A cult classic in the making, Jane White is Sick and Twisted stars Kim Little (Diagnosis: Murder) as a television-obsessed shut-in who's convinced herself that she's the daughter of controversial talk show host Gerry King (David Lander; Laverne & Shirley). Jane dreams of one day reuniting with her estranged pop, penning love letters to serial killers and taking a part-time gig as a tranvestite prostitute in the hopes of earning an appearance on his show. Throughout her trek to Chicago, Jane encounters the intoxication of romance, the dizzying disappointment of heartbreak, she-males, sex power-imbuing aliens, serial killers, and a gaggle of familiar faces.
Jane is so enthralled with television that it colors her perception of reality, and virtually every character in the film bears a striking resemblance to a TV star of days past. The cast includes Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Alley Mills and Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years), Richard Kline (Three's Company), Dustin Diamond (Saved by the Bell), Ted Shackelford and Michelle Phillips (Knots Landing), Chris Hardwick (Singled Out), Phil LaMarr and Debra Wilson (Mad TV), Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood (Whose Line Is It Anyway?), Andrew Lauer and Eric Lutes (Caroline in the City), Mickey Jones (Home Improvement), Maureen McCormick (The Brady Bunch), and Gary Owens (Laugh-In).
It's mentioned in the disc's commentary that audience reactions were polarized, and when asked to rate the movie on a scale of 1 to 10, responses were invariably either an 11 or a -1. Jane White is Sick and Twisted is admittedly thin on plot, and a lot of the gags flounder around aimlessly. But even when a joke flops, I found Jane White to just be hopelessly endearing, especially considering that I'm a reformed television nut myself. I'm convinced it's impossible for me to not love a movie with Screech dolled up as a French-leaning tranvestite, a deluded Marcia Brady with a bird perched on her head, convinced she's the son of God, or a tender love scene delivered on the remains of chainsaw-gutted victims. The Internet Movie Database claims that there are over two hundred references to various TV shows, and though I didn't spot quite that number, I recognized a damn good many. The nods range from Saturday Night Live and South Park quotes to an animated dream sequence out of a Rankin-Bass special to the animated transitions from scene to scene.
Jane White is Sick and Twisted was shot on a shoestring, but it doesn't really look it, thanks to the large, easily recognizable cast and the use of 35mm film instead of DV. Though Jane White isn't as sick and twisted as the title may suggest, it's a definite change of pace from its mostly tame, timid studio competition. Because it's not a cookie cutter product, Jane White isn't likely to offer much in the way of any mass appeal. However, I found the movie to be both quirky and accessible, and I'd recommend Jane White to viewers with any sort of passion for television, be it positive or negative.
Video: The monitors seen on the set in the behind-the-scenes material and some letterboxed footage in the featurette seem to indicate that Jane White is Sick and Twisted was composed with matting in mind, though this DVD release presents the movie full-frame. Considering the immense amount of supplemental material on the disc and director David Michael Latt's involvement seemingly every step of the way, presumably this framing decision met with his thumbs-up. The concept for widescreen may also have been ditched during post-production. At one point, a TV-inspired "bug" appears on-screen, and it would have been partially, but not entirely, cropped if the film had been matted.
Regardless, the DVD looks great, though representative of the film's low-budget origins. The source material doesn't show any signs of wear or abuse, and I don't recall spotting so much as a single fleck or nick for the duration. The image remains respectably crisp throughout, though limited somewhat by the clarity of the available 35mm film stock. Colors are all over the map, ranging from drab to eye-popping, and it's not too terribly uncommon for the palette not to match up from scene to scene. There aren't any flaws in the usual sense, aside from some easily overlooked aliasing and an odd momentary blackout around 41:42 in. A few minor quibbles aside, this is a solid presentation, and definitely well above what I'd expect from an independently-produced comedy.
Audio: Jane White is Sick and Twisted sports a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack (448Kbps). The score and varied, upbeat music throughout have an excellent presence, especially after my Pro Logic II-capable receiver leapt in. This spread the music across all five speakers, though the lower-end came across as a little timid. Some of the sound effects are extremely effective, particularly a car horn that I was convinced for a couple of seconds had bellowed from outside. Dialogue doesn't fare quite as well. Although every utterance remains discernable throughout, many of the lines have a hollow, echoey quality, infrequently muddied further by background noise. I've recorded a quick example (192kps mp3; 70.4K) of what I mean. Any moderately in-depth analysis of the audio for a movie like this is probably creeping into "rather unnecessary" territory. Jane White is Sick and Twisted isn't going to offer any sort of sonic showcase for viewers' home theaters, but the stereo soundtrack accomplishes precisely what it sets out to do.
