I'm still waiting for Tim Allen to find a film that puts the comedian to decent use. While Allen spent much of his post-"Home Improvement" career starring in mediocre kid's fare to decent box office returns, his attempts at more adult fare (this year's "Big Trouble") have gone largely unnoticed. "Joe Somebody" is the star's third collaboration with "Home Improvement" director John Pasquin; while it's the best of their three efforts, that's a pretty light compliment.
"Joe" stars Allen as Joe Scheffer, an A/V tech for a pharmaceuticals company. When he takes his daughter to work one day, he finds himself involved in an argument over a parking space with the office bully (played by Patrick Warburton). Joe gets hit and he's terribly embarassed that his daughter, Natalie (Hayden Panettiere) saw the whole thing.
Instead of coming back to work, Joe retreats to his apartment for several days, only returning once co-worker Meg (Julie Bowen) convinces him to. Instead of going on about his business, Joe challenges the bully to a rematch (which results in one of the film's funniest lines from the Warburton character, who asks Joe, "you're all hopped up on samples, aren't you?") and starts training to get into shape. Suddenly, Joe has become the office hit, since nobody else likes the guy he's threatening to beat up, either. It's sort of like high school all over again.
Unfortunately, while Joe has gotten caught up thinking about ways to reinvent himself, he's also forgotten about the most important thing in his life: his daughter. This element of an otherwise bland film could have been difficult to care about, but Panettiere's excellent performance really is quite convincing. Unfortunately, the film's other performances aren't up to that level. Bowen, who's often wonderful on TV's "Ed", is stuck with a thin character here, as is the often-brilliant Warburton. James Belushi, as a washed-up action star teaching Allen how to defend himself, steals most of the laughs. Allen gets some laughs of his own, but also has some terribly unfunny scenes, such as one where he badly belts out an Backstreet Boys song at a karaoke bar. Allen and Bowen don't manage much chemistry, either.
One of the film's most noticable faults is the way that it changes its message at the end. Most of the film seems to tell the audience that it's okay to fight to stand up for yourself. The ending, however, changes this to "fighting is bad", while it also has Allen's character knocking out a different person than the previously noted bully.
Overall, "Joe Somebody" manages to get a few laughs out of me, but for every laugh there was a fairly sizable amount of the film that fell completely flat. Allen really has to try to work with some new collaborators and fresher material. Unfortunately, his next picture is a return to being directed by Pasquin - a sequel to his "Santa Clause".
VIDEO: "Joe Somebody" is presented by Fox in both 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 pan & scan. Each side of the disc houses one of the two included versions. The anamorphic widescreen edition is not terrible, but I suppose it presents the film about as well as it's going to look. Shot in a way that makes it appear consistently somewhat soft in appearance, the picture remains crisp, if never reaching the desired level of detail or sharpness.
Thankfully, there really aren't many concerns to discuss. Very slight traces of edge enhancement were spotted on a couple of occasions, but certainly weren't very noticable. No pixelation was spotted and the print seemed to be largely crisp and clean. The film's color palette, largely natural - although slightly subdued at times - seemed well-rendered and never smeared.
SOUND: "Joe Somebody" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. For such a light comedy, I was quite surprised that the film's soundtrack actually manages to rise above the usual front-heavy comedy audio at a few points. One early scene at a raquetball court actually is a nifty bit of sound design, as the ball hitting the back wall can be heard in the surrounds each time. Another scene at a basketball game uses the surrounds equally well to provide the feeling of being in the crowd. Last, but not least, the surrounds often offer respectable reinforcement of the music. Audio quality - from sound effects to music to dialogue - remained crisp and clear.
MENUS: A slightly animated main menu is accompanied by basic sub-menus, all of which use images from the film fairly well.
EXTRAS: Director John Pasquin and producer Brian Rilley provide a decent running commentary, mainly chatting about locations, working with the actors and story issues. Rounding out the disc are four deleted scenes, a short featurette on the "fight choreography" and the film's theatrical trailer.
Final Thoughts: A harmless, largely predictable comedy, "Joe Somebody" manages a few laughs, but often just seems bland. Fox's DVD is a respectable offering, boasting fine audio/video quality and a fair amount of supplements. Fans of the film may want to seek a purchase, but I'd barely recommend it as a rental to those who haven't seen it.