Because Why
Vanguard // Unrated // $29.95 // March 19, 2002
Review by Adam Tyner | posted April 19, 2002
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Graphical Version
"Why is your face like that?"
"Because."
"Because why?"
"Because because."
"Oh. Okay."

It's not often that I have a personal connection to a motion picture. I don't really even have one for Because Why, despite the implication of the previous sentence, though I did once meet the sister of one of its young actresses. Maggie Castle's sister Aimée stars in the Montréal-based television series Big Wolf On Campus, and I visited the set last December during the taping of Corey Feldman's guest shot in "What's The Story, Mourning Corey". My revelation of that fact may seem to come clear out of left field, but believe it or not, that vague connection factored heavily into my acquisition of Because Why.

The more compelling reason why I opted to review this film, as is often the case, was the fairly positive buzz surrounding it. I was unable to unearth so much as a single proper review to get a better idea of what to expect beforehand, but the packaging included praise (perhaps taken out of context) from such notable sources as "The Hollywood Reporter" and "Variety". Because Why was also well-liked at various film festivals, taking home the audience award at the Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival and ranking as official selections at both Cannes and the Tokyo International Film Festival. Because Why didn't strike me as all that remarkable, but its low-key, quirky approach trounces most of what passes for comedy and romance anymore.

I was careful to not use the phrase 'romantic comedy' in that previous sentence, as those two oft-dreaded words conjure up images of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks that I'd just as soon continue to suppress as long as I possibly can. Michael Riley (whose big screen follow-up was the Meg Ryan romantic comedy French Kiss, interestingly enough) stars as Alex, a young man who's returned home to Montréal from travels abroad after five years. Towing all his worldly possessions in a backpack and a couple of small bags, Alex discovers that things aren't quite as he left them. His hopes of meeting up with an ex-girlfriend are demolished upon arriving at the address he'd been provided, or rather, the address itself had been demolished by some variety of heavy machinery. A chance encounter reveals that she's had a kid and has another on the way. Old friendships don't fare much better, as Alex' best friend is moments away from skipping town for sunnier sights. Despite this mess, Alex decides to stick around and moves into an apartment building chock-full of eccentricity. He even strikes up a couple of relationships, one with an undecided lass and another with a lovely single mother of two (Heather Mathieson) that lives in the building. Problems, of course, ensue, and not all of them can be traced back to Alex as the source...

The packaging is rather misleading, painting Because Why as some sort of sk@t3r d00d slapstick comedy, complete with the wretched tagline "some dudes will never get it right!" Because Why isn't easily lumped into any one genre, and though there are unquestionably elements of comedy and romance present, mindlessly categorizing it does a disservice. The movie is entertaining, if somewhat aimless and not entirely memorable. Even though few of the characters are developed to any great extent, the cast all around puts in a set of solid performances. Tod Fennell and Maggie Castle are more capable than most child actors, and their decidedly-French-Canadian screen mother Heather Mathieson is cute and likeable, if a hair too predictably positioned as a love interest. Not much is asked of Michael Riley, who doesn't overflow with charisma, though he carries the movie well as a slacker determined to settle down. Because Why accomplishes precisely what it sets out to do; the parts that are supposed to be funny generally elicited a laugh, the relationships didn't seem contrived or forced, and it did indeed leave me hoping that Alex and Anne would find romance and live happily ever after as a collective family unit.

Video: Because Why did make the rounds in the festival circuit, so the fact that this DVD is full-frame strikes me as a bit odd. There doesn't appear to be any dead space on the top and bottom of the frame, though, so it would seem that this is how the film was intended to be seen. If my introduction to Because Why were from a viewing on the Independent Film Channel over analog cable, I wouldn't expect the results to be worlds apart from this disc. The image is slightly murky, and in more dimly lit scenes, there's so little detail that certain portions appear to be one large amorphous black blob. Whites are overbearing in certain shots, similarly lacking in detail. The source material appears to be in respectable enough shape, and there wasn't an abundance of flecks or scratches. The palette appears somewhat muted, but this likely reflects the intent of the filmmakers. Overall, the presentation is unremarkable, but not disappointing.

Audio: The packaging doesn't provide any indication as to the type of audio presented on this DVD, but Because Why offers a robust mono soundtrack. Dialogue remains clear and discernable, and the mild accents of a couple of cast members aren't overbearing. On the off-chance that anyone would have difficulty making out the occasional line, there are no subtitles to turn to for assistance. The audio doesn't sound harsh or strained at any time, and no underlying hiss or distortion are present. The songs that pop up throughout sound rather nice and are accompanied by enough bass to have my subwoofer thumping.

Supplements: Nothing. Because Why has been divided into eleven chapters, and both the main menu screen and chapter selections are animated.

Conclusion: Because Why is a decent enough film, but there's nothing about the movie or its release on DVD that warrant the list price of $29.95. A rental may be in order, though, particularly for those looking for something a little offbeat.


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