Plot: What’s it about?
A hit at the Sundance film festival earlier last year, Artisan Entertainment, perhaps best known for distributing the indie hit “The Blair Witch Project” snapped up the rights to release “Chuck and Buck”, a strange and sick tale of friendship. While Artisan was hoping for the next “Blair Witch” with this movie (meaning a little low budget indie that would have strong word of mouth and then become a huge box office hit), it didn’t exactly go that way. Artisan didn’t spread the movie for wide release and it played in a few theaters during the summer of 2000. The film garnered mixed reviews. Many reviewers bashed it to death while there were many who loved it and praised it.
“Chuck and Buck” follows the story of two childhood friends (obviously named Chuck and Buck). Buck’s mom recently died so he invites his old friend, Chuck, to the funeral (who now goes by the name Charlie). Buck is incredibly happy to see his old friend and still thinks they’re the best of pals, but Chuck just sees him as a childhood aquaintance. While Buck is obsessing over Chuck, Chuck has a whole life with a great job in the music industry and a lovely fiancee who shows more respect to Buck than Chuck does. Buck gets an invite to visit them in Los Angeles (where Chuck and his fiancee live), so Buck’s fixation makes him go there and seek Chuck out. While Buck is in his world of toys and candy, Chuck has a life of his own and Buck seems to be getting in the way. Buck simply doesn’t fit in with Chuck’s new lifestyle. While Buck is in Los Angeles, he develops an interest in a local theater where Buck decides to write a play after he learns the theater can be rented. Buck’s play is cleary based on him and Chuck and the kindly theater manager helps him develop the play. Buck’s main intention is to have Chuck see the play and hopefully have things go back the way they used to be. Of course, most of Buck’s attempts to woo his old friend go awry and just keep getting crazier while having an impact on all the characters (this is a nice twist). I won’t give away the ending or what exactly happens (every review I read for this movie gave the whole thing away), but I’m sure the ending will draw some criticism from people. I liked the ending because it did reveal some things about the characters. This film is a little twisted, but I really enjoyed it and the themes it did convery.
An interesting thing to note that this movie was shot entirley on digital video cameras. I will admit that when I first saw footage of the movie I found it a little annoying, but the more footage I saw I did get used to it. As director Miguel Arteta (“Star Maps”) puts it, “you are allowed into the most intimate parts of a character’s life.” This is quite true, but the problem is, this DVD is transfered directly from a film print, so sadly you really don’t get the whole experience. The movie, for the most part, looked like it was on film and not on digital video, thereby taking away what made this movie special. Again, this is quite a shame because it ruins how the film was originally envisioned and supposed to be. It totally makes it a different film and with this DVD transfer the purpose was sort of defeated. When I saw the deleted scenes, the trailler and clips from the film on TV and whatnot, it was pure digital video. With the digital video atmosphere, I felt there just a little more to the characters themselves and their actions because it is sort of like watching it in front of your eyes. It feels a bit more real. Watch during the twelve minute point where Buck cleans his car at the gas station. Then watch the trailer which shows the same scene. You will definently notice a drastic difference. While I’m not sure everyone is entirely going to get the use of filming the movie in digital video (they may not even realize it because of the transfer), there is no denying that digital video is the next step in filmmaking.
Mike White (who you may be familiar with being a creative force on the television series “Freaks and Geeks”) wrote the movie and stars in it. White is so perfect as the haunting, lollipop-sucking Buck and pretty much steals the movie as a man who refuses to growup and recapture his childhood by stalking his old friend. White really knows the character he has created and I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing Buck. The rest of the performances are also outstanding, with Chris Weitz (co-writer of “Antz” and “Nutty Professor II”) as Chuck who is just trying to get his old friend from messing up his life and having him stalk him. Chuck feels a sense of pity but gradually becomes fed up as knows that Buck must move on with his life and grow up. Lupe Ontiveros as the theater lady who helps Buck with his play brings a lot to the role as she is the only one who is really nice to Buck and thinks he is a decent person. Beth Colt and Chris Weitz’s smaller performances are really nice too. The cast is simply great and make the movie even more believable and more fun to watch.
Mike White’s script is well developed and well played out, and he’s not afraid to touch on subjects of homosexuality and childhood curiosity. He creates characters with such emotion as we really develop feelings for the characters. While we may feel pity on lonely Buck who takes every “bye” from Chuck so hard, we feel some pity on Chuck who really wants to move on with his life and that there is someone who he hasn’t seen in many, many years who is out to bother them. I found Miguel Arteta’s direction to be really, really good. His style of filming the film as well as the shots he establish keep the movie at a very good and timely pace. I didn’t get bored or tired of Buck’s antics, and I always wanted to know what was going to happen next.
