Plot: What’s it about?
Kevin Smith is one of us. Yes, that’s right…one of us. He’s not a Francis Ford Coppola or a Martin Scorsese, but a guy from New Jersey that decided to take a risk and make little movie called “Clerks”. It paid off. Since 1994, we have learned (and memorized) the names of Rick Derris, Dante Hicks, Brandy Svenning and so on. What all of these characters share is that they are part of the “View Askew” universe. Just like some really big, really popular comic book, Kevin Smith has made four feature films that share the same thing–the root and imagination of one man who took a risk. Now, don’t get me wrong, judging from what has been said already, you might think I worship the guy. I respect him as a director, and we all wish we could be in his position, don’t we? What started off with Clerks then proceeded to Mallrats and then graduated into Chasing Amy (the feature in question) and naturally led to Dogma. Are these films without their controversy? Of course not, they wouldn’t be near as fun if they didn’t have some sort of “brew ha ha” surrounding them. To quote (paraphrase) Kevin Smith, “Clerks was overpraised and Mallrats was overcriticised”. So did he hit a home run with Chasing Amy?
Chasing Amy is the story of two guys who happen to be moderately successful comic book artists. Their creation of “Bluntman and Chronic” (essentially Jay and Silent Bob in superhero form) has made them a cult hit with the comic book audience. Both are single and it seems, very happy with it and each other. Then it happens, Holden (Ben Affleck) meets Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams) by some chance and falls instantly in love with her. Of course, there’s one problem…she’s a lesbian. Lesbian, gay, homosexual it all has the same meaning to Holden in his quest to seek the unreachable goal. With little support from his cohort, Banky Edwards (Jason Lee), Holden continues his pursuit, though fleeting it might be. And in a nutshell, that’s it. That’s the plot.
Different from the documentary-type style of plot that gave “Clerks” it’s edge and different from the slapstick humor of “Mallrats” (which is personally my favorite of his films), Chasing Amy gives us a “soft side” of the gang. Sharing many intimate moments and trying to make more of a romantic statement (the film was based on Smith’s personal relationship with the actress in question, Joey Lauren Adams) Smith scored big with critics and audiences alike. I might go out on a limb and say that this is the film that really made Kevin Smith break out as a director, or that it really gave Ben Affleck at his breakthrough role and made him into the superstar that he is today. Chasing Amy deals with love, and not just any kind of love, the kind that is still frowned on by our society. It takes a movie like Chasing Amy to make a statement and a director who has a feel for his audience to make it happen. Highly recommended.
Video: How does it look?
Criterion is basically a synonym for quality and their recent commitment to doing 16:9 transfers is, of course, a welcome addition to the DVD world. Chasing Amy was shot in a “Super 16” camera. Super 16 isn’t the highest quality of film and it’s very apparent by the way it looks on the DVD. That’s not bad. The movie in theaters looked the same way and Criterion reproduced it looking the same way. What looks to be a “grainy” look is the look it’s meant to have, and the 16:9 enhancement makes it look all the better; even though some may think it looks worse. Fleshtones are natural, and while some edge ehnancement exists and some shimmering as well, it’s overall a very good transfer. While not perfect by any means, it’s up to you to decide how good it looks.
Audio: How does it sound?
I was very suprised by the way that this sounded. While Kevin Smith movies aren’t really known for their sound, only Clerks has really sounded “bad” per se. The dialogue is supisingly very clean and easy to understand and there is no “muffle” which one would expect with a movie like this. Surround effects, though present, don’t cloud the atmosphere and again I have to mention how suprised I was at this soundtrack. While it’s not reference quality, I think you’ll be very taken with the high quality of this movie.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Kevin Smith says it himself…if you bought the old Laserdisc from a few years back and you bought this, then you were basically “hoarked”. That’s right, all Chasing Amy is, is a rehash of the old laserdisc. True, we get a new 16:9 transfer, but the rest is a copy of what has been available for sometime (even the cover art). But, if you haven’t purchased the Laserdisc, you get some deleted scenes, one of the best commentary tracks recorded, outtakes, an insert map that tells the in’s and out’s of the View Askewverse (did you know Mallrats actually took place before Clerks) and some other assorted goodies. While Criterion does what it does best, which is set just that, they continue their fine efforts in this latest Kevin Smith movie.