Sol Goode (yes, pronounced "'sall good"), played by Balthazar Getty, is an aspiring actor in Los
Angeles. Obviously, that means the 27-year-old, who's hardly worked a day in his life, is perpetually broke. Despite his
dire financial situation, Sol has no problem bedding seemingly every available female in the tri-county area, though he's
never been in a relationship for more than twenty minutes. After his too-cute platonic female buddy Chloe (Katharine
Towne) rails into him and his parents cut him off, Sol realizes how much of his life he's squandered and sets out to
find some greater meaning. Along for the ride are a few of his other friends. There's his uptight roommate Justin
(Jamie Kennedy), who's been hopelessly castrated by both his dominating fianceé Brenda (Natasha
Gregson Wagner) and his sadistic Hollywood agent boss (Cheri OTeri). Cooper (Danny
Comden), who claims to get "more ass than a toilet seat at the Lilith Fair", has a tunnel view of life revolving
entirely around his hair and getting laid. Sol's cousin Happy (Jonathan Schaech) is a nice guy who just
strolled into town, snagging everything in a matter of minutes that Sol's been reaching for in vain for years.
The premise sounds thin, and not surprisingly, that's because it is. Sol Goode doesn't have a plot in the sense of,
you know, a lovelorn guy finds romance while the wacky ghost of his crazed grandfather helps him unearth a giant
gold-encrusted sausage buried beneath the crawlspace in his house. Sure, there's a clear beginning, middle, and end, but
Sol Goode puts its emphasis on its characters and on humor, not a half-hearted attempt at an original story that in and
of itself doesn't really matter anyway. That makes a little tougher to write an appealing synopsis, especially since I'm already
giving away several of my favorite jokes and don't want to spoil anymore than necessary. Critical reactions to Sol Goode have been decidedly mixed, but everyone in the small group I watched it with really enjoyed the movie, and it was rare for more than a few minutes to go by without one of us bursting out into laughter.
Much of Sol Goode's success can be attributed to a strong cast, particularly lead Balthazar Getty. Sol is a character
who, in most every traditional way, is unlikeable, but he genuinely wants to leave that life behind and grow up. It's not
easy to carry a movie as this sort of screw-up, but Getty, who'd steered clear of comedies before this, doesn't stumble and makes Sol more of a lovable loser. Katharine Towne really shines as Chloe, an effortlessly beautiful tomboy, and how she's managed to avoid the Hollywood radar
is somewhat of a mystery. Danny Comden, who also wrote and directed the movie, steals quite a few scenes. Comden's material
makes the most of both the lifestyle of the movie's L.A. setting as well as his own experiences as a struggling actor. Aside
from the actors and actresses already given some sort of parenthetical reference, Christina Pickles, Robert Wagner, Carmen
Electra, Jared Leto, Christina Applegate, Cindy Margolis, Jason Bateman, and Tori Spelling also contribute small roles.
My first thought about Sol Goode was how much it reminded me of Fast Sofa, a
movie that, I later discovered, writer/director Danny Comden had appeared in several years after penning this screenplay.
Both movies strike a balance between the sweet and the obscene, a combination that not too terribly many films are able to
juggle successfully. The intent of the movie was described on the commentary as "an all-American love story surrounded by
Dysfunction Junction", and Sol Goode manages to pull it off reasonably well. However, the potty humor doesn't always
work. Justin's irritable bowel syndrome, for instance, fell flat. For the most, part, though, enough gags are lobbed at the
audience that the attempts that fail to get a laugh are more than offset by the ones that do. It's hard for me not to
love a movie that has Robert Wagner decked out as an umpire, rattling off sexual baseball metaphors while mounting Christina
Pickles from behind.
Similar complaints can be made about the movie's romantic angle. The moment Chloe starts rattling off the qualities she's
seeking out -- he has to look good in a suit, he has to be romantic enough to toss a daisy her way every once in a while, and
he has to have at least some sort of job, no matter how menial -- there's not really any doubt what Sol's going to be doing,
holding, and wearing an hour later. Sol Goode still manages to avoid many of the usual romantic comedy clichés.
Since Chloe and Sol have been friends for years, there isn't a contrived scene in which they Meet Cute, nor is there the
seemingly inevitable sequence of events in which the lovers get together, are torn apart, and find themselves reunited in the
final reel. The chemistry between Getty and Towne is palpable, and their romance, if not directly focused on for the bulk of
Sol Goode, is the movie's heart. It's predictable, sure, but I think that's kind of the point.
