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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Waking Up In Reno
Waking Up In Reno
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // R // April 8, 2003
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted April 2, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Miramax/Dimension films reportedly has one of the largest stockpiles of completed films that have been shelved for one reason or another. While the studio had a couple of major hits this year ("Chicago"), they also released several mid-budget pictures (see also "Below" and "Equilibrium") into a handful of theaters, recouping only a fraction of their cost. "Below" wasn't bad; "Equilibrium" seems to have struck a cord with the few people who actually saw it in theaters.

"Waking Up In Reno", however, is just plain bad. A humor-free sex comedy, the film should have been sold direct-to-cable instead of sitting around awaiting a release for a little over two years (the film was completed in 2000). Lonnie Earl (Billy Bob Thornton) and Darlene (Natasha Richardson, badly miscast as a Southern belle) are a married couple whose marriage has recently begun to go flat. Roy (Patrick Swayze. Yes, that Patrick Swayze.) and Candy (Charlize Theron) are a couple of newlyweds who have issues too, but are looking to have a baby. Given that Candy and Lonnie have been having an affair, one can only guess where this movie is headed.

All four of them hop into the car to drive from Little Rock to Reno for a monster truck rally. At this point, the movie turns into "When Rednecks Argue". The movie seems to think that folks from the South acting like the oldest, worst Southern stereotypes is the basis for humor, when all it is is uninteresting, dim-witted characters acting like idiots.

The film's attempts at comedy are often disasterous. Jokes fall flat left and right, leaving good actors (well, at least Theron, Richardson and Thornton) with nowhere to go. Thornton's the only actor who turns in an involving performance, simply because he's the only one who seems to understand the level of film he's found himself in here. Theron overacts badly, and Richardson and Swayze look lost. Penelope Cruz also turns up in a small role as a hooker.

Director Jordan Brady certainly isn't working with great material, but he also lacks the sense of timing to cover up just how mediocre the screenplay is. "Reno" also suffers from the fact that it looks as if it's been reworked by several people, leading to a rather choppy feel. The director's other comedy, a Miramax film (starring Ben Affleck, Luke Wilson, Denise Richards and others), called "The Third Wheel", was recently sold direct-to-cable. Thornton's other Miramax film, "Daddy and Them", also turned out to be a direct-to-cable effort.

Overall, "Waking Up In Reno" is a miserable effort that would be a serious problem for the actor's careers if anyone had ever heard of the picture. Do yourself a favor and pass this one by.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Waking Up In Reno" is presented by Miramax Films in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The film itself isn't anything much to look at, but the transfer handles it fairly well. Sharpness and detail are fine, as the picture appeared crisp and well-defined, with no apparent softness.

Some minor faults were scattered throughout. Edge enhancement was present on a few occasions, as were some slight compression artifacts. The print looked crisp and clear, aside from some minor grain. The film offered a fairly dull color palette until the Reno scenes, but colors generally looked accurate and well-rendered. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked natural.

SOUND: "Waking Up In Reno" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 by Miramax. The film's soundtrack is really nothing special. Completely front-heavy, the surrounds are only used very briefly for some light reinforcement of a song or two. Dialogue was iffy - it sounded too low in the mix. Although, on second thought, I suppose I should be thankful for that.

EXTRAS: Amazingly enough, the DVD offers a commentary from the director and writers. A making-of featurette, 5 deleted scenes and some sneak peek trailers for other Miramax titles are also included.

Final Thoughts: "Waking Up In Reno" is a dull, laugh-free comedy with mediocre performances from otherwise fine actors. It's a total waste, and I wish I had my 90 minutes back. Miramax's DVD edition provides fine audio/video quality and a few supplements, but I wouldn't recommend this film to anyone.

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