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Paramount Studios presents
Searching For Bobby Fischer (1993)

Josh's mom: "He's not afraid of losing. He's afraid of losing your love. How many ball players grow up afraid of losing their fathers' love every time they come up to the plate?"
Josh's Dad: "All of them!"
Josh's mom: "He knows you disapprove of him. He knows you think he's weak. But he's not weak. He's decent. And if you or Bruce or anyone else tries to beat that out of him, I swear to God I'll take him away."



Review By: Robert Mandel   
Published: July 17, 2000

Stars: Max Pomeranc, Joe Mantegna, Joan Allen
Other Stars: Laurence Fishburne, Ben Kingsley,
Director: Steve Zaillian

Manufacturer: PDSC
MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 01h:49m:53s
Release Date: July 11, 2000
UPC: 097363267379
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- AAB+ D

DVD Review

Some movies grab you and never let you go. Some movies tell you a story that seems too incredible to be true. Some stories teach you something you carry with you all your life. Searching For Bobby Fischer successfully does all three—and a lot more.

As a parent and a girl's basketball coach, it is sometimes difficult to keep your enthusiasm, your love for the game, your knowledge that to be successful one has to push oneself two steps further when you don't think you can move a single step more, and balance all that baggage while still allowing the children to slowly learn a complex game, have fun, and most of all—just be kids.

While this is perhaps the greatest story about chess ever put to film, the chess here flashes by quickly, instead taking time to reveal at its very core an investigation of the human spirit, the human will. Searching For Bobby Fischer is not just the amazing true story of the 7-year-old prodigy, Josh Waitzkin, who comes upon an interest in chess watching the betting, speed freak players in Washington Park, NYC, but the story of how his father (Joe Mantegna) at first fails to believe his son can even play, then pushes him too hard, and finally, because his mother (Joan Allen) is able see past the genius to the child, has an epiphany along the way. Everything in moderation.

Still, Josh is one of those special people, one with a vision beyond his years, and a heart big enough to offset much of the evil in the world. His desire to win never exceeds his purely human goodwill; Josh Waitzkin proves what separates Man from the beasts.

In the background, used as a compare and contrast plot device, the story of Bobby Fischer slowly unveils itself in its larger-than-life totality. Fischer, the child prodigy who learned chess at 7 after his sister gave him a bunch of board games to keep him busy while she was away, went on to beat the Russian Boris Spassky to become the youngest World Chess Champion before or since, rising to the level of National Treasure and a cultural icon of the Cold War. Refusing to defend his title, he was stripped of it, going into hiding (as with Elvis and voting in Chicago, phantom sightings came early and often), until he reappeared just long enough to beat Spassky again in 1993. The reclusive genius may have captured the world's attention, but the acerbic Fischer is not half the man that Waitzkin was as a boy.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: This is a beautiful transfer by Paramount; one of the best I've seen of a catalog release this year. The anamorphic widescreen picture is very sharp without the aid of edge enhancement; the crackled skin on a chess player's hand in the park is so clear it's almost 3-D. Colors are rich and deep, all seem natural including fleshtones. The source is very clean, with few nicks and little noticeable dirt. There are a few minor instances of graininess, but these seldom flaws detract little from an overall spectacular transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Although the DD5.1 track begins so softly I had to crank up the volume to hear, it soon after settles down and is nicely even. You might be surprised how a character, dialogue-driven title like this can benefit from a 5.1 mix, but besides allowing James Horner's very nice score to envelope the room, there is also nice imaging during stormy weather sequences, as well as other various atmospherics. The only complaint I had here is that the bass is occasionally on the echo-ey side. Not too much of a complaint. The English DS2.0 track works well, but not as well; it lacks the clarity of the 5.1's imaging. A French DS2.0 track is included as well.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: Well, if there is a disappointment to be had, it is with the lack of supplements. Darn, because a Zaillian (writer/director) commentary would have been nice, or perhaps a documentary on the subject would have been great. Even the menu is an afterthougt; a throwaway. They didn't even bother including a trailer. Sigh. I asked Paramount whether a special edition might come in the future (perhaps, pretty please, with a Josh Waitzkin commentary—wouldn't that be cool?!), but, alas, they don't see it happening on such a "small" title. Too bad. Despite that the FRE (French) language symbol appears on the onscreen subtitle display, with the exception of the ending quotes, there appears to be none on the disc. The one plus here, the English subtitles, which ARE on the disc, are in a bright, very readable yellow.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

Searching For Bobby Fischer is chock-full of excellent performances, from Joe Mantegna, Laurence Fishburne, Joan Allen, Ben Kingsley and the wonderful portrayal of Waitzkin by Max Pomeranc, who had a short career that seems to end at 1995 (according to IMDb).

As I like to say "the proof is in the pudding", and the pudding here is my stepdaughter and active reviewer Alexandra. After watching Searching For Bobby Fischer for a minimum 8th time (we've lost count, but it's at least a once a year ritual), I can positively say we are still not bored with it. When Alex was Josh Waitzkin's age in this movie (7), I could take her down in as few as 6 chess moves—sometimes 10, sometimes one hundred. She never gave up. Alex joined the school chess club, and one day we played—and though I was distracted watching a DVD in between moves—she kicked my butt, and rather handily. Egotistical I try not to be (my friends can stop laughing ANY time now), but I turned off the TV and buckled down. She beat me again. SFBF inspired her to learn chess, but it helped teach me how to keep winning in perspective.

A GREAT family movie with depth, substance, and heroes without weaponary. Highly recommended.

 


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