WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
This 1988 "Best Picture" Oscar winner features a young, cocky entrepreneur who suddenly discovers that he's got an older, autistic brother who recently inherited $3 million from their father. Stoked to get his grubby hands on half of the dough, the cock-sure sibling "borrows" his brother from a housed medical facility and proceeds to "blackmail" his supervisors for his share of the money. That's until his road trip with the mentally challenged brother, begins to soften his cold demeanor and get him in touch with his "emotional side".
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
A solid, Oscar-worthy motion picture that combines all of the elements that one would look for in a picture of its revered status including a well-rounded screenplay that develops its characters with care, while at the same time, offering insight into a somewhat unknown mental condition, plenty of humor, moments of dramatic tension and as you might expect, revelations and transformations for the better. The film's also jacked with gorgeous roadside scenery, an appropriate score that doesn't overwhelm the obvious and two top-notch performances by its stars, Dustin Hoffman (who collected an Oscar as Best Actor for his part) and Tom Cruise, who despite playing the "straighter" man, holds the piece together with nuances throughout. One might even say that Hoffman's performance, despite being superlative from a physical standpoint, isn't as difficult as Cruise's, who must play the "asshole", but at the same time, provide the audience with a tinge of humanity as the lead character. I enjoyed both actors in their roles and even more so, the chemistry and genuine sense of growth and understanding between the two.
The brilliance of Hoffman's character also added some spice to the film including scenes in which he counts toothpicks from the floor in two seconds (note actress Bonnie Hunt as the waitress in that scene), flips out when he doesn't get his way and conquers Las Vegas with his greedy brother. On the slight down note, despite the film still holding power in its message to this day, it felt a little dated and deja-vu, perhaps because of the saturated use of "mentally challenged" individuals to prove such points in film to this day, and the character played by Valeria Golino, who despite being a cutie-pie, felt underused and convenient for the intents and purposes of the screenplay alone. That said, I would still recommend this film to anyone who loves a great drama with comedic touches, a story that will both enlighten and touch the heart, while at the same time, providing the audience with a life-affirming message about the need and love of family.
For a touted "Special Edition" of the film, I wasn't particularly impressed by this disc's extras, many of which felt like fillers. Consider the 1 deleted scene, which was interesting to watch (Hoffman's character escapes Cruise and goes into a convenience store to score some Cheese Balls), but had zero substance. Or the photo gallery filled with basic pictures of cast and crew, the film's original theatrical trailer, which was weird to see now, since it seems to sell the film more as a "comedy" and MGM product advertisements, disguised as "extras". Thumbs way down on that practice.
The only real substance on the DVD is a 6-minute featurette which features interviews with Levinson, Cruise and the producers from back in 1988 (Cruise looks like a teen), interlaced with long-winded scenes from the actual movie. It's not really all that informative and will likely frustrate you more than anything. If you're into commentary tracks, than you might appreciate the 3 separate tracks on this disc (although none with Cruise or Hoffman) featuring Barry Levinson alone on the first, co-writer Barry Morrow on the second and co-writer Ronald Bass on the third. Levinson's was the only one that really interested me, but unfortunately, he's a boring commentator and after listening to him for about half an hour, I turned it off. Levinson is one of those people who spends more time watching the movie with us, than commenting on it. When he speaks, it's interesting stuff, but that's rare.
Despite the film still holding up as one of the better dramatic/comedic movies of the past couple of decades, the extras on this supposed "Special Edition" are mucho weak, especially when compared to all of the other "real" special editions dvds tossed into our video stores every other week (see my more recent review of THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST for such an example) Of course, any real fan of either Cruise, Hoffman or Levinson is sure to nab this pup for their collection anyway, so I'll leave that decision up to you. Great movie, mediocre dvd.