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JAWBREAKER (($30) definitely comes from the same school of teenage black comedy that spawned the eighties classic HEATHERS. However, JAWBREAKER turns out to be twice as black and only half as funny as HEATHERS. Don't get me wrong, JAWBREAKER does have its moments- I just wish there were a lot more of them. JAWBREAKER takes jabs at the social strata that is high school life- the same way that HEATHERS did. In fact, the central characters of JAWBREAKER are the most popular girls in school, just like HEATHERS. And like HEATHERS, one of the teen queens ends up dead, but the circumstances in this film are completely different.

JAWBREAKER opens with the kidnapping of Liz Purr (Charlotte Ayanna) one of the most popular girls in Reagan High. The incident turns out to be a prank perpetrated by her three best friends in celebration of Liz's 17th birthday. Unfortunately, the prank goes horribly wrong. Somehow the jumbo-sized jawbreaker used to gag Liz ends up killing her, when the sugary treat winds up logged in the poor girl's throat. Of course, Liz's friends are shocked and saddened by the turn of events. However, instead of reporting the incident to the authorities, group leader Courtney Shayne (Rose McGowan) forces her friends into a cover up that sullies Liz’s reputation by making her accidental death look like an unfortunate sexual escapade. Marcie Fox (Julie Benz) willingly follows Courtney’s lead, however Julie Freeman (Rebecca Gayheart) really wants to do what’s right. This causes Julie to part company with her popular friends, but not before class nerd Fern Mayo (Judy Greer) does discover the truth about Liz. To save her own butt, Courtney is willing to bestow on Fern the one thing she would never be able to achieve on her own- popularity.

After a total makeover, nerdy Fern is transformed into the vixen Vylette. And as you might have guessed, Vylette readily takes Julie's place in amongst the popular clique. In fact, Vylette takes to popularity like a fish takes to water, and alas, poor Courtney discovers that she now has to deal with a Frankenstein of her own making. Who knew covering up a friend's death would require so much effort. While the plot has its share of problems, JAWBREAKER features a solid cast that are more fun to watch than the actual story. McGowan has the role of teen ultra-bitch totally nailed, plus she's real easy on the eyes. In case you hadn’t guessed, McGowan is my main reason for checking out this film. Rebecca Gayheart is fine (and fine looking) as the film’s moral center, but the film's most surprising performance comes from Judy Greer, who is totally believable as both nerd and vixen. In the film’s only memorable adult roles, both Carol Kane and Pam Grier manage to make the most of their underwritten characters. The cast of JAWBREAKER also includes Chad Christ, Ethan Erickson, Jeff Conaway, William Katt, P.J. Soles and Marilyn Manson.

Columbia TriStar Home Video has made JAWBREAKER available in both full screen and 16:9 enhanced wide screen presentations on opposite sides of the disc. While there is nothing significantly wrong with the image quality on the full screen version, the 16:9 enhanced wide screen version is far more satisfying. The Letterboxed transfer restores the film's 1.85:1 framing and offers very good image quality. Like most new films, JAWBREAKER is sharp looking and highly detailed. Colors reproduce flawlessly, with an almost florescent-like saturation and no problems with chroma noise. At times, contrast ran a touch hot, but the DVD was up to the challenge. There are no problems with digital compression artifacts on this DVD.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has an energetic mix that tends to favor the movie’s musical component. Dialogue is clearly reproduced and there are a number of effects that take advantage of the discrete nature of the Dolby Digital format. An English Dolby Surround soundtrack, plus English subtitles have encoded onto the DVD.

The standard interactive menus have an eye-catching design, plus provide the standard scene and set-up features, as well as allowing access to the DVD's extras. Top on the list of supplements is an audio commentary with writer/director Darren Stein. The commentary is worth a listen just to hear Stein describe things that the audience might not have gotten from JAWBREAKER on the first viewing. Other supplements include theatrical trailers, production notes and cast biographies/filmographies.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 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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