New on DVD and Blu-Ray: ‘Catfish’ and ‘Dinner for Schmucks


Once again, I must profess my natural disdain for documentaries. As much as I may respect the art form and the rhetoric, I often find myself completely unmoved both emotionally and rhetorically. However, such was the case with Exit Through the Gift Shop, Catfish proved to be more than the average documentary. While Exit Through the Gift Shop introduced me to the world of street art, a fascinating, exciting, and beautiful world that gives hope to art as a medium, Catfish introduced me to the distorted reality created by technology. To me this film rings true of one phrase: false hope.

Catfish is some sort of twisted genius of a film. But is it really genius if it is real? I don’t know. It tells the story of a man who pursues his an online relationship only to discover that the person he is pursuing is a fabrication. I won’t go any further than that. If that prospect doesn’t peek your interest, the film probably won’t. But it got mine. What makes the film work for me is that it tells a story that is simultaneously one man’s journey to find the woman that so captured his attention and a warning to the twisted nature of humanity as distorted by technology. In both cases it is an instance of false hope. With the woman, it was the hope of meeting the person who has so engrossed his mind (and art) but the woman is not real. Technology is supposed to be our savior, an item designed to make our lives easier, but instead is making them considerably more challenging. Both the love story and the the concept of Facebook in the film fail on the same level. I said earlier this week, while describing The Social Network, that technology is dehumanizing. Well if this film is real, which it very well may be, here is the ultimate depiction. Through the modern-day form of supposed communication, a man can fall in love with a woman who doesn’t even exist.

Well Catfish is now on DVD. I highly recommend it. Much like I’m Still Here, the validity of the film can be questioned and I’m not sure how much repeat value a film of this nature can have. But for an initial viewing, it will give you something to think about. The DVD offers one interview with the filmmakers that is very intriguing, but ultimately doesn’t touch as firmly on the reality of the film as one may have desired. But considering the nature of the film, we are lucky to get even one feature.

Dinner for Schmucks

Ok, so maybe I should not have had high expectations for this, but I did. I have always liked Steve Carrell. He is an actor who knows how to time his comedy while also being awkward without being obnoxious. I also have always liked Paul Rudd. He is very obviously the flip side. He knows how to play it straight (although his role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall proved that he is capable of going in other directions). The point is, I thought that this mainstream American adaptation of the french, The Dinner Game, would appropriately capture the mores that the previous film mocked. Instead, this film is a shit show of strange behavior that tries to wear its fake heart on its sleeve.

This version of the film tells the story of a white-collar worker who needs to find an awkward low-life to bring to a dinner held by his workplace where the upperclass laugh at the stupidity of the folk brought to the table. In the french version of the film, this was a clever setup to play with cultural norms, traditions, manners, and mock society. The American version simplifies this element to a simple Capra-esque moral in which Paul Rudd’s character becomes close friends with the individual he was mocking and he must learn to overcome the flaws of the system that he plays by in order to become a better person. The purpose of including such gradeschool morals as this in American comedies is incredibly belittling to the talent involved and limiting on the boundaries of the humor and intelligence of the films. Yet this is the irrefutable standard to modern comedy.

Much like Adam Sanlder’s Grown Ups, this film lacks anything beyond a simple comedic setup for gags and one-liners. Granted, this film still is a lot better in every conceivable way, it still is not particularly enjoyable. There are features here for your entertainment, but I found none of them to be particularly notable. Fans of the film are probably going to enjoy the gag reel the best, just because the fans of films like this are probably the same crowd who would go for something as rudimentary and mindlessly amusing as a gag reel. But like the film itself, this DVD is not for me.

On the Art of DVDs:

Catfish has some good things going for it. The original theatrical poster was very much focused on minimalism while playing true to the film’s tone and subject matter by creating a logo of sorts. The DVD loses that a little bit, at least the minimalist notion. I still like the new one, it keeps the logo look and it cleverly makes the images of the two leads (if you can call them that, starcrossed lovers?) and makes them look like computer profiles. I still ilke the original better.

Dinner for Schmucks has art to match the movie. Where something clever might have been done, the marketing team have resorted to being totally generic by creating a likely photoshopped image of the two leads groping each other in a maliciously unnatural way. Not that the DVD cover will likely matter to this film’s audience, and not that the change of color made it any better. Actually, it definately made it worse. I still like good cover. Is that too much to ask?

Other Ventures:

The rest of the DVDs are films that I have not seen but supposedly have potential. Machete is an adaptation of sorts of the Grindhouse double feature (a film I greatly admire). Howl indicates yet another fascinating turn for James Franco (who is now going to host the Oscars and then try his hand at directing). The Last Exorcism is supposed to be a pretty solid horror film. It looks to have blended the common realism of such horror films as The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity while not taking the documentary approach. Perhaps Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield is the best comparison. Either way, I’ve heard good things.

On the Blu-Ray end of things, perhaps in celebration of Machete, the El Mariachi films are available in hi-def. Other than that, the picks are pretty slim. In fact the closest thing that I can find to being worth mentioning is Rocky and Bullwinkle. Ouch.

FilmMisery Recommends:

Catfish is a thrilling expirience and fascinating study of society, while Schmucks falls flat. This week has some interesting DVDs but is short of Blu-Ray releases.

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  • Jose

    Rocky and Bullwinkle for me! Love the cartoons.

  • Andrew R.

    I’m really starting to shift to the “Catfish is fake” camp.

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