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Daria: Is it Fall Yet?

Paramount // Unrated // January 15, 2002
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted January 19, 2002 | E-mail the Author
Paramount recently seized the reins of releasing MTV's television programming on home video, and among their inaugural DVD releases under this new agreement is Daria: Is It Fall Yet?. This not-quite-feature length movie, which boasts a runtime of 76 minutes, takes place between the series' fourth and fifth seasons. Daria, for those unfortunate enough to have not watched an episode during its lengthy run on MTV, stars a deeply cynical Janeane Garofalo-esque high schooler whose family consists of fashion-obsessed younger sister, a workaholic attorney mother, and a father that seems to exist on an entirely different plane of reality. Daria can't find too much comfort outside of home, as she's forced to deal with demented and bug-eyed history teacher Anthony DeMartino, the insufferably touchy-feely Timothy O'Neill, and a slew of largely mindless classmates. Her one source of comfort is artistic outcast Jane Lane, though tensions are running high between the two over Tom Sloane, the son of one of Lawndale's wealthiest family and Jane's recently-ex-boyfriend. I suppose that's enough in the way of setup.

Is It Fall Yet? takes this cast of characters and offers a peek at their lives well outside of the confines of Lawndale High School. Daria's sister Quinn is giddy at the prospects of making it into her party school of choice, but although she feels she's much brighter than her vapid cohorts in the Fashion Club, makes approximately the same disappointingly low test scores. Recruiting the help of a tutor, Quinn sets out to squeak into Pepperhill, much to the chagrin of her intensely-jealous buddies. Jane is shipped off to a colony of artists, all of whom have a few years on her and are far more willing to compromise themselves. Daria, meawhile, is suckered into a horrifyingly dull stint at the "OK To Cry Corral" with DeMartino and O'Neill. Instead of the usual mindless antics that would be played strictly for laughs if Daria were the brainchild of Peter Engel instead of Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis-Lynn, Is It Fall Yet? isn't a movie just for the sake of having a movie. It's bold enough to actually have characters mature and evolve, as well as tying up loose plot ends and setting the stage for the series' fifth and final season. Quinn shows interest in being more than a one-dimensional fashion maven without betraying her character up to that point. Jane questions her identity after a close encounter of the bisexual kind, and Daria is still adjusting to dating and recognizes how her shut-in behavior is rending her first meaningful relationship apart.

Much like the series that inspired it, I rather doubt it would be earthshattering news that Is It Fall Yet? is witty, funny, and (gasp!) substantial. Though Daria is a non-conformist and certainly the protagonist of the series, she's not painted as a flawless heroine who consistently lords over other characters in some form or another. Almost unheard of for a series taking place in high school, Daria's world isn't as simple as broad strokes of black and white. It's a time-honored tradition for the first movie based on an animated series to include at least a handful of celebrity guest appearances, and Dave Grohl, Bif Naked, and Carson Daly all lend their voices this go-around. Perhaps because I'm not intimately familiar with their voices, the work of these guests isn't as gimmicky or distracting as, say, hearing Don Johnson spout off at length in G.I. Joe: The Movie. Is It Fall Yet? could pass for just a longer-than-usual episode of the series, as there isn't any noticeable leap in production values in the vein of CGI ballroom dances or overly-elaborate dream sequences. Several years have passed since I last watched Daria on MTV. I'm not sure if my displeasure with the first half of Is It Fall Yet? is due to reacquainting myself with the characters and situations, or if that half hour and change was genuinely clunky. The two additional episodes on this DVD -- Fire! and Dye! Dye! My Darling -- lead directly into the movie and would've served as an excellent guide to what's happened over the past couple of years. I'm tempted to give this disc another spin to see if my opinion might be more firmly cemented by a second viewing.

Video: The full-frame image doesn't offer any vast improvement over how the series appeared on basic cable, which is to be expected given the clear, effectively simple style of animation. Past that, there's not really a paragraph full of notes to make. There are no gigantic tears in the source material, nor is there a smattering of dust and specks. Colors are reasonably well saturated and seem identical to what I recall from Daria's other misadventures on television. I can't find much else to rattle off, so I guess I'll move on.

Audio: The Dolby stereo surround audio is also in line with the TV series. Stereo separation is limited, and rears remain largely idle throughout. Dialogue is without fail crisp and discernable, and the music scattered about the runtime packs a hefty low-end kick without becoming distracting or overwhelming. Nothing stunning, but there's no fault with the presentation on this DVD.

Supplements: As previously mentioned, the last two exclamatory episodes of season four, "Fire!" and "Dye! Dye! My Darling" (the latter presumably a nod to Silvio Narizzano's similarly titled film and the Misfits song it inspired) are included and help put the movie in a much better context for those who had fallen off the Daria bandwagon seasons earlier. There's also a psychedelic music video for Mystik Spiral's "Freakin' Friends".

Conclusion: Between the movie and the two additional episodes, the total runtime for this disc runs right at two hours, practically down the second. Established fans of the series will almost certainly find Daria: Is It Fall Yet? well worth the fifteen bucks, though I wouldn't suggest it as a starting point for the uninitiated. Those unfamiliar with the series might want to keep an eye on MTV's schedule and catch a rare episode between month-long marathons of Road Rules MCVXIII before shelling out any cash. Recommended, and hopefully season boxes aren't too terribly far away.

Quick update: If you're interested in full season sets, give DVDaria a peek for a heads-up on what you can do to contribute to the effort.
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