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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Spring Breakers

July 20th, 2013

Spring Breakers - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

Spring Breakers is one of the more unusual films to come out this week. The original buzz was pretty weak, with a lot of people dismissing it as "Disney Girls Gone Wild". When it was finally released, the critical response was divided. There were many critics who liked the movie, more so than those who disliked the movie, but there were also some who called it one of the worst movies ever. Its limited release was more lucrative than expected and the film currently has the best per theater average for 2013. So which side of the argument do I fall under? And is the DVD or the Blu-ray worth picking up?

Before we get into the review, there is an important matter of full disclosure. What you see on The Numbers is just part of what we do. We also run OpusData, which is a much more powerful database system, and do research for individuals, usually independent filmmakers looking to get backing for a project, but also individuals just interested in seeing how their favorite film did on a global scale. (I'm surprised we are not flooded with requests from Joss Whedon fans wanting to have a detailed financial breakdown of Serenity's theatrical and home market run.) We find films with similar target audiences, production budgets, etc., look at the cast and crew and even the prospective release date and try to predict how well it will do.

Spring Breakers is one of the films we did a projection for. I mention this for two reasons. Firstly, I don't want anyone to think I was hiding this information, which might make it look like I'm biased towards this film. Secondly, I want to brag. According to our analysis, Spring Breakers would open in 1,500 theaters and earn $15 million at the box office. In reality, it opened in limited release for a one-week run before expanding to a maximum theater count of 1,379, while it finished its domestic run with $14.12 million. We were off by less than 6%. If I'm off by less than 6% on my monthly preview, I consider it a success.

The Movie

The film begins in at an hedonistic spring break party. However, the four leads in the film are not there, they are back home going to college. We first meet Candy and Brit as they are in class, but they are more interested in hedonism than learning at this point. Faith is in a Bible group listening to an energized preacher. Cotty is back home, playing with a gun. We see her stick it in her mouth, but she's not suicidal. It's a water gun... or to be more accurate, it's an alcohol gun, because that's what she's filled it with and she's using it to get drunk.

All four of them are desperate to get to spring break, but they only have a few hundred dollars, which is only half of what they would need. Desperate for money, Candy and Brit come up with an idea, but first they need a car. Fortunately, Cotty knows where a certain professor leaves his spare keys to his car. They "borrow" it and rob a diner using their water gun. They leave Faith out of the planning and execution of the robbery, because she's too much of a goody-goody. She's not happy with what they did, but she not upset enough to refuse to use the the money to go to spring break.

At first the trip seems perfect and as Faith says, it seems like it will never end. One of the first things they do there is go to a hip hop concert by Alien who is says a lot of vapid things, but ends with, "Spring break forever." This is something the four girls seem to take to heart. They even talk about dropping out of college and living there forever. However, the good times don't last. While at a particularly wild party, the four girls are arrested, along with a lot of other partygoers. Since no drugs were found on them, they only get a citation and have to pay a fine or do two more days in county. However, they have no money. This is where Alien comes to their rescue. He pays theirs fines and gets them out of jail. The girls are wisely skeptical of his generosity, especially Faith. He quickly wins over Cotty, Candy, and Brit with offers of money and parties, but Faith just wants to go home. She begs her friends to go home with her, but they decide to stay behind.

That turns out to be a bad idea, but what happens next is too far into spoiler territory.

When you look at art house films vs. mainstream films, there is a rather wide difference in diversity. Art house films tend to be less diverse, as the majority of them are dramas. There are a significant number of comedies, but very rarely are there art house thrillers, horror films, romantic comedies, etc. Spring Breakers is an art house T&A film, and I think this might make it unique in that regard. I think this factor goes a long way in explaining the divisive reaction to this film, because there's almost no comparison to make and if you can't get into this strange combination, you will be turned off by this movie.

The basic plot of the movie could be squeezed into a 22-minute long extra special episode of some sitcom warning of the dangers of the excesses of spring break. It is padded out to 94 minutes long by a lot of what fans of the movie will call style and those critical of the movie will call repetition. It would be impossible to argue there is not a lot of repetition in this movie, but that is part of the overall style. This style also includes over saturated colors, flashes of the past and the future sprinkled throughout the movie, and visual filters used to distort the image. If you are not into the film, it will drive you nuts. Even if you are into the film, you might wish the filmmakers had toned it down a little. This is definitely a film that relies a little too heavily on the style, but it is the style that is a major asset to the movie.

That said, there are still elements that work, outside of the visual elements and the repetition. This includes James Franco's performance. He manages to make Alien creepy, menacing, and also... I was going to say sympathetic, but that's not quite right. Pathetic, he's pathetic, but in a disarming way. He's got the money and the guns, but he's clearly over his head when it comes to the violent side of the drug trade. Even if you don't like the movie, it might be worth renting just to see this performance.

The Extras

Extras begin with an audio commentary with Harmony Korine, but you have to look for it in the setup, not in the extras. In the extras menu, you find a 22-minute long behind-the-scenes featurette that features interviews with Harmony Korine, Randall Poster, the music supervisor, as well as the main cast. Up next are nine minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes. Up next is a 7-minute featurette on the music in the movie. Finally, there are nearly a dozen shorter behind-the-scenes featurettes done by Vice magazine, with a total running time of about an hour. That's a lot of extras.

There are no exclusive extras on the Blu-ray, but the technical presentation is strong, for the most part. There are many scenes that are very grainy with colors that are over-saturated, but this was an aesthetic choice and the transfer can not be blamed for that. When the visual style takes a backseat, the detail levels are strong, the colors are vivid, the blacks are inky, without crushing being an issue. The audio is track is very active with all speakers getting into the action, especially the bass, while the dialogue is never drowned out in the process.

The Blu-ray costs just $18, which is $3 or 20% more than the DVD. This is a great deal for this type of release.

The Verdict

Spring Breakers is one of those films that if you don't like it, you will probably hate it. So, even though I think it is worth picking up, it might be wise to give it a rental first. If you did see it already or want to give it a blind buy, then the Blu-ray Combo Pack is the better deal over the DVD.


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Filed under: Video Review, Spring Breakers, James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens, Joss Whedon, Selena Gomez, Rachel Korine, Randall Poster, Ashley Benson, Harmony Korine