This movie has this whole creepy and child-like atmosphere which really brings a lot to the film as a whole. It is meant to be that way, but the way it is shot and the way Buck is, it just all comes together nicely. This movie is a bit strange and is definently not for all tastes, but if you come in a little open minded, then “Chuck and Buck” is definently a movie you should check out.
Video: How does it look?
Being shot on digital video, “Chuck and Buck” is not perfect, but this is a pretty good transfer. While I would have used the original video for this transfer, this transfer has been downcoverted from a print of the movie. As I stated earlier, this pretty much ruins the movie as a whole. But I dwelled on that enough, so I’ll just get to the transfer. A lot of the print varies. Some scenes can be pretty fuzzy while other scenes are incredibly sharp. The film is presented in 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen and the extra resolution does help. Some grain and dirt appears throughout the film and there is some slight shimmer. There is also some really, really slight artifacting now and then. Also, some scenes contrast are way down while others are way up. Still, this is a good, acceptable transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
A 2.0 Dolby Surround track is included, and that is what the film only really needs. Dialogue is crisp and easy to hear, but some it does sound kind of hollow, kind of like hearing through a cylindar. The music sounds nice through the two channels and crystal clear. There is some slight hiss now and then, but it is for a short while and ever so slight. A very nice track. I guess it could have been a decent 5.1 mix, but this 2.0 Surround track does the job nicely.
Supplements: What are the extras?
“Chuck and Buck” features a very nice array of special features. First off, the film has Two Commentaries. The first one is with Director Miguel Arteta and Writer/Actor Mike White. This is a very entertaining commentary and some of their comments are generally funny. This does give some behind the scenes info, but it is more of a commentary of two friends just remembering the making of the movie with some interesting tidbits. There are also some insightful comments here about characterization of the film as well as some technical standpoints on the movie. This is generally a good commentary track.
The other commentary gives more of an “insider’s view” on the making of the film. The track is with Arteta’s assitant, Ruben Fleischer and Key Grip Doug Kieffer. This is a good track too, as they have a good pace and keep screen specific. There were hardly any pauses, they just kept blurting stuff out. This commentary points on some benefits of digital video as well as some interesting trivia (Did you know Miguel Arteta’s lawyer is the woman who gives Buck his money at the bank?). They are not afraid to criticize the film either (“too much answering machine action”). This is a very solid track, so definently give this one a spin as well.
There are Six Deleted Scenes, with optional commentary from Arteta and White. While their commentary is a bit sparse, the reasoning for why they were cut is short and sweet. Two of the scenes are extended (one is edited differently and gives you much more of Buck’s play) while the other four are all new. What was cut however was an interesting part about Chuck and Buck breaking off their friendship in the past. These scenes total up to around eight minutes and are in non-anamorphic widescreen. Now this, these scenes, give you a look at how the film was originally presented on the screen and give you the best idea on how the movie was meant to be seen. These are transfered from the original digitial video, so it looks sharper than the actual film and shows you what Arteta was going for. I wish the film would have been transferred like that, because it really gives you the whole digital experience. Oh well.
An interesting feature is the “Game We Used To Play”. Here, you can view detailed instructions on how to play children games. So if you forgot how to play “Dodge Ball” or need a little background on “Jacks”, be sure to check out this section. The instructions are also pretty funny. This is a very nice touch considering the movie has themes of childhood.
The theatrical trailer in non-anamorphic widescreen. The trailer seems to be presented in 2.35:1, where the film itself is in 1.77:1. I found that a bit odd, so probably the trailer chopped the movie further. Watch the trailer and like the deleted scenes, you’ll see how the movie was really supposed to be with the whole digital filming.
Finally, there are some cast and crew bios and filmographies (lots of cast and crew members to learn about here) and some very interesting and detailed production notes which I highly reccomend you read. The menus are like Buck’s posters throughout the film, and they have a lot of flair and pizzaz to them.
This DVD does not preserve how this film was meant to be seen, and this really annoys the hell out me (I guess if you rent this on VHS and never heard of the film, you’d never know it was done on digital video). This is a great movie and to see it like it look like a regular film is incredibly bothersome. Still, the actual transfer is decent and the sound is fine too, and there are some very nice features. I’m sure some of you die hard film buffs will also feel the same way I do, so if for some reason you can catch the movie at a theater ever, be sure you do to get the experience. Artisan, if you’re reading this, definently consider a re-release of this disc.