The Wood: Special Edition
Paramount // R // $14.99 // June 19, 2007
Review by Preston Jones | posted June 12, 2007
M O V I E
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
The Movie

So effortless and breezy is Rick Famuyiwa's 1999 dramedy The Wood that you wonder why more films can't echo its charms. Following three young men from their teenage years up to the brink of responsibility and adulthood, it's a poignant, subtle examination of the bonds we form in our youth and how, despite innumerable tests, those bonds are never truly broken.

Famuyiwa is greatly assisted by his cast, which in 1999, was a collection of almost-stars and stars-in-the-making: the narrator, Mike, is played by Omar Epps; his engaged buddy Roland is given life by Taye Diggs and Richard T. Jones does memorable work as the short-tempered Slim. Christina Milian and Sanaa Lathan also appear in small roles. But The Wood focuses almost as much, if not more, on the teenagers -- young Mike (Sean Nelson), Slim (Duane Finley) and Roland (Trent Cameron) come together in late '80s Inglewood, California, hoping to get laid, have fun and have each other's backs. The narrative thread seems awfully thin on the surface (man gets cold feet and buddies spend the day reminiscing) but Famuyiwa effectively cuts between past and present, letting the storylines breathe without forcing the film into maudlin territory.

Highly episodic, many of the pleasures of The Wood lie in the cast's performances, as well as the subtle ways co-writer/director Famuyiwa plays against audience expectations when it comes to young black men coming of age. Often, films dealing with black experiences become easily cliched and lazy, preferring to reinforce stereotypes rather than revealing the simple truth that no matter the color of your skin, life, and all of its attendant challenges, happens to everyone. Previously released in 2000, this marks the second region one release of The Wood (which Paramount thankfully declined to tag as the "Back in the Day" edition, as was originally rumored).

The DVD

The Video:

Presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, The Wood looks solid. While the image is occasionally a little washed out (which may or may not be the director's intention), most of the night sequences look crisp, with no discernible visual defects. Overall, it's a clean, clear image.

The Audio:

The soundtrack is jammed with vintage '80s R&B so the clarity of the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is important and it doesn't disappoint. While the film doesn't bust out the bass often, it still sounds clear and free from any distortion. Dialogue is heard free from extraneous noise. A Dolby 2.0 stereo track is on board, as are optional English subtitles.

The Extras:

A relaxed, convivial and newly recorded commentary track with Famuyiwa, Diggs and Jones covers the genesis of the project, its reception and the actors' feelings about the film. It's a great listen that, for those who love The Wood, will deepen your appreciation of the movie. A five minute, 10 second featurette "Making The Wood" is presented in fullscreen, with a photo gallery and the film's theatrical trailer rounding out the disc.

Final Thoughts:

Highly episodic, many of the pleasures of The Wood lie in the cast's performances, as well as the subtle ways co-writer/director Rick Famuyiwa plays against audience expectations when it comes to young black men coming of age. Often, films dealing with black experiences become easily cliched and lazy, preferring to reinforce stereotypes rather than revealing the simple truth that no matter the color of your skin, life, and all of its attendant challenges, happens to everyone. Recommended.



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