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Delirious (1991)

Kino // PG // February 2, 2016
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted January 21, 2016 | E-mail the Author

Plenty of films have explored the concept of someone trapped inside their own creation---or at least realizing they can control a world they're already familiar with---but Tom Mankiewicz's Delirious (1991) predates the likes of Groundhog Day, Pleasantville, and The Truman Show by several years. John Candy stars as Jack Gable, lead writer and producer of popular soap opera Beyond Our Dreams. Not surprisingly, he butts heads with other producers and writers about the show's direction, partially influenced by his secret love of beautiful lead actress Laura Claybourne (who plays "Rachel Hedison" on Beyond Our Dreams, and is portrayed in the film by Emma Samms of General Hospital and Dynasty fame). Before he finally makes his move, Jack has an unfortunate accident that---in a move perfectly rooted in Delirious' soap opera ambitions---leaves him unconscious and dreaming that he's the star of his own show. Once Jack realizes he can control his surroundings by literally re-writing the script, he doesn't hesitate for a moment.

This sounds like a good enough premise for a 96-minute comedy, especially one with such a likable leading man...not to mention a well-rounded supporting cast that includes Mariel Hemingway, David Rasche, Jerry Orbach, Raymond Burr, Robert Wagner, and more. But Delirious is a movie that works only part of the time; specifically, when it's hamming things up in this make-believe soap opera world or exploring the love triangle between Jack, Laura, and aspiring actress Louise. The film aims for big, broad laughs but ends up winking at the camera a little too much, or ruining a handful of earned dramatic moments with ill-timed outbursts. Some of the world-in-world subplots hamper the film's otherwise smooth momentum, including the sale of a secret formula to the Hedison family; others, like the disfigured fate of Blake Hedison (Dylan Baker), are harmless enough in theory but a little off-putting within the film's lightweight universe. There's also not quite enough initial set-up: our lead character is intimately familiar with the world he's already created, but we "new viewers" must keep track of two separate ones within the first 30 minutes.

Either way, Delirious aims to be a comedy from the top down, but most of the laughs come from Candy (who obviously tried to make the most of a less-than-perfect script); other moments are more likely to land on the wrong foot. Luckily, the leading man is front and center in almost every scene, so those who enjoy his brand of comedy should consider this forgotten comedy worth a weekend spin. Delirious certainly doesn't make the most of its creative plot, but might surprise first-time viewers at unexpected moments. At the risk of damning with faint praise, it's much better than Wagons East! but hardly in the same league as Uncle Buck or Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Basically, the sum of its parts is little more than a lukewarm comedy that had the potential to be something more special.

The film's last appearance on disc was MGM's 2002 DVD, a "flipper" with 16x9 widescreen and pan-and-scan options. Kino's new Blu-ray serves up a new transfer from MGM, lossless audio, but hardly anything in the way of extras. Only die-hard fans should consider Delirious worth owning; even so, a modest A/V upgrade probably isn't worth $20.

MGM's 2002 DVD was anamorphic but disappointing even for its time; either way, 14 years and a courtesy bump to 1080p will obviously make a difference. Delirious has aired sporadically in HD and looks to be sporting a new master; this 1.85:1 transfer follows suit with a clean, stable image that's largely free of digital imperfections such as interlacing, compression artifacts, and excessive noise reduction. Image detail and textures are pleasing, the natural color palette holds up nicely, light grain is present, and black levels are consistent from start to finish. Still, there's not a tremendous amount of depth or stunning imagery here, but that's almost entirely by design; Delirious looks very much like a product of the early 1990s and, without question, Kino's Blu-ray carries its own weight. Die-hard fans will be pleased, especially those ready to retire their DVDs (which are almost old enough to drive by now).

NOTE: The promotional images featured on this page are strictly decorative and do not represent the title under review.

Likewise, the DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track makes the most of its limited source material, but probably could've been bumped to a passable surround track with little effort. Either way, Delirious sounds good with crisp dialogue and well-balanced effects and music, whether it's a dialogue-driven scene or occasional moments of soap opera excess. Low end is limited but occasionally noticeable. Thankfully, optional English subtitles are included during the main feature; this isn't a given on Kino's Blu-ray releases, but they're welcome under any circumstances.

The basic interface includes separate options for playback and chapter selection (there are 8), with relatively quick loading time and minimal pre-menu distractions. This one-disc package arrives in a standard keepcase and includes poster-themed artwork (along with a somewhat embarrassing typo on the back cover); Bonus Features are sadly limited to a few Trailers for Delirious and other MGM titles. No insert or slipcover are included.

Delirious is hardly John Candy's best outing and has aged poorly in some respects, but there's a lot of potential in its plot that fulfills itself at unexpected moments. Had it been more consistent and more smoothly paced, though, it could've been something more than just a passable diversion with a warm lead performance by the late star. Still, more John Candy on Blu-ray is always welcome, and I'd imagine that new audiences and those who haven't seen Delirious in a while should be up for a viewing. Kino's Blu-ray offers a modest amount of support for this catalog title, sporting a clean A/V presentation but not much in the way of bonus features. Unfortunately, the studio's standard price point doesn't make this worth picking up for all but the film's most enthusiastic fans. Rent It instead.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.
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