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Joe Somebody

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rating: PG (Language, Thematic Elements and Some Mild Violence)

Running Time: 108 minutes

Starring: Tim Allen, Julie Bowen, Kelly Lynch, Greg Germann, Hayden Panettiere and Jim Belushi

Written by: John Scott Shepherd

Directed by: John Pasquin

 

Studio: Fox

Retail Price: $26.98

Features: Audio Commentary with Director John Pasquin and Producer Brian Reilly, Four Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary, Fight Choreography Featurette, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (28 Scenes)

Released: August 20th, 2002

 

 

After "The Santa Clause 2" was delayed due to production issues and script problems at Disney (it's now on track for this November 2002 instead of November 2001), Tim Allen and the director of the original smash 1994 holiday hit, John Pasquin (who also directed Allen in 1997's "Jungle 2 Jungle" and on his smash sitcom, "Home Improvement"), looked for another project they could do together in the meantime, and obviously, for the 2001 holiday season (on another note, I don't think Pasquin is directing the sequel to the "Santa Clause"). The result was "Joe Somebody." Despite lacking the lovable Disney brand that brings joy to billions of people in our blazing world, there was no real holiday back story or special effects to bring people in for this one (it wasn't about Sandy Claws), except "funny" television spots, a "hilarious" trailer and the tagline "THE CHRISTMAS COMEDY FOR EVERYBODY!" (clever stuff from the fine marketing folks at 20th Century Fox).

Perhaps Fox learned that just because a movie reteams a successful duo again, it uh, doesn't mean a success (hint: the returning duo DIDN'T do a franchise picture which people pay money for). "Joe Somebody" was THE bomb of the 2001 Christmas season, getting your critical punchlines from comics and writers, receiving terrible reviews and not-so-hot box office business. I suppose the family movie market has changed: if it doesn't have major special effects or some interesting premise, or isn't computer animated for that matter, people won't come due to some blandness or something special that is left out in marketing the movie, so the audience isn't hit with something that makes them want to go out and see the film. "Joe Somebody" was built as the funny, warm and good hearted film for December 2001 that the whole family could see, enjoy and reflect on.

I actually came pretty damn close to seeing "Joe Somebody" in theaters, but thanks to my adept tiredness, I missed going opening night (and yes, I read those reviews beforehand!) and then couldn't bring myself to see it and plunk down six dollars (matinees people!). So after quite a few months, it arrives for me to see on DVD (rhyme not intended and I was surprised that this didn't see a fall release on video to tie-in for the holiday movie market and have people buy it, but I suppose it'll get another push then). I'm all for Tim Allen, Julie Bowen (from the excellent TV show "Ed" - we need that on DVD) and fun brad comedy that is either downright immature or previously overused all wrapped in themes of family, so how bad could it be? Here's what I thought...

The plot of the film revolves around Joe Scheffer (Tim Allen), a ten year veteran of a chemical company working as some video editor of sorts (but they give it a fancy, credible name in the movie which not many seem to care about). Having recently gone through a divorce and not getting that dream promotion from the company, Joe seems pretty mild-mannered and content, if not a little displeased with his life. He's an all around nice guy, basically not getting the credit that he probably deserves. A top worker of sorts by the name of Meg (Julie Bowen) actually takes notice of him at the begining of the movie, and start to hit it off, despite Joe's introverted ways. is attracted to that it seems and Joe's hardworking and family man ways. Yet her job and attitude, trying to help Joe and make him discover his usefulness, as well as Joe's stumbling block, brings them closer together.

On "Take Your Daughter To Work Day," Joe brings his daughter Natalie (Hayden Panettiere) to the office. The parking lot he's in, filled with ten year plus verterans is naturally full. Someone, of course, takes a spot where they shouldn't and Joe, a company veteran of ten years, can't get a spot. He ends up getting into a little scuffle with Mark McKinney (Patrick Warburton), who ends up hitting Joe. Feeling humiliated in front of his daughter and co-workers because of his weak ability as a man and a father, Joe sinks into some depression. After Meg convinces him to head back to work, a company honcho named Jeremy (Greg Germann) begins to exploit Joe so that he doesn't file a lawsuit. Soon, everyone at work likes Joe, is interested in him and he's given the respect he's always wanted. However, as his confidence builds, a rematch looms closer and closer with Mark. Joe invests help with a former B-movie action star (Jim Belushi) but soon realizes his confidence shouldn't stem from some fight, but rather, with those he loves and himself.

