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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Spring Breakdown
Spring Breakdown
Warner Bros. // R // June 2, 2009
List Price: $27.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jamie S. Rich | posted June 3, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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THE MOVIE:

The three leads in Spring Breakdown--Amy Poehler, Parker Posey, and Rachel Dratch--were the main draw for me watching this straight-to-DVD yuckfest, and they are also the only real reason this middling but amiable comedy manages to entertain at all. The trio of talented comediennes play nerdy high school friends who have turned into nerdy adults. Having missed out on the wild times of their teens and twenties, they have settled into unfulfilling lives of thirtysomethings in Washington D.C. Gayle (Poehler) is a dog trainer who can't even get a date with a blind man (Will Arnett), Judi (Dratch) is the witless beard of her gay fiancé (Seth Meyers), and Becky (Posey) is the spineless office manager for a gun-loving Texan senator (Jane Lynch). When Senator Hartmann, a.k.a. the Hatchet, suddenly gets in line for the Vice-President's chair, she dispatches Becky to follow her daughter, Ashley (Amber Tamblyn), to spring break and make sure the girl stays out of trouble. Becky brings the other girls along to help her keep an eye on the Senatorial daughter.

Mama need not have worried, for though Ashley has followed her dimwitted boyfriend (Jonathan Sadowski) to a Texas resort to try to win him back from the blonde bombshell (Sophie Monk) who has stolen his attentions, the girl is really a repeat of Becky rather than a chip off the old Hartmann block. More likely to be attending a Renaissance Faire than a wet T-shirt contest, Ashley, of course, only ends up getting in trouble thanks to her would-be chaperones taking a mulligan on their unspent youth. Judi binge drinks and tries to whore it up, while Gayle joins the blonde clique run by Ashley's rival. Predictably, these new pursuits push the ladies apart, only for them to see the error of their ways, come back together, and learn the value of friendship. At a talent show, no less. Singing a Wilson Phillips song.

Spring Breakdown is directed by Ryan Shiraki, the director of a movie called Freshman Orientation (a.k.a. Home of Phobia), and Shiraki also co-wrote the story with Dratch and wrote the script. Though the film hopes to offer a new twist on the Spring Break movie, it is unfortunately full of old ideas, and despite its R rating, persistently tame. The rating was given for "crude humor and sexual references," but having just hit stop on my DVD player, I'm largely at a loss to remember instances of either. The situations are all familiar and they offer plenty of opportunities for the kind of raunch that one might expect from this kind of flick, but Spring Breakdown consistently stops short of going all the way. Either the gals back out before it's too late, or bizarrely, Shiraki chooses to have the action take place off screen, only to be discussed as part of the morning after. It's one of many confounding choices he makes throughout the picture, and his pedestrian directorial style ensures that Spring Breakdown never gains any legitimate momentum.

Lucky for Shiraki, his actresses are all of such fine caliber, they manage to make Spring Breakdown enjoyable in spite of itself. Rachel Dratch is like a woman unleashed, clearly taking every advantage of having a substantial role to play (she has been largely m.i.a. since she stopped appearing on 30 Rock), and Parker Posey makes for a pretty good straight woman. Amy Poehler is always cute, and she manages to make Gayle's vulnerability a plus.

Everyone has to get out of the way, however, whenever Jane Lynch steps into a scene. The actress, who will be seen this fall on the new Ryan Murphy series Glee, hams it up with gusto as the Southern-drawling politician. She likes being in charge, and she's good at it. Her biggest advice to Parker Posey's character, and the same sage wisdom that she has apparently passed on to her daughter, is that if Becky wants to get anywhere, she needs to grow a pair of balls. It's always weird when a filmmaker sticks the advice he needs to hear himself into his own movie, missing the irony completely. I guess it's just like in life when we can best see our own faults in others.

By the time credits role, Spring Breakdown has hit about every expected story point and garnered only a few large laughs; that it still manages to be a pleasant enough viewing experience makes one wonder what this cast could do with a script with some actual worth.

THE DVD

Video:
Outside of some festival appearances, Spring Breakdown has bypassed theatres and gone straight to disc, and the anamorphic widescreen transfer is as good as one should expect from a new release. The colors are bright and the image sharp. I didn't see any compression issues or any other of the usual digital problems that hamper lesser discs.

Sound:
Warner Bros. has mixed Spring Breakdown's English soundtrack in 5.1, and as if that wasn't overkill on its own, added a 5.1 French dub. The sound is pretty good, with the music filling the speakers during the regular dance or nightclub scenes, and with occasional splashes of effects. It's fairly standard.

There are subtitle options in French, Spanish, and English for the deaf and hearing impaired.

Extras:
The joint audio commentary between Ryan Shiraki and Rachel Dratch is as bloodless as the film itself, proving once again that the cursory audio commentary is a reviewer's nightmare. Offering little by way of insight or entertainment, it's the equivalent of listening to two people reminiscing about their vacation together and them doing nothing to let you be a part of it. Even worse, you're not even sure the videos they are showing are from the same trip, it just never matches up.

Very short selections of deleted scenes and a gag reel add about five minutes more of material, and that is about as insubstantial as it sounds.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
Rent It, but make sure the shelves are fairly bare in terms of other choices first. Spring Breakdown is a good idea--Parker Posey, Amy Poehler, and Rachel Dratch as aging losers getting a second chance at Spring Break--but the comedy rolls out like an extended yawn--predictable, easy to see where it's going, no surprises. The problem is that the movie lacks any chutzpah, it's completely inoffensive, and it stumbles along without an assured hand guiding it. Still, if the thought of those three ladies working together sounds appealing to you, then you will find it's not that hard to sit through Spring Breakdown. They are fun to watch even if the movie isn't.

Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent projects include the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat; Archer Coe and the Thousand Natural Shocks, a loopy crime tale drawn by Dan Christensen; and the horror miniseries Madame Frankenstein, a collaboration with Megan Levens. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.

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