Writer/director Cameron Crowe lovingly crafted this coming of age tale based upon his experiences writing for Rolling Stone Magazine at the young age of 15. His real-life travels with the Allman Brothers Band have been fictionalized into William Miller (played by Patrick Fugit) and the band Stillwater.
Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee) and Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) are the singer and guitarist in the 70's rock band Stillwater. More musically like Led Zepplin than the Allman Brothers, Stillwater is an up and coming band struggling with their internal problems while on the rise to stardom. But don't let that distract from the real story, which is as the title says, the lives of the almost famous that revolve around the real stars. William and Penny Lane (Golden Globe winning Kate Hudson) are opposite sides of the coin that revolve around Stillwater. William may get caught up in the moment from time to time, but he still realizes he is there to do a job. On the other hand, Penny is infatuated with the rock star lifestyle of excess and blindly follows the band no matter where the path leads.
More than a coming of age or loss of innocence story, Almost Famous provides an open window into the beginnings of director Crowe's career. It's a personal letter to an unrequited love that everyone can experience and that's why it was such a critical success.
Evidently a critically successful film warrants less attention when being transferred to DVD as well, because there is little more than standard fare on this disc. Fans of the format, as well as the film, will be disappointed there are no deleted scenes or outtakes. Originally the film was named Untitled and previewed much longer than the 2 hour version that was released.
The name change is explainable. Dreamworks was uneasy about releasing a film called Untitled and aptly so. What most fans of the film will be looking for are the 40 minutes trimmed from the theatrical release that were supposed to have been included on this disc. Sadly, the missing footage is nowhere to be found, nor is there an explanation as well.
Such an oversight isn't helped by the sparse extras that are on the disc. The entertaining, but ultimately forgettable, HBO Behind-the-Scenes Featurette "The Making of Almost Famous," is the typical documentary that HBO airs for many up-and-coming films. Because they are shown months before the film there is very little revealed other than promotionally themed talk.
Also included are the standard theatrical trailers, cast and crew bios, and production notes. Entertainingly enough, there is a music video included for the Stillwater song "Fever Dog" that was played throughout the movie.
Perhaps the best extra included on the disc is the most unusual one as well. Since the film is based on Cameron Crowe's early writing for Rolling Stone, several of his articles for the magazine are available to read on the disc. His travels with the Allman Brothers are documented, as are later interviews with Zepplin, Fleetwood Mac and others. This is easily the most interesting feature that the DVD has to offer and one that helps make up for the lack of a director's commentary accompanying the film.
The sound and video on the disc are as near perfect as can be. The warm, rich tones of the film look beautiful presented in the original 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen aspect ratio. There is no noticeable bleed or muddiness in the image that can happen when a film is transferred to video.
The sound is crisp and active as well. The concert scenes sound as accurate as possible in a home setting and the rear surround and sub channels are actively used. The disc is dual format with both DTS and Dolby Digital available for separate sound systems.
Verdict:This is a great film and a great DVD to match, but one can't help but shake the "almost" feeling that barely costs this disc from being as good as it could have been. Pick it up if you love the film or find it cheap enough, but there will probably be another edition released with additional material sometime in the future.