Jay Hernandez, fresh off a stint on the tNBC series Hang Time, stars as Carlos Nuñez (the 'Beautiful' of the title), a gifted, hardworking student striving to leave his downtrodden Latino neighborhood and become a fighter pilot. Carlos spends several hours a day on a dingy bus being shuttled to and from a prestigious school, where he meets up with fellow student Nicole Oakley (Kirsten Dunst). While Carlos is poring over Chemistry textbooks and dealing with his mother's incessant nagging about his diet, the 'crazy' Nicole is busy seeking out a good time at any cost, living the "sex, drugs, and rock & roll" cliché. Predictably, their lives become intertwined, and Carlos quickly finds himself ensnared in Nicole's web of irresponsibility. His grades and hopes suffer almost immediately, and intervention from Nicole's powerful and influential father threatens to tear the star-crossed lovers apart.
Admittedly, that synopsis seems to follow the tried-and-true teen formula by the book, but crazy/beautiful is a far cry from most of its brethren. First of all, it doesn't have three words in the title, unlike She's All That, Bring It On, Never Been Kissed, Can't Hardly Wait, Boys and Girls, Down To You, Here On Earth, Whatever It Takes, or Drive Me Crazy. Perhaps if Touchstone had retitled the film "crazy and beautiful", it would've achieved the theatrical success it so richly deserves. Dunst and Hernandez are both talented actors, infusing their characters with both passion and an unmistakable dash of realism. Carlos doesn't come across as the one-note stereotype he almost certainly would've in lesser films, and Kirsten Dunst yet again puts in a stellar performance. Nicole is screwed-up beyond all belief, but still deeply vulnerable and aching for love. It's a delicate balancing act that Dunst pulls off effortlessly. The characters and situations aren't nearly as contrived as in the 'reshaping of an unlikely match' teen flicks that litter store shelves, though crazy/beautiful still trips into the A Very Special Blossom chasm on occasion, echoing painful memories of ABC Afterschool Specials from days past. Though teenage romantic dramas aren't really the sorts of films I actively seek out, crazy/beautiful is certainly worth a peek for those with an insatiable appetite for teen movies, particularly anyone craving a darker, different spin on the genre.
Video: I'm sorely tempted to find some half-clever way to use the words "crazy" and "beautiful" to describe the very well-done 1.85:1 anamorphic image on this disc. crazy/beautiful doesn't have the high-contrast, glossy sheen of virtually every other 'teen movie' of recent memory, and intentionally so. The occasional grain and its peculiar, highly variable color palette were both a conscious decision and flawlessly reproduced on this disc, judging from director John Stockwell's notes on the accompanying commentary track. As is to be expected from such a recent theatrical release, there are no scratches, tears, or speckles to mar the presentation, and if any edge enhancement was present, it was to such a small extent that it failed to attract my attention. Detail and black levels are both strong throughout and never seem to waver. crazy/beautiful's visuals are refreshingly different and have translated to DVD without any problems or concerns whatsoever.
Audio: As is nearly always the case with dialogue-driven dramas, the audio in crazy/beautiful is anchored heavily towards the front. There is precious little in the way of split-surround effects, and rears are almost entirely limited to providing ambiance and reinforcing the score. Despite the lack of foundation-threatening bass and crystalline highs that the additional clarity of a DTS track might offer, there are six-channel tracks of the film in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS. The dialogue, the most important aspect of the soundtrack by a country mile, is always discernable and never buried under the score or assorted incidental music. Though the audio on crazy/beautiful isn't exactly demo material, it appears to be representative of how the film sounded theatrically. Accompanying the 5.1 audio are a French stereo surround track, English closed captions, and subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
Supplements: Both director John Stockwell and lead Kirsten Dunst are featured on the disc's feature-length commentary. Having both of them on the same track is a treat, as each brings quite a bit to the table. Nearly everything out of Stockwell's mouth is technical in nature, while Dunst buoys the discussion with an energetic barrage of solid quips and insightful comments. The most interesting comments focus on the hurdles that Stockwell and company had to overcome throughout the course of this comparatively low-budget production. My enthusiasm for commentaries isn't quite what it used to be, with most falling into the trap of dry technicality or mindless fun. crazy/beautiful strikes the balance between the two effectively, offering an excellent blend of information and entertainment.
Of the hundreds of DVDs I've watched over the past couple of years, I'm fairly confident that I had yet to see one that offers commentary of the theatrical trailer. Stockwell does just that on crazy/beautiful, apparently craving an opportunity to explain how Touchstone's marketing of the film led to its less-than-stellar box office returns. (crazy/beautiful grossed just shy of $17 million domestically, and after subtracting prints, advertising, and the theaters' cut, it's unlikely that it fully recouped its $14 million budget stateside.)
Much of the pre-release hype was squarely centered around Kirsten Dunst's first splash of nudity on the silver screen, and all of that footage was excised to, among other things, grab the coveted PG-13 rating. None of those shots are included in the deleted scenes on the disc, and what remains are all essentially longer versions of existing portions of the film. These scenes also include optional commentary from Stockwell.
Conclusion: Though crazy/beautiful was criminally ignored at the box office, Buena Vista Home Video has assembled quite a respectable presentation of the film on DVD. crazy/beautiful is probably best suited as a rental, but as it's widely available in the $20 range online and in-stores, a purchase sight-unseen wouldn't be a devastating mistake. Recommended.