Oh, but Lars is fuzzy on some of the finer points...y'know, like Bianca being a plastic sex doll.
Cut to a bunch of men in white coats chasing down Lars with an oversized butterfly net, right? Well, no. Doc Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson) thinks this delusion is Lars' way of working through some deep-seated issues. Rather than have Lars chucked in the nuthouse, she suggests that everybody play along...pretend that Bianca is a living, breathing person and see how things shake out. It's a sleepy little town, everyone likes Lars a lot anyway, and -- wow! this is the most comfortable Lars has felt in his skin in forever -- so most of 'em are more than happy to lend a hand. Before too long, everyone takes to Bianca so much that she's propped up as the town's new social butterfly. The thing is that not only does Lars' delusion show no sign of fading, but now that the missus is so popular, there's ::gulp!:: trouble in paradise between him and Bianca...
I had a pretty clear picture in my head of what Lars and the Real Girl would turn out to be: a whimsical score plinked out on a toy piano, cartoonish and bug-eyed acting, a bright, candy-colored palette, and all around twee. I don't mean that in a bad way since I like movies like that, but still, I fully expected something frothy and aggressively precious. It's not. Lars and the Real Girl latches onto a gleefully
I strolled in expecting to be knocked over by a wave of indie quirk, and I walked away with a movie that's really intelligent and surprisingly affecting. Bianca may not be real, but the emotions and sincerity here sure are. Lars and the Real Girl had been on my list of Things to Watch for a few years now, and I was very pleasantly surprised when I clued in that it was hitting Blu-ray. Unfortunately, it turns out that this is a case of Great Movie; Lousy Blu-ray Disc. I'd have cheerfully given a much higher rating to a disc that deserves it, and I'll get into all that in a bit, but as it is, I'll just have to settle for a plain-jane Recommended.
Lars and the Real Girl is priced like a bargain bin title, and...well, it kinda looks the part too. Right off the bat, detail tends to be disappointingly muddy and fuzzy. The texture of the film grain isn't nearly as crisp or well-defined as I'd expect out of a movie lensed just three years and change ago either. Even the text in the opening and closing titles is unusually soft. Lars and the Real Girl has a harshly digital look to it as well, as if it's compensating for the overall softness by heaping on some really artificial-looking sharpening filters. This looks like something I would've caught on HBO-HD in 2004 or something, not a shiny new Blu-ray disc of a movie that hit theaters just a few short years ago. Well below average.
As musty and dated as this transfer looks, at least Fox and MGM didn't skimp on the bitrate. The AVC encode for Lars and the Real Girl spans both layers of this BD-50 disc, and the image is very faintly letterboxed to preserve its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1.
The 24-bit, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that Lars and the Real Girl is lugging around is low-key but effective enough. We're not talking about a movie with bullets whizzing around or eighty megaton explosions, after all. The mix is primarily anchored front and center, although the surrounds are used to flesh out a pretty solid sense of atmosphere: phones ringing in the office, background chatter at a house party...that sort of thing. The score by David Torn sounds rich and full-bodied, also seizing hold of the rear channels to reasonably strong effect. Lars and the Real Girl's dialogue is naturally the focal point of the mix and comes through without any hiccups. Although I doubt this lossless track makes for much of a night-and-day difference over the DVD, the sound design here complements the tone of Lars and the Real Girl well enough, and there really aren't any flaws for me to gripe about.
Two dubs have been piled on here as well: a lossy DTS 5.1 track in German and a Dolby Digital 5.1 track in Spanish. Subtitles are offered in English (SDH), Spanish, and German.
Not much. The extras clock in at 19 minutes all told, and what little is here tends to be pretty lightweight.
The Final Word
I really do love Lars and the Real Girl: the movie piles together an almost absurdly talented cast, it packs a lot more of an emotional wallop than I waltzed in expecting, and the oddball premise -- that's played completely straight! -- is right up my alley. Despite all that, this isn't the easiest Blu-ray disc to recommend with so few worthwhile extras and fairly lousy high-def visuals. Even with so many stores online carrying Lars and the Real Girl for all of fifteen bucks, that still seems too high for what MGM is actually delivering here. Still Recommended, but I'd Netflix it or wait for the price to drop by half.