Sol Goode premiered in a neutered form on the WB this past August. This DVD from Lion's Gate maintains all of the
movie's intended raunchy humor, and, despite not getting a theatrical release, the disc features a decent amount of quality
Video: Sol Goode is presented in anamorphic widescreen at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Film grain is often
present and to greatly varying degrees, but this appears to represent the original photography. When various characters are
first seen in the first few minutes of the movie, the current frame freezes as Sol rattles off a proper introduction. The
grain freezes with these shots rather than continuing to buzz around the image, seeming to indicate that this is an issue with the way the movie was shot rather than an unusually grainy print. There was something about the colors that struck me as
mildly inconsistent, and some scenes seemed the slightest bit sharper than others. Specks, nicks and tears, print flaws, and
the like are expectedly slim for such a recent production. This presentation of Sol Goode doesn't have the glossy
sheen of a big-budget studio comedy like Serving Sara, but it's reasonably attractive
and seems representative of the intended look of the movie.
Audio: Sol Goode sports one of those stereo surround tracks that could almost pass for Dolby Digital 5.1. The
surrounds get plenty of use, often reinforcing the music scattered throughout the movie and providing an extensive amount of
ambiance. Rears also come into play with effects like the onslaught of folks talking about Sol in the movie's title sequence
and the camera flashes of his umpire heritage. The low-end is thick and substantial, and my subwoofer was frequently thumping
whenever the soundtrack would kick in. Dialogue is mostly rendered cleanly, though there's a flicker of distortion in the
driving scene after Happy's impromptu audition and later when Brenda screams an ultimatum. Despite not having six channels at
its disposal, Sol Goode sounds just as nice, if not better in a lot of ways, than much of its competition.
There are no alternate language tracks or closed captions, but subtitles have been provided in both English and Spanish.
Supplements: The featured extra is an audio commentary with Balthazar Getty, Katharine Towne, writer/director/actor
Danny Comden, and producer Tucker Tooley. The first time director talks about the difficulty getting the movie, which was first written in 1997, produced. Three separate casts had been assembled before cameras started rolling on the $1.5 million production, which was filmed over 22 days in October 2000. Because of the tight schedule, Sol Goode was shot largely out of sequence, and Getty and Towne discuss how tough it was to do so many of the integral relationship scenes in the first couple days of filming. Along with stories like Jamie Kennedy getting wasted on fake pot, the best parts are probably the discussion of the portions of the movie inspired by actual events. They include Danny's confusing attempt to show his range while auditioning for Tony Danza's shortlived comedy Hudson Street, useless advice from family members that he 'ought to get a part on Friends', and insisting that an acquaintance whip out his legendary 'Duraflame' so he can see what all the fuss is about. As is generally the case when several people are piled together to record a commentary, the flow of discussion is pretty constant. Sometimes they trip over each other as several of them try to talk at once, and I don't think they ever got around to the story behind the 'salad'. It's a solid commentary that covers most everything, and it's well worth a listen.
Unlike the vast majority of deleted scenes that litter most DVDs, the footage presented here is actually
:gasp!: pretty damn entertaining. There are six deleted scenes, running a few seconds shy of eight and a half
minutes in length. The majority are centered around a pair of deleted subplots. One excised running joke features Eric
Roberts as a Vietnam vet, and the other gives Max Perlich (Homicide: Life on
the Street) a little more screentime as the mullet-tastic Murphy. The final and most lengthy snippet is "Proof of Purchase", a scrapped ending that pays off a gag from earlier in the movie. All of the fairly rough looking deleted
footage is letterboxed, and the volume's lower compared to the movie itself. The disc's commentary as well as some of the
early specs floating around the web make reference to "bloopers and outtakes". If they're referring to something other than the footage that plays over the end credits, it doesn't appear to be included on this disc.
Selecting the hidden Lion's Gate logo on the main menu (to the right of Fonzie) reveals full-frame trailers for Sol
Goode and 100 Women.
The disc's 16x9-enhanced menus are pretty nice, featuring brief clips from the film as transitions. Some of the submenus seem like they might be improperly flagged, looking better in 4x3 than squeezed to 16x9. Sol Goode has been divided into twenty-four chapters.
Conclusion: Funny, charming, and a little different than most of the comedies that come across my desk, Sol
Goode is definitely worth checking out as a rental at the very least. I'm not going to resort to a lousy pun about the
movie's title as I segue to my recommendation, though. Sorry. Recommended.
Related Links: The official Sol Goode site includes, along
with some of the other usual stuff, a trailer and a largely unused message board.
Completely Random Aside: There's a scene where Sol goes to a career counselor and unsuccessfully takes a stab at a series of jobs. For some reason, this struck me as eerily reminiscent of "Get a Job", an episode from the first season of the Disney Channel original series Even Stevens. Sssshhh! Don't tell anyone I'm 24 and watch the Disney Channel.