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“Donnie Darko”{Blu-ray}
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Video
Genre:
Drama
Release Date:
2/21/09
Special Features:

Commentary tracks, documentary, “Director’s Cut” and original theatrical version, production diary, featurettes

Review:

Science has discovered that we live in a fascinating, weird and wacked out universe however it’s nothing as weird or wacked out as the one that Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) lives in. As one of the characters points out early on, Donnie has a name that you would associate with a superhero and, in a perverse sort of way, Donnie IS one. You see an anomaly will kill all life on our planet unless Donnie takes action. All of this information comes courtesy of a six foot man in a grotesque rabbit costume named Frank. Frank has all the answers that Donnie needs but he doesn’t spell it out for him and Donnie has to put the pieces together as well as convince a world (including his parents played by Holems Osborne and Mary McDonnell)that have sent him to a psychiatrist (Katherine Ross) because they consider him wacked out himself because of his visions, night wanderings and the voices he hears stating that it’s the end of the world. Donnie finds some guidance from his high school science teacher (Noah Wylie)and an English teacher (Drew Barrymore) as well as a nemesis (Patrick Swayze in a marvelous supporting role as a suspicious preacher). ***

Director/writer Richard Kelly takes a sinister detour through the rabbit hole that features echoes of the work of David Lynch, Nicholas Roeg and David Cronenberg in its slightly convoluted plot. Mid way through the film takes a detour into the metaphysical (with it hinted at throughout the film even in its least surreal moments). “Donnie Darko” manages to be entertaining, intriguing and weird. It’s also clear that Kelly knew exactly where he was going. Unlike some of Lynch’s journeys into the surreal, Kelly has a pay off that ties directly back into the opening fifteen minutes of the film. Even relatively minor weird moments have an important place in the overall plot and tie back into the central theme of alienation/acceptance and questioning our belief in a concrete reality. Surprisingly, unlike most films that have a surreal element, “Donnie Darko” continues to reap benefits with repeated viewings. ---

Image & Sound:

Fox has had a mixed history with their blu-ray releases; “Patton” was over processed and some of them have looked almost like up scaled DVD presentations and NOT true high definition images. “Donnie Darko” looks better here than the DVD but it’s a marginal improvement overall compared to the original DVD release. Colors look quite good and the images have nice detail but they still do get lost in the spotty presentation. The transfer itself looks like it was pulled from an earlier high definition presentation that was prepared for DVD release. The main advantage here is that we get both the original theatrical version of the ***

Audio sounds fine with a nice, robust 5.1 mix that works extremely well at putting us in Donnie’s world. ---

Special Features:

As mentioned we get both the original theatrical release and the special director’s edition of the film. Fox has ported over the commentary tracks and special features for both the individual DVD releases as part of this set. On the “Director’s Cut” film director Kevin Smith does a great job of engaging Richard Kelly that is entertaining and involving. Kelly and actor Gyllenhaal appear on the theatrical cut commentary also quite entertaining.

*** We get “The Donnie Darko Production Diary”, “They Made Me Do It, Too: The Cult of Donnie Darko”, #1 Fan: A Darkomentary” are all ported over from the previous edition. We also get a couple of storyboard to film comparisons. ---

Final Words:

Director Richard Kelly crashes the surreal, metaphysical and science fiction into one film. It’s not a perfect melding of all three elements (it would be difficult for ANY director to carry it off and make a mainstream Hollywood release), but it’s a darn entertaining and powerful one. Having both versions on the same blu-ray along with the original featurettes/documentaries and extras from the two DVD releases is a big plus. Although this is far from a reference blu-ray disc, it looks good with a marginal improvement in the image quality, detail, etc. If you don’t have this film on DVD, I’d recommend picking it up but if you have both versions on DVD, you could hold off and be satisfied with what you have.

 

 
 
 
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