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Image Entertainment presents
Palo Alto (2008)

“Well, the little woman went psycho and hid the remote control, so I thought I’d take Old Yeller out for a cruise.”
- Morgan (Tom Arnold)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: March 09, 2009

Stars: Aaron Ashmore, Johnny Lewis, Justin Mentell, Autumn Reeser, Ben Savage
Other Stars: Ryan Hansen, Connor Ross, Eve Brent, Shoshana Bush, Rosalie Ward, Tom Arnold
Director: Brad Leong

MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, sexual content, nudity, drug, and alcohol use, all involving teens
Run Time: 01h:34m:49s
Release Date: February 17, 2009
UPC: 014381523126
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- BBB- D-

DVD Review

If you’ve seen one college frat guy party movie, you’ve seen them all, right? Well, maybe not, at least not if 2007’s Palo Alto has anything to say about it. Writer/Director Brad Leong’s debut film is more Can’t Hardly Wait crossed with Superbad than junk like the Van Wilder movies. Unfortunately, big studios these days aren’t interested in well-written character pieces that feature very little in terms of potty humor and overblown nudity, so Palo Alto never got a chance to make it big with a wide theatrical release.

On the last night of Thanksgiving break, four high school friends enjoy one more crazy time before heading back to their freshman year of college. They go their separate ways after being chased by security guards, but their nights are far from over. Patrick (Ben Savage) seems to have his life totally planned out, but when he goes to see his girlfriend, everything is suddenly thrown out of whack. Nolan (Johnny Lewis) keeps running into his old bus driver, Morgan (Tom Arnold), who insists he approach a pretty girl named Jaime (Autumn Reeser). Alec (Aaron Ashmore) comes across an old member of his new college fraternity, Anthony (Ryan Hansen), while Ryan (Justin Mentell) pays a visit to his resident hook-up, Audrey (Shoshana Bush). When Audrey realizes that Ryan is only after one thing, she leaves in hurry, causing him to question the direction he’s going with her.

This is a far more mature, nuanced film than the typical scatological and exploitative fare that we’re used to seeing these days. Leong has crafted this group of characters as intelligent and dealing with realistic problems that any type of audience can relate to. Palo Alto is only concerned with telling an involving tale that is bittersweet at times, but always has its huge heart in the right place.
The cast is full of young adult actors, many of whom have made a name for themselves on TV, and one of whom is among the potential victims in the terrible new Friday the 13th remake. The four main actors work very well together, especially during the opening sequence. From there, they’re flawless as they branch off into each of the four main characters’ storylines, maintaining the charisma and professionalism they showed with each other. Even the often iffy Tom Arnold does a fine job in his two scenes, adding the perfect amount of adult advice to the proceedings.

Granted, there are better young dramas than this, but it excels in that the lives of these characters will stay with you for at least a few days. This is a great start for writer/director Leong, and he’ll hopefully use it as a springboard to bigger and better things. The bigger hope lies in him staying true to his art and refraining from “selling out” to the aforementioned young actor ensemble junk that we see far too often. I’m confident that he’ll have none of that.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation features plenty of sharp, detailed images, with softness never a problem. The colors are bright and vivid, while blacks and shadow levels are well-handled throughout. There’s very little dirt and grain, and other blemishes are nonexistent.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is rather subdued, with the emo rock-heavy soundtrack staying mostly up front. The dialogue is crystal clear, blending in nicely with the overall mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Diary, My Name Is Bruce, Keith
Packaging: Thinpak
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only extras on this screener copy are previews for other Image Entertainment releases and the trailer.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Writer/director Brad Leong’s first movie, Palo Alto is a nice, breezy effort that is well worth a look after being stuck in release limbo for a while. It’s now available from Image Entertainment, so it can finally garner the audience that it deserves.


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