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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Swimfan (2002)

"Madison, I think you're misunderstanding our relationship in a very fundamental way."
- Ben Cronin (Jesse Bradford)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: May 12, 2003

Stars: Erika Christensen, Jesse Bradford, Shiri Appleby
Other Stars: Kate Burton, Clayne Crawford, Dan Hedaya, Kia Goodwin, Jason Ritter, James DeBello
Director: John Polson

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual content, disturbing images and language
Run Time: 01h:24m:51s
Release Date: March 11, 2003
UPC: 024543069027
Genre: suspense thriller


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B C+B+B- B-

DVD Review

Swimfan is nothing more than a teenage version of the 1987 marital infidelity flick Fatal Attraction, a fact that director John Polson readily admits during the featurette found as a supplement on this disc. In Fatal Attraction, Michael Douglas was married to Anne Archer, and somehow he had the misfortune to crank out a one-night stand with freaky Glenn Close, who proceeded to go absolutely nutso on him when she was summarily rejected. By setting and retelling the story in high school, Polson makes the psychotic obsessiveness of his wacko female lead seem almost all the more palatable, and well, almost natural. High school is a very weird world, after all.

Bring It On's likeable Jesse Bradford takes on the Michael Douglas role as swimming star Ben Cronin, a guy who has turned around a troubled teen life and is now the odds-on favorite to earn a coveted college scholarship to Stanford. Ben has a faithful girlfriend named Amy (Shiri Appleby), and everything seems to be going his way until the sudden arrival of foxy-hot new student Madison Belle (Erika Christensen). There are some immediate sparks of loin-stirring chemistry between Ben and Madison, which are eventually consummated in a late-night dip in the school pool. When a guilt-ridden Ben attempts to distance himself from Madison, he unknowingly cracks open a beehive of raging, vengeful nuttiness.

The characters are broad in a simple story like this, and the lines that separate them well-defined. In direct contrast to Amy's girl-next-door looks, Madison is a chubby-cheeked southern belle, oozing equal parts innocence and sexuality; she's the aggressor, the one who seduces Ben and subsequently turns on a case of the predictable cornball movie craziness. Yet unlike Fatal Attraction, where we had to suspend disbelief that Michael Douglas would cheat on the beautiful Anne Archer for the likes of Glenn Close, the natural horniness of high school seems like the perfect setting for a story like this. Having a hunky athlete torn between two attractive girls seems believable, even if the silly antics of Madison, as she obsessively ingratiates herself into Ben's life, are a bit of a stretch.

If the storyline seems like a tired old warhorse, Polson has smoothed that speedbump by having decorated his version with an abundance of trendy, stylish glitz and visual gimmickry. With Swimfan, Polson has taken a familiar story and wrapped it in a pretty package that makes the whole thing easy to swallow. The entire film is washed in a sea of blue and green filters, giving many of the sequences that noticeably chilled veneer that ultimately make things look more edgy and dramatic than they really are. The pool scenes, where the water is literally glowing as if lit by blacklights, looks more like a hip nightclub than a high school. To further give the film a distinct look, Polson also extensively uses some stuttery jump cuts to periodically reinforce Madison's progressively twisted take on the world.

I suppose there are legions of young movie-goers who never saw or even heard of Fatal Attraction, so for them the premise of Swimfan is all fresh and squeaky clean. For the rest of us, a film like this is admittedly dumb stuff, but somehow still very enjoyable, in a completely guilty pleasure kind of way. This is one of those films that once the predictable climax plays out, you're left with a vague "what was the point of this movie?" vibe in the pit of your stomach. There aren't any real dramatic surprises here, yet Polson and his good-looking cast make the story watchable, and the film barreled along so quickly that it was over before I realized I actually sort of liked it.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: Fox has outfitted this release as a two-sided, single-layer disc, with one side containing a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with a 1.33:1 fullscreen version on the flip. Colors look extremely well-saturated, though director John Polson has seen fit to layer the film in a number of dramatic filters that submerge the proceedings in dominating tints of green or blue. The pool sequences ripple with an otherworldly blue glow, and though they look stunning, the entire concept seems a bit ridiculous, especially during the big meet. Flesh tones fall victim to filter usage, too, and tend to give the actors an unnatural tint; black levels, however, are solid throughout. Transfer and compression flaws are minimal, and aside from a few isolated bits of ringing and shimmer, Swimfan looks darn good.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is all front-end form, and very little rear channel substance, which in a mindless flick like this is all the more noticeable. The left, center and right manage to reproduce the dialogue cleanly, complete with a strong sense of directional imaging, as well as a prominent thumping bass track that is well represented for occasional dramatic effect. All that is well and good, but I strongly feel that Swimfan could have benefited from a more pronounced rear channel mix to match the film's general quick-cut vibe.

French and Spanish 2.0 surround tracks are also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring 28 Days Later
10 Deleted Scenes
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by John Polson, Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Swimfan is one of those no-brainer, guilty-pleasure flicks, and Fox has adorned this release with enough semi-hollow, but equally enjoyable, extras to apparently give you something else to do to make up for the quick 85 minute runtime of the feature.

The full-length, scene-specific commentary from director John Polson, along with cast members Jesse Bradford and Erika Christensen, is lightweight, but equally well-structured stuff. Aussie Polson chats up his film with a surprising amount of seriousness, while Bradford and Christensen toss in various comments about the acting side of things to fill in the dead spots. No revelations are found here that will spin the world off its axis, but like the film itself, the track is a breeze to listen to. Some of the background insight on how the final film was assembled and cut, such as during the break-in/cello recital sequence, is a neat tutorial that reinforces how critical the job of the editor really is.

Next up is a set of 10 Deleted and Extended Scenes (12m:17s), available with an optional commentary from Polson. Presented in rough-cut nonanamorphic widescreen, each of the scenes themselves are fairly short, and none are particularly pivotal to the storyline. Polson's comments shed some light on why the scenes were trimmed down, and from a viewer standpoint the edits all seem completely within reason. The best of the bunch, and one that reveals a wicked sense of humor that the rest of film sorely lacked, is a scene called Dead Dog that Polson originally had wanted to include as more of an outright homage to Fatal Attraction.

The full-screen side of the disc contains a fluffy featurette entitled The Girlfriend From Hell (10m:22s), and this is your typical lightweight mix of cast interviews and clips, here festooned with some really hideous watery-blue graphics. In between talking head soundbites from Bradford, Appleby, and Christensen, director Polson actually admits that Swimfan is meant to be "Fatal Attraction in a high school." Also found here is a trailer for the creepy-looking 28 Days Later, but ironically no trailer for the feature. Hmmm.

The disc is cut into 20 chapters, and includes subtitles in English and Spanish.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Swimfan is an example of slick filmmaking that is visually appealing, but thematically very empty: all hip-bulging calories, and no nutritional value whatsoever. It is dumb, cinematic escapist crack. It is a fun film, the kind you don't want to admit you enjoyed, despite its complete lack of genuine suspense or surprises.

I admit it: guilty pleasure. Rent it.

 


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