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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » nbt: Never Been Thawed
nbt: Never Been Thawed
Red Envelope Entertainment // Unrated // Netflix-exclusive; not for sale // March 1, 2006
List Price: $9.99 [Buy now and save at Linksynergy]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted March 6, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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In 10 Words or Less
Disconnected sketch comedy in mockumentary form

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Mockumentaries
Likes: Sketch comedy
Hates: Bad acting

The Movie
Comedy is a funny thing. There are rules that work best if followed, though breaking those rules can be even funnier. Being too focused can limit the laughs, but lacking a point can make it worse. NBT falls right in between these facts of comedy, being completely unfocused and too conventional for its own good. It's also too damn long.

The main story, about a Christian rocker who heads a group of TV dinner collectors, is actually a funny concept. Mockumentaries tend to be best when focusing on obsessive people, and there are few that are as devoted as collectors. Make those collectors into people who keep frozen food the way others keep baseball cards or comic books, and you've got the ingredients for serious comedy.

Unfortunately, the filmmakers either didn't have the confidence to stick with that plot or couldn't figure out how to make it into a feature-length story, because they went into approximately 50 different directions before the credits rolled, including a middling parody of Christian rock, an odd tangent into roadside spotting games, a bit about hair-cutting clowns and a textbook romantic comedy subplot that has been seen quite a few times before. None of these diversions is remotely as interesting as the collectors' story, but they get way more time on the screen.

For a mockumentary to truly work, it has to look and sound just right, and NBT doesn't. It looks like your standard comedy, ignoring the conventions of the genre, including the limitations of shooting on-the-scene. If you can't immerse yourself in the false reality of the mockumentary, the entire thing is pointless, as you are no longer enjoying how these people's lives are screwed up, but watching people act, thus removing a layer of entertainment.

That enjoyment is cut further when the people you are watching act, can't. Once you get past the principals, there's so much bad acting in this film that it might be worth creating a drinking game to go with it. If you can't act real, you can't act in a mockumentary without shattering the illusion. Even some of the starring roles, like the ex-gay firefighter and the virgin anti-fornication crusader, are too over the top for a genre that portrays itself as "real."

In the end, NBT squanders the promise of its main premise, by getting lost in itself and succumbing to a lack of experience and talent, and in the process earning the film a spot on the pile of mockumentaries that fell short in their execution. Watching how this movie comes together and falls apart, it's obvious that the comedy troupe behind the film, Slippery Chicken, would likely have more success in a format that allows for ADHD-style randomness. It's worth watching to see if they'll get that chance.

As the disc was sent in a plain, clear ThinPak, we can't tell you much about the packaging, though we can guarantee you'll get it in a paper envelope if you rent it during Nexflix's exclusivity period. The disc features a static anamorphic widescreen main menu, which offers options to play the film, select scenes, check out the special features and adjust the subtitles. As a part of the film's sense of humor, the menu options are presented in a themed way, and a vulgar one at that, while the scene selection menus, designed as a TV dinner tray, include still previews and titles for each chapter. There are no audio options, and subtitles are in English only. Word of note: even the subtitles have a sense of humor.

The Quality
The quality of the anamorphic widescreen video varies from scene to scene, with some looking like consumer-grade video, with heavy softness, edge enhancement, pixilization, digital artifacts, a general lack of detail and quite a bit of video noise, while others are a bit sharper, but none of it is particularly impressive. It's not likely a problem with the DVD, but the source material.

The audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, which delivers the dialogue and music in a strong, clear and uncluttered mix. But oddly, the full soundtrack is pumped through all five speakers, so there are no accents or true surrounds. It makes for a full sound, but one lacking in dynamic feel.

The Extras
A pair of extras are included, in the form of a pair of feature-length audio commentaries. First up is a filmmaker commentary with writer/director Sean Anders and writers/actors Chuck Levinus and John Morris, conducted with the three participants in different cities. The threesome, including Anders, who considers himself a commentary afficionado, joke quite a bit, while talking a lot about how the film was pulled together with no filmmaking experience or money. In the end, it's a good technical commentary.

The second commentary, again over the phone, features the cast, including Anders, Levinus, Shelly Frazer, Thomas Laufenberg, Al Zwolle, Mike Gordon, John Angelo, Emily Ryan, Scott Isham and Levinus' parents, Fred and Helen. This commentary fits the "watch the movie with the cast" mold, as they enjoy themselves, talking about whatever comes up while the film plays. Again, it's a good commentary, but your enjoyment of either track will rely on what you think of the movie.

The Bottom Line
At about half the length, and focused entirely on the frozen-food enthusiasts, NBT would have been one hell of a short film. As it currently stands, it's a mish-mosh of ideas, most of which don't mesh well. There are some very funny concepts at work, but as a whole, it just doesn't come together as a good movie. The DVD looks pretty good, and has a strong, though unusual audio track, as well as a pair of solid commentaries, to go with a decent sense of humor. You have to be willing to overlook some shortcomings to get into this film, but unfortunately, there's not enough payoff to reward such an effort.

Note on the Price:
As this DVD is only available through Netflix, the MSRP listed is the lowest rental plan available through the company.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter

*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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