Comic Book The Movie
review by Zach B.
In this mock documentary on comic book fandom, Donald Swan (Mark Hamill) is obsessed with comics - so much so that he has his own magazine about them and owns a store. Swan's favorite comic character is Commander Courage, and when he's hired by a film studio to make a documentary about the character, he's in for a lot more than he originally bargained for - especially when the reputation of a comic legacy is at stake.
Fun Fact: Mark Hamill has done a lot of voice acting work post-"Star Wars," and many of the actors in the film are well known voice-over artists.
Presented the way it was shot, in 1.33:1 full screen, "Comic Book The Movie" has a decent transfer. What's nice is that the film's videotaped look is kept - I gurantee that if this film was in theaters, Disney would have taken a filmed print of the movie for the transfer. Nonetheless, the more realistic and even intimate look of videotape helps immensly here. Colors are decently saturated, fleshtones look really well but sometimes things don't look pretty - especially the out of focus shots. The contrast is pretty high too, as there is a lot of noticeable noise and some edge halos. It's not spectacular, but given the nature of the material, it's perfectly fine.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is somewhat non-existant - this is one of the more straightforward, uninvolving 5.1 mixes I can remember from recent memory. There is a lot of talking in this movie, which should be expected and it sounds nice and clear. But the music, when played, doesn't really fill the channels and I barely noticed surrounds - probably when there should have been, because things do get a bit hectic at times in some scenes. I think a Dolby Surround track would have been fine and more acceptable for this. English closed captioning and subtitles are included.
For a direct-to-video release, this is a loaded two-disc set that goes in-depth into what the film is all about. On the first disc there is an Audio Commentary with Mark Hamill, Jess Harnell, Billy West, Roger Rose, Scott Zakarin and Eric Mittleman. The first name in that list you should know, the second two are cast members and the last three are producers. This is a very amusing track. Hamill plays the straight man approach and offers good production anecdotes, while the other five - especially Harnell and West - joke around quite a bit. Harnell and West, two very versatile voice actors, do some great impressions and make some really hilarious comments during the course of the commentary. The producers chime in with some fun comments of their own too. There is a bunch of wackiness on the track that perfectly plays into the film's tone, but there is some worthwhile stuff here too. Well done and worth a listen.
Cameos lists all those who made cameos in the movie with a picture and a blurb of who they are - chances are some of you won't be familiar with EVERYBODY on the list (though if you are, get a life... just joking). There's an Art Gallery with sketches, Cast and Crew Bios and the dreaded "Miramax Sneak Peeks."
The other main bonus on the first disc are thirteen Deleted Scenes that total about a half-hour. Text introductions come in front of the scenes and explain what they're about briefly, and while it's obvious some of the scenes just didn't belong and would have weighed the film down (some scenes are extenstions too), there are some pretty amusing moments here and there. If you liked the movie, you'll probably sit through these.
The second disc features the fifty-one minute Behind The Voices. Recorded at the San Diego Comic Con during August 2002, Hamill and most of the cast did a very lively panel discussion. There's a bit about the movie, but there's a focus on voice acting, the love of comics and a bit more (as well as a question and answer session). This is solid and incredibly entertaining piece to watch - it's unpredictable, and you better believe there are a lot of impersonations to go around. The crowd loves it, and you probably will too - it's nice to see these unrecognized talents get recognition and be so passionate about what they (love to) do. And in a nice touch, this segment is chapter encoded.
4 Color Frenzy is about seventeen minutes long and focuses on the making of the film - and it's a making-of done right. Crazy and by no means promotional, the producers, actors, Hamill and guests talk about the origins of the film. There's behind-the-scenes footage, concept art and lot of wackiness here. Very unorthodox and quite enjoyable.
The Commander Courage Radio Show, lasting about seven minutes, is yet another enjoyable supplement. Performed at the Comic Con for fans, four well-known voice-over talents perform a "recently unearthed radio script" from the Commander Courage character. Once again, this shows off the fine talents of the voice actors.
But wait - there's even MORE material. Complete interview sequences, which are a bit lengthy, can be found here: In-Depth With Kevin Smith, Don Swan's Bruce Campbell Interview and Hugh Hefner On Comics and Women. There are also five more Interview segments: Mark Evanier, Scott Shaw, Billy Mumy, Peter David and Paul Dini. This totals up to be a lot, and this is certainly watchable material that was deleted and trimmed down.
Finally, we have Stan Lee On Comics & Movies that lasts about nine minutes - Lee is quite enthusiastic here and shares some interesting thoughts here on how comics and movies are quite similars. There are also more Bios for those in "Behind The Voices" plus text info on the Comic-Con and the A.C.T.O.R. Comic Fund. Whew!
"Comic Book The Movie" is a fun spoof, and it's well-improvised (let alone it's nice to see the faces of some of these voice actors). While the DVD's presentation is decent, the extras help make this set a worthwhile purchase. Still, you may want to give it a rent first just to make sure you want to add it to your collection.
Retail Price: $`29.99
Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections (16 Scenes), Two-Disc Set
Released: January 27th, 2004
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Language, Sexual Content And Some Drug References)
Running Time: 107 minutes
Starring: Mark Hamill, Donna D'Errico, Billy West, Roger Rose, Jess Harnell, Tom Kenny, Lori Alan and Daran Norris
Directed by: Mark Hamill