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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Wonderful World

March 12th, 2010

Wonderful World - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

In 1986, Matthew Broderick starred as the title character in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, which was a sizable hit at the time and is still loved by many today. A lot of people seemed to think he would be a major box office star. However, while he has found a lot of success on stage (including winning two Tony Awards) most of his movie roles have missed expectations at the box office, even those that were critical successes. His most recent movie was Wonderful World, which opened in limited release, but missed the Mendoza line during its opening weekend before quickly disappearing. Did it deserve a better fate than this? Or can it find an audience on the home market?

Matthew Broderick plays Ben Singer, a former children's performer who has long since given up on that profession and has worked as a proofreader for the past eight years. A misanthrope, he's divorced from his wife and spend little time with his daughter and has a knack for crushing her spirit with his depressed outlook. His only real friend is Ibou N'diyae, a Senegalese immigrant and roommate, with whom he likes to play chess. However, when Ibu lapses into a diabetic coma, his sister, Khadi, travels to the United States and for the first time in a long time Ben feels a real connection. Will he be able to overcome his years of misanthropy? Will Khadi be able to break down his defense mechanisms?

The movie tells the story of a man who was beat down by society to the point where he stopped trying to be part of it, but thanks to meeting the right person has a second chance. This is hardly an original concept. However, if done well, a film can easily overcome such an obstacle. So how is the execution? Unfortunately, it's rather mixed. First of all, his misanthropy felt artificial. It felt like it was just there because the screenwriter wanted his lead character to have an obstacle to overcome. There were several lines of dialogue that felt stiff, especially when he was talking about The Man (represented by Philip Baker Hall in a role that is simply not meaty enough to warrant inclusion in this movie). Because the character's depression didn't feel natural, it lessened the impact of his inevitable recovery and rediscovery of life. I needed to know more about the character and what drove him to depression before I could be moved by his emotional journey. Additionally, the film was far too predictable, and not just the story arc of the main character, but specific details. At one point, Ibou mentions seeing fish rain from the sky, so you just know that before the end of the movie, Ben will see this as well. On a side note, it's not that uncommon for it to rain fish.

On the other hand, there were a number of good performances by the cast, including Michael K. Williams, Sanaa Lathan, and Jodelle Ferland, none of whom are exactly household names (though Jodelle is in Eclipse, so that could change for her in a very short time). And the movie does have a low-key charm to it that makes it impossible to hate. But it is also not memorable enough for real replay value.

I do not have the DVD, but none of the extras on the Blu-ray feel like they are High Definition exclusives, save for one. The first of the extras is a four-and-a-half minute long interview featurette with the cast talking about their characters. There is another interview featurette, this one running 90 seconds long, which is mostly with the cast praising Matthew Broderick. There is a 90-second behind-the-scenes montage that has simple background music and no narration, so it lacks context. Finally there is HDNet: A Look at Wonderful World, which is a five-minute "making-of" featurette. This is the only extra that is in High Definition, so it could be a Blu-ray exclusive. The Blu-ray is also BD-Live enabled, but all it says is "Check Back For Updates."

As for the film's technical presentation in High Definition, it's as you would expect for a low-budget, character-driven drama. Colors, details, etc. are all strong, but this is not a flashy transfer. The audio is very clean and clear, but your surround speakers will not get a workout. This is not a film you need to see in High Definition to enjoy, but the list price is a mere 10% more. On, the Blu-ray is actually cheaper than the DVD.

The Verdict

Wonderful World is perhaps not as weak as its Tomatometer Score would indicate, but it is only lightweight fare, a film you can watch and forget. Because of this, it is worth a rental. That will likely be enough for most people. That said, if you are interested in buying, the Blu-ray is the better deal.

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Filed under: Video Review, Wonderful World