George S. Clinton's snappy score is really winning and fits perfectly with the movie. Scene by scene, his composistions reflect the tone of the characters and work very nicely, and are even a bit catchy. Some may argue it's a standard musical score written to fit in with that "happy but uplifting and warm" attitude the film offers, but I really did enjoy it immensly (even if some of it reminded me of the work of another film composer, Thomas Newman and some if it sounds like corporate, elevator muzak).

The acting in the movie is really superb. Tim Allen is excellent here. Despite the fun moments he shows off perfectly with his brilliant comedic timing, there is a sense of insecurity to his character and a sense of sadness, which he shows off incredibly well. We all know Tim Allen is a funny comedic actor, but I would love to see him take more serious roles. The serious scenes featured in Joe Somebody he handles with ease and strength; tackling heartfelt speeches and a nice state of mind. We can see the evolution in Joe take place thanks to Allen: someone who is nice, then hurt, then egotistical sorta, then fearful and finally accepting of it all. I really think Allen shines in the film.

It does help that Allen is surrounded by a great supporting cast too. Kelly Lynch is particuarly good as his ex-wife, Patrick Warburton makes a fine bully and Jim Belushi brings his natural likability and comedic skills to his role as a down and out action star who now teaches karate. Greg Germann is one fine manipulator, while child actor Hayden Panettiere is excellent, real and just plain good as Joe's daughter Natalie (I think she'll be one to watch in coming years). I think Julie Bowen (from TV's "Ed," yay) also steals some of the show as one of Joe's main supporters, Meg. Bowen has a strong screen presence, good delivery and is just really natural. She plays well off against Germann and Allen, sharing a fine chemistry with him. I hope Bowen pursues more film work and that the film's low box office take doesn't discourage her.

John Scott Shepherd's screenplay works, as he creates pretty realistic characters and lends insight into the fears and darkness of what people want out of life. While the film isn't overally funny, it is entertaining and I think we can all relate to one or several of the characters in here with sympathy, empathy and their instincts. What's good is that he adds in plot points that seem like filler, but aren't major hammered with (and rightfully so) and end up really working nicely. The problems that Panettiere's character and Belushi's character face, among others, are underplayed but lead to a fine resolution in an ending that is simple but quite satisfying. John Pasquin also paces the movie quite well, never overdoing it, which is a good thing indeed. I think what makes the film work so much is that it's simple. Yes people, simplicity can make a movie better!

Despite it all, what I found attracting to "Joe Somebody" is its themes. No matter how you break this movie down, there is no denying that what it says about life and dealing with other people, among other things, are quite true. Joe Scheffer is a character we probably all know too well: somebody who is a decent, honest and hardworking guy who was never appreciated by his co-workers (or his ex-wife for that matter) the way he was supposed to. And despite his daughter admiring and loving him, as well as being appreciated for all the right reasons by Meg.Through this, and despite all the circumstances, Joe, that "nobody" is actually "somebody." Joe learns that he shouldn't be intimidated by the dangerous sharks in the water of life, and that despite how some people treat him, he learns that he is actually someone who is well off and worth caring about.

"Joe Somebody" isn't laugh out loud hilarious (unless you love people getting hit in the balls over and over), but I think this film is pretty underrated as is. I found it overally likable with strong characters and very strong in the moral department. This film has a certain sweetness to it which cannot be denied, and I think for those who do check out it on video will be seduced by its charms, its warmth and realize the film leaves you quite content.

 

I guess since families didn't bother to see this movie in the theaters, families can now check it out on DVD. Fox, who usually aims to please and has quite a good track record with that, presents "Joe Somebody" on DVD in both 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full screen formats (since families who ignored this movie sure love full screen madness!). As you'd expect for a recent movie from Fox, this one looks outstanding. There's an overall vibrant, colorful look to the movie that pops right out at you in all of its three dimensional glory. It's impressive stuff that gives an earthy, solid tone to the movie, but it's now without its flaws.

Despite the 1.33:1 full screen version featuring your usual, annoying cropping which isn't quite flattering, each transfer of the movie features way too much shimmering and noise, which I found to get in the way often. It's there on the big things and it's there on the little things. It does become distracting and an annoyance. Halo edges pop up sporadically too (if you read my reviews often, you know I'm not a big fan of those). Little things come around now and again too, which aren't too much of a big deal: pieces of dirt, nicks, blemishes, scratches and little marks on the print, plus some grain.

Still, the good truly outbalances the bad. There's no edge enhancment to be found, while fleshtones are dead on, black levels are solid, detail is impeccable and color saturation is bold, fitting and pure. The transfers really look rather sharp and have strong looks to them, which will surely please those watching. Despite the little things, both transfers are visually pleasing and attractive.

