lead to his death or incarceration. There's that fine line of something bad happening to Marcelo and squashing his dream of being someone special. You root for the guy. Sure, he's pulling scams, but they aren't really hurting anyone, because he's not doing them to be vindictive or to play the system. He's doing this to find out who he really is. In the context of the film, it works.
If you want to make a comparison or a mash up, I would say VIPs is Catch Me If You Can meets Blow with a dash of Fight Club thrown in for good measure. VIPs also gets props for being produced by City of God and The Constant Gardner director Fernando Meirelles. VIPs is a trip worth taking.
VIPs is presented in 16X9 - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, at 480p (upscaled to 1080p). The film was obviously shot all over Brazil and the color palette is front and center. Colors are lush and bold, but depending on what folks are wearing, a tad loud. Grain levels are a bit elevated giving it a grittier look, but even when we get to the slick mogul scenes, the grittiness remains. I'm not sure that was intentional, but it could have used a bit more polish in the slicker scenes of high life. Banding is also evident, but not too distracting. Black levels are deep and inky and I did not detect instances of serious crush. For a DVD, the video on VIPs looks slightly above average.
VIPs is presented in Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 with English subtitles. Each identity presents different challenges and I think that the sound design was used in a very effective fashion. Dialogue is front and centered, the surround channels transmit the ambient noise fluidly and without echo. The LFE (subwoofer) gets a steady workout especially during the parade and club scenes. Those are parties I want to be at! Again, for being a DVD, VIPs does not disappoint in the sound department.
It can't always be fun and games and unfortunately the extras leave a lot to be desired. VIPs comes equipped with a trailer and a 23-minute set of reviews with the director, star, producer, co-star, writer, and costume designer. Yes, it's not all fluff and filler, but I wish that they had gone all out in the supplemental package. This will obviously tarnish the final grade.
- Interviews with: Director Toniko Melo, Actors Wagner Moura and Gisele Froes, Screenwriter Braulio Mantovani, Producer Fernando Meirelles, and Costume Designer Veronica Julian
VIPs is a fun movie to watch and one of the rare films that make you root for the "bad guy" even though the bad guy really isn't bad at all. It's a journey of self discovery and Marcelo will go to great lengths to find out who he really is and what he was put on this world to do. There's a thin layer of spirituality throughout the film that never intrudes on the main focus of the story. VIPs is a winner and deserves to be a sought after DVD.