Optional Spanish subtitles are included, though neither English subtitles nor closed captions have been provided.
Supplements: Jane White is Sick and Twisted is a pretty loaded special edition releases, and its mountain of extras begins with an audio commentary. Director David Michael Latt, Kim Little, and Chris Hardwick keep a constant flow of discussion going, and it's equal parts informative and entertaining. Hardwick, as was also the case with the movie, provides most of the laughs, such as when he offers tips on how to get Bijou Phillips to sleep with you. As much as he interrupts David Latt early into the commentary, Hardwick takes on almost a moderator role later on, lobbing a number of questions and prompting discussion. Viewers with an interest in low-budget filmmaking ought to enjoy this commentary, which tackles how the cast became attached to the project, overcoming budget hurdles, and how pink poster board and a tarantula can add some flavor to a long scene with no coverage. It's mentioned several times what an intrusive pain in the ass managers and agents can be. For instance, Richard Klein's agent insisted that the actor would never stoop to the level of a project like Jane White, especially for such a piddling amount of money, only to find out that his scenes had already been shot a couple of weeks earlier. Whoops. There are a bunch of the usual funny production tales, such as a guest at a hotel mistaking Dustin Diamond in drag for an employee, which almost got the production booted from the location. One of the best commentaries I've listened to in months.
"Behind the scenes" (12:58) ought to be sufficiently self-explanatory. A featurette (7:34) also includes a bit of behind the scenes footage that's interspersed throughout a smattering of interviews with the cast. Some of these interviews are repurposed and expanded for another feature on the disc, appropriately titled "Actor Interviews", in which Kim Little (4:04), Wil Wheaton (1:37), Colin Mochrie (0:41), Alley Mills (1:13), Eric Lutes (0:41), Ted Shackelford (0:24), Danica McKellar (0:26), and co-writer/director David Michael Latt (1:56) toss out a few brief comments. Most of the interviews revolve around their roles, as well as what it was like to work with David and some of the other cast members. Some of these folks return for "Actor Photos", a gallery that features thirty-five shots of the cast hamming it up for the camera.
"TV Credits" rattles off a list of the TV shows that nineteen of the actors and actresses have appeared in, though because of an authoring error, only six of the credits match up with their corresponding cast members. For instance, selecting Danica McKellar loads the credits for Alley Mills, and Ted Shackelford pops open a profile of Maureen McCormick.
Next up is a set of deleted scenes (11:11), following Jane and Dick in the desert, mom and daughter bickering, a transvestite prostitute Jane crooning to herself, our Trans-Jane-der heroine fiddling with an uncooperative car, several sequences snipped from Gerry's show, and, the best of the lot, Jane being homeschooled by her drunken mother. Presumably these fell victim to the usual pacing concerns, despite being pretty funny overall.
There are four "Sick and Twisted Games", but instead of bloated Flash multimedia or inline trivia, these games :gasp!: require interaction with other sentient beings. Among them are a "TV Nut" game to see who can pick up on the most television references, a drinking game, and a "Where's Waldo?"-ish scavenger hunt. "How Sick and Twisted Are You?" isn't really a game in the usual sense, but viewers are encouraged to recreate their favorite scenes from the movie and send in photographs that'll later appear on the Jane White website.
Rounding out the disc's extras are three full-frame trailers, totalling eight and a half minutes, and a lengthy set of web links.
Orders placed through the official Jane White site before May 5th will be packed with some additional swag, including a collector's lapel pin, a mug, rules for a drinking game, and a copy of the DVD with personalized autographs by Kim Little and David Latt.
The disc sports a set of 4x3 animated menus, and the movie has been divided into twenty chapters.
Conclusion: Like most "love it or hate it" comedies, Jane White is Sick and Twisted is probably best suited to a rental rather than blindly shelling out twenty bucks. Television nuts and viewers with an interest in off-kilter, independent comedies are likely to get a kick out of the movie, and there are enough extras on its DVD release to keep 'em occupied for the better part of an evening. Recommended.
Related Links: The official Jane White is Sick and Twisted site is disturbingly comprehensive, including a pair of video clips, reviews, screenings, merchandise, production notes, info on the cast and crew, photos, and assorted wackiness.