 

The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track for "Joe Somebody" is surprisingly strong and quite solid. Dynamic range is excellent, and there are some really cool directional effects throughout the movie. Surrounds are solid too, such as the squash room scene, crowds chantings all around and the karaoke scene. The music it, be it Backstreet Boys or Devo, sounds really nice throughout the channels too and are creatively stationed complete with a booming .1 LFE backing it up. George S. Clinton's score also sounds quite nice too, giving off the appropriate backdrop. Very nice mixing overall. Also included are Dolby Surround tracks in French and Spanish, plus English closed captions and English subtitles.

 

It's not packed, but I suppose this movie gets more than it may deserve in the supplements department. First up is an Audio Commentary with Director John Pasquin and Producer Brian Reilly. One minute into this commentary and I was actually pretty offended (good thing Fox puts a disclaimer before the menus appear!). The third company logo is for the Kopelson production company, and it represents New York City. It is noted on this commentary that after the tragic events of 9/11, the Twin Towers from the logo were removed. And then a few seconds of hearty laugher starts. That annoyed me. I thought it was a nice consideration to remove them from the logo after the events, not to mention other movies doing their part in what they felt was right in a matter of pleasing their audiences. I don't know about the rest of you, but I really don't think there's anything laugh out loud funny or even amusing about removing the Twin Towers. It seems to me that the laughter suggests that they are mocking an event that touched millions of lives where thousands of innocent souls were lost. This disturbed me a little, and made me a bit uneasy. What a great way to start a commentary (that is intentional sarcasm).

Other than that moment, the commentary is fine for what it is. It's a bit dry, as the two share production information, changes that needed to be made and budget constraints. I personally loved how Pasquin tells Reilly that Reilly doesn't need to tell the viewer what's happening on screen (good, too many commentaries are guilty of doing that). They offer nice praise for the cast and crew, share some laughs and talk about characters and themes. It can be a little dull at times, and Pasquin seems to dominate this track mostly, but offer decent production info and thoughts that the viewer could probably imply. Still, if you want to know about the Minneapolis locations and how some stuff was figured out in the film, this is your track.

Some people considered the movie complete crap, and hey, now they can watch something that's most likely worse: stuff cut from the movie (though I don't think those who despised this flick with a passion are rushing out to buy it). There are four Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary from Director John Pasquin. All these scenes are incredibly short and don't add up to much, and they are rightfully cut from the movie. The commentary from Pasquin fits well, as he gives some nice comments about why he felt they needed to be axed. Still, I wondered why there weren't more scenes. The commentary makes references to a lot of deleted stuff or extensions that were chopped off. For whatever reason, they're not found here.

A Fight Choreography featurette lasting around five minutes is included as well, which entitled "Scarett's Method." The film's fight coordinator, Damon Caro, producer Brian Reilly, Jim Belushi and Tim Allen himself are interviewed. A mix of things are covered in the featurette as Caro and Belushi talk about the film's themes, while Allen and Reilly comment on the fighting. A little bit on the choreography is here too, as we see training footage of Caro, behind the scenes clips and clips from the actual film. It's quite uneven and seems to lack focus, but it's not too long and merits a watch if you enjoyed the film.

Finally, the Theatrical Trailer is presented in full frame and two channel sound, advertising itself as the usual warm-hearted, fun family film. Interestingly enough, a little after a minute and thirty seconds into the trailer, where Jim Belushi kicks Tim Allen in the nuts, you can see a poster in the background that's blurred out. Didn't have the rights to show the poster? An offensive image, maybe? Who knows. But it did catch my eye.

Oh yeah... look at that box cover. Is that a box cover or what? Julie Bowen pasted on to Tim Allen in an uneven manner (the power of Photoshop and the human eye never fails to amaze me), looking so lovey-dovey in a weird, seducing sorta manner all with a touch of "la damsel in distress." Of course, Hayden Panettiere is also there behind that tough, buff and INCREDIBLY strong Tim Allen (he could be the next action hero with a shopping bag-like briefcase, business suit and boxing glove) not knowing what's going on, like some preteenager with chipmunk-like qualities all while being high on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. Nice!

 

"Joe Somebody" is an overaly warm, pleasing comedy with a nice emphasis on themes. This is a nice DVD edition with strong transfers, a very nice 5.1 mix and some decent extras. While this film tanked at the box office, it's really not that bad and will surely please those who check it out on DVD and video. If you're a fan of the movie, it's worth picking up. Hopefully an audience will be gained from this surprisingly good flick.