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I have never been much for weepy tearjerkers, but I decided to give LIFE AS A HOUSE ($25) a spin because of Kevin Kline, who has become a favorite since his Oscar winning turn in A FISH CALLED WANDA. Of course, Kline is as adept in serious drama, as he is in comedy, so he gives a truly moving performance as George- a middle aged man who learns that he has only a short time to live. Taking stock of a life that did not turn out well by anyoneís standards, George decides to use the little time he has left to set his house in order- both literally and figuratively.

With his remaining time, George sets out to tear down the ramshackle hovel that he lives in, and build a new home in its stead. George also sets out to tear down the walls that separate him and his estranged teenage son Sam (Hayden Christensen) and rebuild their broken down relationship. And, in his effort to reach out to his son, George even manages to rebuild some semblance of his connection to his remarried ex-wife Robin (Kristin Scott Thomas), whom he still deeply loves.

The performances in LIFE AS A HOUSE are truly first rate, despite the fact that the filmís screenplay is a bit too manipulative for its own good. Kevin Kline is incredibly good in brining to life a flawed character, who has reached the end of his days. Hayden Christensen also delivers a moving performance as the angst-ridden teen, who has become involved with drugs and find his way into prostitution. The solid supporting cast of LIFE AS A HOUSE features Jena Malone, Mary Steenburgen, Scott Bakula, Ian Somerhalder, and Jamey Sheridan.

New Line Home Entertainment has made LIFE AS A HOUSE available on DVD in a 2.10:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. This transfer slightly crops the filmís original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio, but was framed this way for home viewing at the behest of the filmmakers. The wide screen image doesnít seem to lose any pertinent information from the periphery of the frame, and the compositions appear fine as they are. Vilmos Zsigmondís cinematography is gorgeous and this transfer is very accurate representation of that beauty. The picture is sharp, but silky and it produces a wonderful level of detail. Colors are vibrant and rich, plus the flesh tones always appear very realistic. Even the most intense hues are rendered with perfect stability and not a sign of smearing. Blacks are completely pure, contrast is exceptionally smooth and shadow detail is rich. Dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts from ever becoming noticeable.

For this release, LIFE AS A HOUSE has been provided with both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 channel soundtracks. Since LIFE AS A HOUSE is a dialogue driven drama, neither soundtrack features a particularly showy sound mix. Subtle sound effects and a great sense of atmosphere are rendered throughout the movie in a completely convincing manner. Dialogue is fairly crisp and cleanly reproduced. Music has a nice warm quality and has excellent fidelity. Both the Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks sound great, although those with DTS capable systems will enjoy a bit more sonic detail and clarity because of the higher bit rate of the format. An English Dolby Surround soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVDís interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the DVDís supplemental materials. Starting things off is a running audio commentary with director Irwin Winkler, producer Rob Cowan, and screenwriter Mark Andrus. This is a good commentary track that offers a solid level of detail on the creative process of behind the film, as well as recollections of working with the first rate cast.

Two documentaries have also been included on the DVD. Character Building: Inside Life As A House runs twenty-four minutes and is the typical look behind-the-scenes made up primarily of interviews with the cast and crew. Clocking in at ten minutes is From The Ground Up, which is a bit more original, since it offers a look at the construction of the homes featured in the movie. Four deleted scenes, totaling about twelve minutes of material, are also provided amongst the supplements. The deleted scenes are presented in 16:9 enhanced wide screen and can be viewed with or without commentary by Irwin Winkler, Rob Cowan, and Mark Andrus. A Theatrical Press Kit has also been provided and it contains production notes, as well as cast & crew biographies. A theatrical trailer closes out the supplemental features. LIFE AS A HOUSE is also DVD-ROM enabled, with the filmís screenplay provided via a script to screen viewer that allows one to access the film from within the screenplay. Also included in the DVD-ROM section is the filmís theatrical web site and additional web links.

I like LIFE AS A HOUSE for the fine performances from a wonderful group of actors, even though I felt manipulated by the movieís tear-jerking premise. Still, if one is drawn to such material, they will thoroughly love this movie. Anyway, New Lineís excellent presentation of the film on DVD comes as no surprise, so those who are even moderately interested in the film canít go wrong by picking up a copy of LIFE AS A HOUSE on DVD.


Life as a House - New Line Platinum Series


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2002 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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