Finally, a teen comedy with a brainÖ and they said it couldnít be done. Actually, ORANGE COUNTY ($30) is a fresh and funny tale about a teen slacker, who makes complete turnaround, only to discover that all of his hard work is negated by the incompetence of another. ORANGE COUNTY stars Colin Hanks as teen surf dude Shaun Brumder, who discovers a book on the beach by author Marcus Skinner, which completely changes his outlook on life. After reading the book, Shaunís decides that he wants to become a writer and study at Stanford University under his idol Skinner.
However, after working his a** off for a year, he finds himself rejected by Stanford, due to the clerical error of his high schoolís guidance counselor. Fearing that he will be forever trapped in Orange County, with his insane family, Shaun takes the advice of his stoned older brother Lance (Jack Black) and heads up to Stanford to plead his case to the dean of admissions. This might have been a good idea, had Shaun left his brother at home. With Lance along, the simple trip to Stanford turns into a comedic odyssey of disastrous proportions.
What makes ORANGE COUNTY a winner is the fact that it is a character driven comedy, which benefits from an incredible cast- many of whom perform in bit roles. Of course, Colin Hanks has to carry the film, which he does remarkably well, I guess he inherited the easygoing charm and acting chops from his famous father- Tom. Jack Black is perfect as the stoned out, couch potato brother, as is Schuyler Fisk as the supportive girlfriend. Catherine O'Hara and John Lithgow have great chemistry together as the self-absorbed parents, whose very being screams CALIFORNIA! Look for Harold Ramis in a scene stealing turn as the dean of admissions. Other great supporting performers include Lily Tomlin, Chevy Chase, Garry Marshall, Dana Ivey, as well as the uncredited Kevin Kline and Ben Stiller.
Paramount Home Entertainment has made ORANGE COUNTY available on DVD in a 1.85:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. This is an absolutely great looking transfer that never fails to perform. The image is always clean, bright and well defined. Even the nighttime scenes are so well lit and photographed that one can make out almost every detail. Colors are wonderfully vibrant and flesh tones are incredibly appealing. Despite the intensity of the hues, there are no signs of chroma noise or smearing. Blacks look pretty pure, contrast is smooth and as I alluded above, shadow detail is excellent. The film element itself is free from blemishes, although a tiny bit of grain showed up now and then. Dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts under wraps.
ORANGE COUNTY includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack, but the mix is of the standard comedy variety. The forward soundstage sees the majority of activity, with the surround channels kicking in for some ambience, occasional effects and musical fill. As you might of guessed, there is plenty of incidental popular music on the soundtrack, and it all sounds very good. Dialogue is very cleanly rendered and always understandable, at least the English is, anyway. English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks are 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 a number of extras. The DVD includes a running audio commentary with director Jake Kasdan and writer Mike White. While it offers some insights, the commentary is a bit too self-congratulatory and lacking in substance to be considered a must listen, except for the most diehard of fans. Four deleted scenes are included on the DVD, all of which are reasonably interesting, but were obviously cut because they werenít funny enough and slowed the filmís overall pacing. Fifteen TV promo interstitials, which were probably made for MTV, are provided on the DVD, as is the filmís theatrical trailer.
ORANGE COUNTY is a genuinely funny teen comedy that benefits from a solid cast that really brings the characters to life. Paramount Home Entertainment has produced a great looking DVD that isnít going to disappoint anyone. If you are a fan, pick up the DVD, and if you havenít seen the film- check it out on DVD. Dude, itís going to look and sound a lot better than pay per view.
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