Duane Incarnate
Wellspring // Unrated // $19.98 // September 27, 2005
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted October 2, 2005
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In 10 Words or Less
Mr. Sandman...bring me a dream....

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Good romantic comedies, movies that try something original
Likes: Jim Gaffigan
Dislikes: Chick flicks, faux feminism
Hates: Romantic comedies that fall flat

The Movie
Since this film is about four women who open talk about sex, rip each other apart cattily and act like bitches, the comparisons to "Sex and the City" are obvious. Since I never watched that show, I'll avoid making such comparisons, and instead focus on a lack of focus in the story, and the generally lost sense of direction.

Four "friends," Fran (Kristen Johnston, "3rd Rock from the Sun"), Gwen, Connie, and Wanda, are typical women, in that they can barely get through a sentence without slagging one of the group, equate relationships with personal worth and have the emotional consistency of warm Jell-O. Wanda win the group's award for "One of these things is not like the others," as she is the least attractive, least interesting and least successful, having recently been dumped and having lost her job. On the other hand, she's got Duane.

Duane (the Peter Krause-like Peter Hermann) is the perfect boyfriend: he's good-looking, rich, loving and excellent in other areas as well. He's got one fault though, and Wanda's friends are dying to find it. After all, how can such a drip like Wanda attract such a stud. When she explains how she found him, things just more complicated, as the explanation is completely out of left-field, and, led by the jealous Gwen, the girls refuse to believe it.

From there, the women scheme and plot to split up the loving couple, because by comparison, their own relationships look pretty bad. This effort eventually affects their sanity, before culminating in a ridiculous climax and a twist ending that is just pathetic. It's incredible that the cast and crew didn't question the way this film ended, because the beginning holds such promise. If only the more intriguing and challenging premises had been chased, instead of the more pedestrian rom-com ideas.

Perhaps the worst sin of the film, besides putting director Hal Salwen's obvious eye for camera work to waste, is the lame part handed to the truly funny Jim Gaffigan. When I saw his name in the cast, I was certain I had at least one part of the film I would enjoy. Cast entirely against type as a fitness trainer, Gaffigan doesn't deliver his usual comedy. In fact, outside of an obvious bodily fluid joke, he doesn't do much of anything funny, which is a real shame.

Packaged in the rare white keepcase (at least for non-Disney films), Duane Incarnate is a one-disc affair that arrives without an insert. The DVD has an animated full-frame menu with options to view the feature, select scenes and check out the extras. The scene selection menus have still previews and titles for the chapters, while there are no subtitles or closed captioning. The available audio tracks include a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix and a 2.0 soundtrack.

The Quality
Overall, the visuals for this film would rate as OK. Nothing about the transfer jumped out in terms of positives, but there were a few things not to like, including the excessive grain during dark indoor scenes and the softness that affected some of the movie. Color and detail remain at good levels throughout the film, helping to maintain an acceptable image.

The sound, provided in a 5.1 and 2.0 mixes, is rather standard for an independent comedy. Truthfully, I didn't notice much difference between the two tracks, and thinking about the film, I can't imagine the need for a dynamic soundfield. The majority of the film is dialogue, with a few punches of sound effects once in a while. What is there sounds good, though one scene, which relies on an off-screen audio source, went somewhat flat, essentially killing the scene.

The Extras
The bonus features start with the film's festival trailer, which is presented in letterboxed widescreen. The trailer isn't very slick, and shows a bit too much of the film's plot. Revealing less of the movie might have sold this a bit more.

For some reason, the language selection menu is included among the extras, so we'll skip that, and move on to the storyboards. Seven pages are shown, which are selected from big visual moments in the film. One actually would have ruined the film's "twist" ending, so avoid this until after you view the movie.

The extras wrap up with a selection of seven full-frame trailers that include some must-see films, including Dear Wendy, Strings and Funny Ha Ha.

The Bottom Line
Duane Incarnate started out with a great deal of promise, but falling into the trap of female-focused films began the downfall, and an unnecessary "twist" ending sealed the deal. Salwen has some definite skill as a filmmaker, and rather original concepts in his head, but in putting it all together, something happens that derails him. It happened in his previous films, and it happened here. The DVD delivers the film in a decent way, but the extras leave something to be desired, especially since one listed on the package is missing from the disc. Movie buffs looking to play "What went wrong?" might enjoy a rental, but that's as far as I would go in suggesting this movie.

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