Ten years in the making, Michelle Esrick's Saint Misbehavin' (2009) chronicles the ongoing life and times of one Hugh Romney, AKA "Wavy Gravy". Decades ago, Romney assumed the makeup, mindset and magnetism of a clown and hasn't looked back; in other words, he's devoted his life to making others happy. Maybe you've heard of Wavy Gravy through his association with the Woodstock festival, or maybe you were a fan of his Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor. Either way, it's hard to hate a guy who puts others before himself, so it's no surprise that Saint Misbehavin' wears sincere admiration on its sleeve. This 87-minute documentary preachers to the choir, but newcomers are more than welcome too.
Format-wise, Saint Misbehavin' plays it straight, mixing newly-recorded interviews with a generous assortment of archival footage. Together with his wife of nearly 50 years, Jahanara, Wavy recounts his years of activism and entertainment. His encounters with the likes of Bob Dylan, B.B. King, The Grateful Dead, Jackson Browne and Elvis Costello are notable but don't take center stage; instead, the documentary focuses more on Wavy's humanitarian efforts and simple, heartfelt desire for peace. Saint Misbehavin' doesn't dig very deep, but the ground it covers should please casual fans of the icon.
Perhaps the film's only misstep is directly avoiding Wavy's childhood and early years, which strips away a much-needed sense of purpose. His life story is bathed quite heavily in nostalgia and a simple, straightforward mission statement...but without a strong foundation, it's hard to view Saint Misbehavin' as anything more than a innocuous love letter. This isn't the first time a thinly-veiled biopic has taken such a route, but it's especially noticeable due to the subject matter. In any case, those interested in the man and his life's work should consider Saint Misbehavin' a decent starting point.
Docurama's DVD package is a rough around the edges but it's likely the best we'll ever get. A somewhat lackluster technical presentation has been paired with a solid collection of deleted scenes, giving us roughly 150 minutes of total content to dig through. Luckily, most of it's fairly entertaining.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for 16x9 displays, Saint Misbehavin' looks pretty rough from start to finish. Some of the problems on display are source material issues, however: new footage was recorded on low-end digital video equipment, as evidenced by the dull color palette and lack of crispness. Unfortunately, other problems extend beyond the source material, including horizontally stretched 1.33:1 footage and notable amounts of digital combing. All things considered, this is hardly an impressive effort, but Saint Misbehavin''s laid-back vibe softens the blow somewhat.
The Dolby Digital Stereo mix is equally lackluster, but this dialogue-driven documentary hardly demands a stronger presentation. Newly-recorded interviews are relatively crisp and easy to understand, while vintage clips are appropriately rough around the edges. Unfortunately, no optional subtitles or Closed Captions have been provided during the main feature or the bonus material listed below.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen below, the static menu designs are simple and easy to navigate. The 87-minute main feature has been divided into a dozen chapters, while no obvious layer change was detected during playback. This one-disc package is housed in a stiff, quote-heavy paperboard case with a sleeve instead of a plastic tray. Eco-friendly, but at the expense of a scratch-free disc. Handle with care, folks!
A generous collection of Bonus Scenes
is the main attraction here (11 clips, 57 minutes total), which includes "P.T. Barnum's Grave", "Wavy's 70th Birthday Dinner", "Love Strategy", "Power to the Peaceful", "Compassion in Action" and more. Presented in 480p, these deleted clips look about as good as the main feature; they're mostly minor moments, but fans of the film should definitely check 'em out.
Also included is a text-based Filmmaker Bio for Michelle Esrick, as well as a Promo and Trailers for Docurama and four of its recent notable releases including Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back.
Saint Misbehavin' is a candid, wry look at an interesting man and his unique outlook on life, so there's no reason why fans of Wavy Gravy shouldn't seek this one out. The film's effortless blend of recent footage and archived material paints a hazy, well-rounded picture, while the leisurely pace keeps everything chugging along nicely. Unfortunately, Docurama's DVD package is a mixed bag: we get an hour's worth of deleted scenes, but the technical presentation could use some fine tuning. Nonetheless, Saint Misbehavin' is a solid effort that will satisfy its target audience. Mildly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two in his spare time. He also enjoys slacking off, telling lame jokes and writing stuff in third person.