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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Twelve

December 27th, 2010

Twelve - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

In 2002 at the age of 17, Nick McDonell wrote a novel, "Twelve", which landed on a number of best-seller lists. It was recently turned into a movie by director Joel Schumacher, who has made some great movies, like Veronica Guerin, and a personal favorite, The Lost Boys. But he was also responsible for Batman and Robin and The Number 23. So at what end of the spectrum does this film land?

The Movie

This is kind of a hard plot to get through for a couple reasons. Partially because it has a large ensemble cast with several story threads that intertwine throughout.

Chase Crawford stars as a character everyone calls White Mike, who used to be a rich kid going to a fancy prep school. However, he mother developed cancer and as the disease killed her, the treatments ate away and his family's wealth. Now he's had to drop out of high school and makes money selling drugs to his former classmates. His friends have gone opposite paths, with Hunter going to Harvard while Charlie has become a paranoid drug addict. After a violent encounter with his drug-dealer, Lionel, who is also Mike's supplier, Charlie ends up dead, as does a witness, Nana. It's a crime Hunter will be arrested for, as he and Nana got into a fight at a basketball game and they both had each others blood on them.

That's one thread.

The second thread involves Mike and Molly, who have been friends since Molly's father started working for Mike's dad as a waiter at his restaurant. That was a decade ago, and Molly's been in love with Mike the whole time. Mike might have the same feelings, but he also understands that Molly's too good for his lifestyle and is desperate to not let her know what he does for a living.

The other thread involves the rich kids, who mostly hang out at Chris's place. He's rich, but not popular, so he throws big parties and buys lots of weed from White Mike in an attempt to boost his popularity, maybe even score with Sara, the most popular girl in school. The first party we see is filled with all of the popular people, and some unpopular, but most of which I couldn't pick out of a police lineup. Shelly and Gabby are two of Sara's party people, but that's all you need to know about them. The other member of her entourage is Jessica, who is most noteworthy for becoming addicted to Twelve, the designer drug that Lionel sells. It's an incredibly addictive mix of other drugs and in the "cautionary tale" part of the film, as she spirals downwards.

Unfortunately, his first party is crashed by his brother, Claude, who introduces the final thread. He's a violent sociopath who has a very unhealthy obsession with samurai swords. He's gone AWOL from a boot camp that he's parents sent him to in hopes of straightening him out, and after the Easter break, he's going to another boarding school in Germany. He's basically a timebomb looking for a reason, or an excuse, to go off.

These threads intertwine for a few days before all meeting at the climactic party for Sara.

So how well are these various threads handled? Not very well, I'm afraid. In fact, the film is a complete mess. The narration is at once the best part of the film, and the worst. Kiefer Sutherland does provide one of the best performances in the film, but he doesn't have a whole lot of competition, as "Not embarrassing themselves" would be complimenting most of the rest. We also learn more about the characters from the narration than we do from the words and actions of the characters. It's one of the fundamental rules of filmmaking that you should show the audience things, not tell them. This film breaks that rule so much, that's it's like you are listening to someone read the book to you while you watch characters walk around.

Another major problem is with these characters. Outside of one or two, they are completely self-absorbed and 100% uninteresting. Listening to them complain about inattentive parents and their 'Boo hoo, I'm rich and bored.' is not compelling. If you have and excellent script and amazing performances, this type of story can be worth checking out, but this film has neither.

Finally, the film is loaded with style, but style at the expense of substance. Not only is the narration oppressive, but there are flashbacks, and weird dreamlike scenes. Again, if everything else was working, this might have been okay, but as it is, it's just one more flaw to deal with.

The Extras

The DVD has absolutely no extras. There's a menu feature for Extras, but there's only a few trailers there, to go with the ton of trailers that play when you pop the DVD into your player. I only have the DVD to review, but it appears that the Blu-ray has no exclusives. It's doesn't cost a whole lot more to buy, but this is not the kind of film you need to see in High Definition to enjoy.

The Verdict

Saying Twelve is a mess might be an understatement and it earned some of the worse reviews of the year. The DVD and the Blu-ray are featureless and very skippable.


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Filed under: Video Review, Twelve