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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Whole Wide World
The Whole Wide World
Columbia/Tri-Star // PG // July 29, 2003
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Blair | posted July 27, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

Writers are a strange lot. To prove my point, look no further than the man writing this review. If more proof is needed, than I suggest taking a glimpse into the life of famed pulp fiction writer, Robert E. Howard, best known for his immensely popular Conan the Barbarian series. Even today, Howard is widely regarded as one of the greatest pulp fiction writers of the 20th Century.

The Whole Wide World is adapted from the book, "One Who Walked Alone," a true-life account of Novalyne Price Ellis, who had a strange, yet ongoing romance with Howard. And if the romance depicted in this movie were anything close to the real deal, I'd have a hard time believing any woman would put up with Howard's irreverent behavior, as he was more at home in his fictional fantasy world than in the reality of normal civilized society. But Howard had character and could definitely string words together to tell a story, which probably added to this mysterious attraction.

In the book, Howard and Novalyne's conversations take place almost exclusively in the car, but that would hardly make for an interesting movie, so the director had to be creative. The lead characters end up having conversations in various other places as well, but you'll find that still a majority of them take place while driving. Boring perhaps, but true to the story. It's in these conversations where we learn that Howard and Novalyne are two completely different individuals, who both have a love for writing.

Howard is played convincingly by Vincent D'Onorfrio, and Renee Zellweger plays the part of Novalyne. Both do excellent jobs playing their respective parts, but I never felt any chemistry between these two, not ever. Throughout the movie Howard acts so strangely and so bizarre, that I couldn't see Novalyne honestly coming back for more, but she did, time and time again. I found it odd how two great actors could pull together two wonderful performances, yet ultimately fail in convincing the audience that these two truly cared for each other. But the story is interesting, and the method that director Dan Ireland chooses to depict Howard is most effective. For example, whenever Howard is deep in thought in his writing, you hear him act out his words, along with the sounds of clashing swords and grunts of enthusiasm that could only be found in his make believe world.

Overall The Whole Wide World is very interesting movie. It's well acted and well directed. Robert E. Howard is a fascinating character, and this film gives an accurate glimpse into his chaotic yet tragically short life.


The DVD

Video:
The Whole Wide World is presented in roughly 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is the second DVD release for this movie, as the first was released over a year ago. As far as the video transfer is concerned, the two versions are identical. They both suffer from a fair amount of grain, show very mild cases of edge enhancement, and suffer from horrible scratches, dirt, and blemishes. I don't know when I last saw a newly released DVD that had as many film blemishes as this one. Very disappointing. The movie is far from un-watchable, but I expect better from a new releases nowadays.

Audio:
Here we have a standard Dolby Digital audio track. This soundtrack is nothing to write home about, but it does its job adequately. The music - when it kicks in - sounds fine, and the dialogue is always easy to discern. This is a love story, not an action film, so the audio performs exactly as you'd expect, nothing more, nothing less.

Extras:
The big news for this new release - besides the new snazzy cover art - is the addition of two new special features. Included now is an audio commentary with director Dan Ireland, Vincent D'Onorfrio, along with some of the crew, and an informal conversation with Dan Ireland and Renee Zellweger. Both are welcomed additions to this DVD, although I wish the studio had felt compelled to rework the video transfer while they were at it.

Both features are interesting, and add a lot of insight to the making of this film. We learn a lot how the book differs from the movie, and we get to see how much this film meant to the actors and crew who made this film that almost never got made. Kudos to Sony Pictures for re-releasing this DVD with these new extra features. Fans of the movie will no doubt appreciate it.


Final Thoughts:
The Whole Wide World was much better than I expected, but not as convincing as I would have liked. But the story is fascinating, and the acting by Vincent D'Onofrio is outstanding. If you've ever had an interest in knowing more about Robert E. Howard, than this movie is definitely worth renting at the very least. Recommended

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