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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Breaking Away (1979)

"I thought that was the whole plan... that we were gonna waste the rest of our lives together."
- Cyril (Daniel Stern)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: January 10, 2002

Stars: Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern
Other Stars: Jackie Earle Haley, Paul Dooley, Barbara Barrie
Director: Peter Yates

MPAA Rating: PG for (some language)
Run Time: 01h:40m:49s
Release Date: January 29, 2002
UPC: 024543029083
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A-B-B+ D

DVD Review

Breaking Away introduces us to four teenagers on the verge of becoming adults, young "cutters" living in a college town where the students treat the locals as second-class citizens. Dave (Dennis Christopher) is obsessed with bicycle racing, and his deep adoration of the Italian approach to the sport colors his speech, his personality and his musical tastes. Mike (Dennis Quaid) is stuck in adolescent rebellion, spoiling for a fight; Cyril (Daniel Stern) is intelligent but aimless; and Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley) finds himself about to get married before he knows what it really means. But Dave's story dominates the picture—it's the story of his personal growth, his relationship with his parents (Barbara Barrie and Paul Dooley), and the way his drive brings his friends a step closer to adulthood.

Steve Tesich's screenplay won the Academy Award ® in 1979, and the writing still holds up twenty years later. Tesich's dialogue is credible and naturalistic (although perhaps the characters swear less than they might in real life) and still leaves room for some very funny lines, most of which are delivered with classic Second City timing by Paul Dooley as Dave's loving but bewildered father. Moreover, Tesich's script is most definitely written for the screen and realized with flair by director Peter Yates—there are some great visual moments that speak volumes about the characters and their relationships with minimal spoken dialogue. We don't need extensive dialogue between Moocher and his young girlfriend Nancy (Amy Wright) to see their na ï vete; their silent times together are charged with half-understood emotion, and their lines leave the subtext unsaid but clear. Mike's incoherent anger at the world is clear, though he never voices his frustration in a way he can understand himself, and Cyril's off-handed remarks don't completely mask his insecurities. Dave has the most dialogue, but also the most freedom within the film's structure—long shots of him riding his bicycle through the countryside, or down the freeway in the slipstream of a semi truck, communicate his joys and defeats without so much as another actor to support him.

Everyone in the cast is in top form here—Dennis Christopher displays sensitivity and dedication in his most memorable performance to date, and Dennis Quaid impresses in an early role. Barbara Barrie and Paul Dooley lend humor to the proceedings without ever becoming caricatures—Dave's parents are befuddled sometimes, but they radiate genuine, recognizably human love and concern for their son. The location shooting in Bloomington, Indiana also enhances the film's atmosphere—there's a geographical coherence to the environment that most Hollywood movies lack.

Tesich and Yates even manage to put an old movie cliché to satisfying work for the finale—the climactic bicycle race between a team of arrogant fraternity brothers and our local boys is never quite predictable, never a foregone conclusion. This is true partly because we know these boys extremely well by the time the third act gets underway—the stakes are not simply the race, or whatever vaguely imagined rewards a victory might bring, but the self-esteem and very futures of Dave, Mike, Cyril and Moocher. By bringing us so completely into the world of these young men, Breaking Away gives us an emotional stake in the contest—winning means nothing and everything all at once. It's a crowd-pleasing conclusion that comes by its uplifting nature honestly, and communicates a coming-of-age theme without involving sexuality—a rare and honorable accomplishment.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: Fox presents Breaking Away in its original 1.85:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio, as well as in a 1.33:1 pan-and-scan transfer (kudos to Fox for actually calling it "Pan & Scan" on the keepcase, as opposed to the misleading "Full Screen" designation used by other studios.) Both transfers are drawn from a good-quality source print, though there are quite a few small damage flecks and color seems a bit faded. The film's soft-focus look is nicely captured by the DVD, with accurate rendering of subtle detail, though significant grain in a few darker shots leads to some compression noise and smeariness. The pan-and-scan transfer appears to be an open-matte rendition, slightly zoomed in—characters are occasionally cropped at the edge of the screen, and the composition looks a lot better in the widescreen version.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Breaking Away arrives on DVD with its original English monaural soundtrack, as well as a new Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Surround track and a French mono dub. All of the soundtracks sound very good on DVD; dialogue occasionally sounds a bit "dated" but remains clear, and a solid frequency spectrum enhances music and sound effects (though there isn't much LFE-level activity). The 2.0 mix adds some nice atmospheric separation and surround effects, modernizing the film's presentation while respecting the original source; the French dub is a poor fit in many scenes, though the lack of French-language subtitles may make it a necessity for some viewers. A solid presentation of this 1979 production.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Baby's Day Out, My Bodyguard, Rookie of the Year, The Sandlot
2 TV Spots/Teasers
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Breaking Away is light on extras: picture-menu chapter stops, optional English and Spanish subtitles, and a number of trailers.

The film's 3-minute Theatrical Trailer is presented in 1.33:1 open-matte format, with Dolby 2.0 monaural audio, drawn from a faded, somewhat dirty source print. The disc also includes 2 30-second TV Spots, taken from aging videotape masters; the second spot was apparently used to promote a re-release of the film in conjunction with the Academy Awards ® .

The disc also features Fox Flix trailers for a number of companion "Family Feature" releases from Fox: Baby's Day Out, My Bodyguard, Rookie of the Year, and The Sandlot. All are nicely presented in anamorphic widescreen format with Dolby Digital 2.0 monaural or stereo surround audio.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Breaking Away remains a fine example of the coming-of-age genre as well as a stirring sports movie—the characters are well-defined and credible, which makes the climactic bicycle race a genuinely emotional event. Fox's DVD features a solid transfer given the film's 1979 vintage, though extras are limited. Recommended.


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