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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » How's Your News
How's Your News
Shout Factory // Unrated // July 20, 2004
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted June 4, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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The Movie:

This is a tricky one, at least from a political standpoint. What is How's Your News? In a nutshell, it's a group of mentally handicapped men and woman on a road trip across the continental United States, stopping to interview people they encounter at random. They consider themselves reporters and have no qualms about going up to the average man or woman on the street and asking them whatever pops into their head at any given time.

At first glance, this documentary may sound like it runs the risk of being horribly insulting and in very bad taste but once you sit down and watch the thing, it's obvious that nothing could be further from the truth. This film gives its participants the chance to get out and see the country, interact with people they'd never otherwise get to meet, see sights they'd otherwise never see, and travel across the continent in a brightly colored motorhome. Sounds like fun to me.

Highlights of the film include stops at the Grand Canyon where things are put into perspective in accordance with how the Brady Bunch enjoyed their trip there as well. Seeing Susan Harrington do her own rendition of Respect at a 'make your own music video' booth in Las Vegas is quite impressive as well, if only for her sheer raw enthusiasm. Moments like these, that are oddly hilarious and somehow touching at the same time. They don't even think to let their disabilities get in the way of enjoying what life has to offer them and to see them tackle their tasks head on like they do is not only wonderfully inspiring, but also immensely entertaining.

From a technical standpoint, the film isn't anything to write home about as far as cinematography or editing goes. It's not breaking any new ground in that regard and isn't going to wow you with lush visuals or carefully calculated color schemes. It's all about the content here, and the content is strong enough that the movie doesn't require anything more as far as production values are concerned than what it has. It's simple, and effective.

So while it may at first glance seem like crass exploitation, How's Your News? is actually one of those feel good movies that works based simply on its sincerity and its zealous love of life. It's not sugary, it's not sappy. It's real and it's hilarious and it's moving.

The DVD

Video:

Presented as it was composed, in a 1.33.1 transfer, How's Your News? looks pretty solid despite some issues with the source material. Seeing how most of this material was shot on camcorders under different lighting conditions and in different environments, the quality and overall look of the footage varies quite a bit. As an average though, the picture quality is nice and bright with a decent level of detail obvious throughout and only minor aliasing and edge enhancement noticeable.

Sound:

The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix isn't exactly going to blow your speakers through the roof but it is perfectly okay. Some of the participants do have speech impediments and because of that can be a little difficult to understand sometimes but for the most part, everything is reasonably clear. There are a few spots where the levels go up and/or down depending on what mic is being used and where the interviews are taking place but it doesn't cause any serious problems with enjoying the disc.

Extras:

The main extra on the disc is a full-length audio commentary with the entire cast of How's Your News?. It's fun to hear them look back on what they did and equally interesting to listen to them watching the movie after having starred in it. Sometimes it doesn't make any sense at all, sometimes it's unusually insightful.

Aside from the commentary track, the Original Pilot Episode is included on the DVD, clocking in at just under half an hour. If you enjoyed the feature, this is more of the same. It covers the five interviewers as they travel around New England and ultimately end up in New York City.

A few minutes of footage chronicling the adventures of the How's Your News? team as they attend screenings at film festivals in Toronto, New York City, Amsterdam and Los Angeles are also hidden in amongst the menus – it's genuinely heart warming to see the response that the film elicits from various groups.

Split Screen the show from the Independent Film Channel takes a behind the scenes look at the making of the film, while the National Public Radio show This American Life interviews director Arthur Bradford alongside reporters Sue Harrington and Ron Simonsen. This segments add a little background to the film and how it came to be.

The two best extra features though are when Ron Simonsen interviews his personal hero, Chad Everett, and when the How's Your News? team interview producers Trey Parker and Matt Stone. These two features are hilarious and some of the questions (and answers) are great. A decent sized photo gallery of the team in action rounds out the supplements.

Final Thoughts:

How's Your News never seems mean spirited or nasty – it's simply fun. Pure, simple fun. Everyone involved seems to have had a blast with the production and there are some seriously hilarious moments here that you just have to be see in order to appreciate. Highly Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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