Plot: What’s it about?
Max Devlin (Elliot Gould) has not lived his life along the right path in terms of goodness, but then again, he hasn’t done that much really bad stuff either. After an automobile accident, Devlin passes away and thanks to his lack of goodness, he is sent right to the hot place downstairs. But since he wasn’t that bad, he is given the chance to reclaim his life and do a little better next time perhaps. Satan doesn’t have time to deal with him, but his assistant Barney Satin (Bill Cosby) does. Barney lays out the deal for Max and of course, he accepts as he wants to return to his life. And who can blame him, when the alternative is a fiery pit of suffering? The deal is thus, Max must secure three young souls for Satan and in exchange for this service, he will be allowed to return to his previous life. This seems like an easy enough task and perhaps it will be, but you just know there must be a tricky catch to it all, right? Will Max sign over the youngsters to the man downstairs and get his life back, or is there something else he is destined to do?
I never thought I would see The Devil & Max Devlin in full anamorphic widescreen splendor, but my friends, the day of rejoicing has arrived. Thanks to the folks at Anchor Bay Entertainment (who else?), we can now watch this treasure in the finest form possible, if even the extras are quite slim. I happen to like Bill Cosby movies and I know I am in the minority in that stance, but something about his cinematic antics always makes me laugh. I also like his earlier stand up material, but his more recent efforts have left me less than pleased. But in this light hearted tale of the battles between good & evil, I am signed, sealed, and delivered on the picture. I know this one gets panned by almost everyone, but it is so safe and innocent, I can’t help but fall in love with it in the end. This isn’t great cinema by any means, but is funny at times and since I love Cosby’s films, this one is a winner to me. But I know the legions of readers who dislike this film, so bear with me on this review. I stand up to the masses and shout from the mountains, The Devil & Max Devlin is recommended…as a rental.
In the realm of two man films, you usually find the two leads have a nice level of chemistry, but that isn’t the case in this movie. In fact, these two seem to be on different worlds and such, but I think that adds a lot of humor (even if unintentional) and isn’t that what comedies are all about? As I mentioned above, I like Bill Cosby’s family based films and he gives his usual turn in this movie. That means funny faces galore and a few misfired lines here and there, simply for the sake of a good time. Of course Cosby isn’t a gifted actor in most ways, but in a film like this one where bad is good, Cosby is very, very good in the end. Other films you can catch Cosby in include Ghost Dad, Leonard Part Six, The Meteor Man, and Jack. On the other side of Cosby is Elliot Gould (American History X, The Lemon Sisters), who made this movie after a string of adult aimed films and as such, lacks the same family appeal of Cosby. But he gives this his best shot and in the end, he is humorous enough to make it work, though his character doesn’t develop with most audiences as it should. The cast here also includes Susan Anspach (Five Easy Pieces) and Julie Budd, both of whom are decent enough overall within their roles.
Video: How does it look?
The Devil & Max Devlin is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with a full frame version of the film also included on this dual layered disc. The image looks a little dated, but this is the best I think we’ll ever see this movie look for some time. The flaws were the grain evident on the print and some slight fading of the colors, but these aren’t serious and never detract much from the quality. But still, I figured I should mention them in this review. I also noticed some infrequent moire patterns, but again, nothing you should be too worried about. I found the contrast to be well balanced and shadows revealed just enough detail, which is just how it should be. This is a very nice transfer in the end, much better than I expected.
Audio: How does it sound?
This film isn’t that reliant on audio, so the included conservative mix is more than adequate. I was pleased with the musical pieces, which come off as full & rich and I heard no age related problems in the least. The sound effects are more simple and subtle, so the lack of true surround sound isn’t that big of a deal in the end. The main focus of this film’s audio is the dialogue, which sounds clean & crisp within this mix. I wasn’t blown away by this mix, but it handles all the essentials with no troubles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc contains no bonus materials.