video/dvd reviews
Oct. 22, 2004

All reviews by Jason Aaron

Jersey Girl

Tainted from the get-go by the overexposure of tabloid targets, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez (that on-again, off-again couple collectively known as Bennifer), Jersey Girl never had much of a chance. However, unlike their colossal stinker Gigli, Lopez’s character barely survives past the opening credits, leaving Affleck to fend for himself. The young heartthrob seizes the chance to remind viewers that he can actually be a relatively good actor, whenever he decides to choose a decent script.

Jersey Girl marks the first film from writer/director Kevin Smith that doesn’t feature Jay and Silent Bob, the potty-mouthed Laurel and Hardy for the slacker generation from films such as Clerks, Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Judging by Jersey Girl’s reverberating thud at the box office, it may also mark the last time Smith tries to stray from his typical no-budget, R-rated, dick and fart joke fare (and hey, I’m not knocking dick and fart jokes, Gob forbid). Still, Jersey Girl is not a complete failure. It’s the amusing, fairly heartwarming story of a widowed publicist struggling to balance his career and the needs of his newborn daughter, while living with his grumpy, beer-swigging dad (the perfectly cast George Carlin) in New Jersey.

Smith does prove rather clumsy at times when dealing with straightforward, serious subject matter, but he still writes clever dialogue and crafts interesting characters. This time around, Smith’s greatest achievement is in portraying a compelling, realistic 7-year-old girl as portrayed by darling newcomer Raquel Castro. If you’re a hardcore fan of Clerks and Chasing Amy, Jersey Girl will probably disappoint you. But if you’re not expecting much to begin with, it may turn out to surprise you. (PG-13) Rating: 3; Posted 10/22/04

Clerks (10th Anniversary Edition)

Kevin Smith fans that were dismayed by his failed attempt at commercialism (namely the aforementioned Jersey Girl), take heart! This new Clerks Anniversary Edition DVD will satisfy your entire dick and fart joke needs.

It was 1994 when Smith, a film school dropout and New Jersey comic geek, wrote and directed his first feature film. Inspired by Richard Linklater’s indie phenom Slacker (now available in its own Criterion Edition DVD), Smith set his film in the convenience store where he worked and padded the cast with his stoner pals and high school buddies, many of whom ended up playing multiple roles when other cast members failed to show. Smith paid for the film by maxing out his credit cards and selling off his comic book collection.

Clerks went on to be a hit at the Sundance film festival, and since then, Smith has risen to the status of god among geeks (at comic conventions the size of Smith’s entourage rivals that of Eddie Murphy in his heyday). Like most DVD versions of Smith’s comedies, this new 3-disc Clerks set boasts plenty of hilarious extras, including a feature length, behind the scenes documentary, an all-new animated lost scene, Smith’s appearances on The Tonight Show and two different profanity-laced commentary tracks.

If you’re eagerly awaiting 2005’s Clerks 2, then you definitely shouldn’t miss this set, which is easily one of the year’s most impressive DVDs. (R) Rating: 5; Posted 10/22/04

Fahrenheit 9/11

Even if you haven’t seen it and don’t intend to ever see it, you’ve still no doubt heard a great deal about Michael Moore’s controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. Conservatives call it an outrageous pack of lies, while liberals see it as the gospel truth. The only fact no one argues about is that it’s the highest grossing documentary ever made. It may also be the most provocative and polarizing film of the last 30 years that didn’t have “Christ” in the title.

Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Moore always delivers plenty of controversy, offbeat humor and emotional wallop. With its graphic footage of Iraqi bombing victims, unflattering interviews with American soldiers, relentless ridiculing of President Bush and raw outpouring of grief and rage regarding the war in Iraq, Fahrenheit 9/11 is far darker and more mean-spirited than Moore’s previous films, even his infamous Oscar winner, Bowling for Columbine (the guy who once upon a time had gay men making out in Fred Phelps’ front yard now seems like the kinder, gentler Michael Moore).

Surprisingly, Fahrenheit 9/11 also lags more than Moore's previous films. Bits exploring the Patriot Act and the border security in Oregon seem simply goofy and insignificant when compared to the larger issues Moore tackles. Though it’s hard to imagine Moore ever making a perfect, polished documentary, it’s simply impossible to imagine him ever making something boring. (R) Rating: 4; Posted 10/22/04

Aladdin (Special Edition DVD)

Back in the early ‘90s when Michael Eisner still seemed like a genius, Aladdin was one of the crown jewels in Disney’s rejuvenated animation division. Today, like Eisner himself, it’s lost a bit of its luster. Though still light years better than anything they churn out these days, Aladdin has simply proved less timeless than Disney classics like Sleeping Beauty, Bambi or even Beauty and the Beast.

Featuring Robin Williams doing his typical, madcap bit as the all-powerful Genie of the Lamp and boasting the Oscar winning songs of Alen Menken and the late Howard Ashman, Aladdin proved to be one of the first animated films to capture a mass audience, paving the way for box office juggernauts like The Lion King, Finding Nemo and Shrek.

Available for the first time on DVD, the Aladdin Special Edition offers few special features that’ll interest anyone other than the tots. There are music videos by Clay Aiken and Jessica Simpson, if you’re into that sort of sadomasochistic behavior. If not, you can still enjoy the film itself, no matter if some of its references already seem a bit dated. It’s still an energetic, visually spectacular animated gem. (G) Rating: 4; Posted 10/22/04

Film ratings range from “0” (watch TV instead) to “5” (a must-see).

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