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The Weinstein Company // R // August 5, 2008
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Stephen Hawco | posted August 19, 2008 | E-mail the Author
The Film

If I were to write a movie and really express what I thought of people, the result would be something like 2006's Wasted but with less profanity. A teen movie all grown up and facing the facts of life and its own vulnerability, Wasted is an enjoyable drama by young director Matt Oates about what happens when young people come home again and discover that life changes as their lives re-intersect.

The movie is set in the small, northern California town of North Valley. The year is 1996, (hello, big cell phones!) and three friends have reunited for a weekend because of a funeral. Stan (Eddie Kaye Thomas, American Pie) is the sweet, average guy who never left town but is content with his situation. He just wants to find a girl who loves him for himself. Mitch (Kip Perdue) is the successful, attractive one, back from his senior year of college. Dixon (Josh Cooke) is the messed up one, who also never left and uses too many drugs to forget his pathetic situation. The guys are about three-and-a-half years out of high school, and their lives are changing around them. The funeral is for their high school buddy, Bender, (Jason McDowell) who died in a swimming accident. Adam Carolla's voice cameos as a radio DJ.

Kids, this is not a party movie. It studies how a group of guys deal with each other and with the death of a friend. A lot of drama develops because the characters have grown up and no longer have the shallow relationships of high school. As the tiring and emotionally draining weekend moves on, the pretentions break down, and the guys tell each other what they really think of each other. We find out how Stan really feels about his friends. We find out that Mitch isn't really as sure of himself as he seems, and we find out what's really eating at the volatile Dixon.

There's no doubt that Oates and his co-writer are being critical of a lot of the beliefs and actions of America's youth. The film is brutally honest about how fake a lot of the characters are, and it shows that a lot of the decisions young people make end up being empty. I'm sure a lot of this is about people he went to high school with. But there is also a tenderness to the story, a lament for the wasted time the kids spend.

While enjoyable and providing a few surprises the first time through, the movie doesn't have all that much replay value. This is because not very much really happens in the film, which is, of course, the point. The film comments on the small town life in America, with only high school events, a diner, and a bowling alley to entertain the kids. For the viewer, the most enjoyment comes from studying the characters, all portrayed excellently, and their motivations. I doubt many people out there can't relate to at least one of these wayward souls.

One thing this movie isn't is flat. The cinematography by Paul Marschall is excellent, with deep shadows and interesting colors from all of the passing headlights and bright store signs of the town that some of the guys just can't escape. This anamorphic film, regardless of the transfer to DVD, is high quality stuff, despite the small budget. A lot of the film is at night, but it still manages to look good. I kind of felt that Wasted ended up with a better cinematographer than it warranted, and the quality of the film skyrocketed because of it. (Oates describes the film as being done on "no budget, 20 days.")

On a personal note, I must congratulate Oates for overloading the film's backgrounds with blonde 20-something girls. All of the shots in public seem to have at least three blondes behind the principals. They are universally attractive, and in focus or out, they make North Valley look really good to me. I'm moving there.

OK, OK, there are some brunettes, too.


The Video

Wasted is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, shot on Super 35. The transfer is wonderful, with very deep black levels (which were necessary) and a sharp image. The DVD is enhanced for 16x9 TV's, and it fits them perfectly. The editing is interesting, and the myriad slow-mo scenes look good. The production values of the DVD are definitely high, and I've scene movies with 27 times the budget of Wasted get worse home video transfers.

The Audio

The audio on Wasted consists of two tracks, English 5.1-surround and a commentary. The dialogue is crisp and clear, which is really all that matters on the film. The surround doesn't really have all that much else to do, but it does use ambient noise to immerse you in the different environments. The music complements the movie very well, and the alt-rock soundtrack will appeal to a lot of young people. There are also subtitles in English and Spanish.

The Extras

The special features on the disk consist of the commentary track, six deleted scenes, and a behind-the-scenes still gallery. The commentary is by Oates, co-writer Jeremiah Lowder, and actor Cooke. They sound like the typical young people who are excited about their movie, mentioning how the different performers got involved, and relating the inspiration for the story. Unsurprisingly, most of the goofy situations in the film, from vandalism to chasing rabbits through fields, come from the writers' lives. A few of the stories they relate about getting the movie shot were fascinating, but I can't be sure you'll be terribly interested in the commentary.

The still gallery consists of 86 different pictures that can only be accessed by cycling through each and every one of them. I only found them useful to find out what Oates looks like without going online. This feature is pretty worthless unless you're a really big fan of this movie.

The deleted scenes come with optional commentary tracks. They look all right, presented in 2.35:1, but they aren't enhanced for 16x9 TV's. They don't contain terribly compelling material, and one of them would have done more to ruin the big twist at the end of the film, so it's good that Oates left it on the floor. The commentaries with the short scenes are a liability.

Final Thoughts

So which one was I? Definitely Stan. Wasted just isn't a big enough deal to warrant a lot of attention, but it is an accomplished, low-budget film. If American Pie grew up after high school and found itself in the real, grown-up world we all live in, it would be Wasted. But your money won't be if you try out this quality DVD. "Recommended."

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