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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

"I love you so much I want to smash your face in with a sledgehammer."
- Barry Egan (Adam Sandler)

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: June 23, 2003

Stars: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson
Other Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Luis Guzman, Hazel Mailloux
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: R for strong language, including a scene of sexual dialogue
Run Time: 01h:35m:04s
Release Date: June 24, 2003
UPC: 043396013339
Genre: romantic comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AA-A B

DVD Review

Adam Sandler has enjoyed a nearly unblemished string of popular hits while remaining an enigma to many movie critics. His regular-guy charisma is undeniable, but his films too often veer towards the lowest common denominator to gain easy laughs. The worst examples of this trend are The Waterboy and Little Nicky, which have Sandler using odd voices and idiotic behavior to supposedly entertain audiences. Cynics could easily dismiss him as a fool, but there are intriguing qualities in the actor that attract even more discerning viewers. Admittedly, Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore are stupid films, but I can't help smiling when thinking about them. When news arrived that Sandler was starring in Paul Thomas Anderson's next film, it left more than a few viewers scratching their heads. Could the director of Magnolia and Boogie Nights raise Sandler's talents to the next level?

Punch-Drunk Love takes Sandler's compelling traits and uses them towards a stunning creation. He stars as Barry Egan, a shy and lonely small-businessman who faces constant scrutiny from seven sisters. When driven to the boiling point, the frustrated guy strikes out violently at objects ranging from glass storm doors to restaurant bathroom stalls. In a sense, Barry resembles many of Sandler's past characters, but his anger is presented in a more human sense. Instead of simply presenting his outbursts as funny, Anderson showcases the immense sadness resting under the surface. While they may cause a chuckle, the violent actions also portray the desperate moves of a sad individual.

Before you take my words as indications that this film is very serious, I should say that it also is a silly and charming story. Barry's life takes a tremendous turn for the better when he meets Lena Leonard (Emily Watson) and falls in love. Although lonely herself, she is radiantly charming and accepts his strange quirks. Watson is a veteran of dramatic films like Breaking the Waves and The Boxer, but her presence wonderfully complements this comedy. She develops a surprising chemistry with Sandler, who stands up remarkably well to this accomplished actor.

The most remarkable element of this movie is the stunning visual quality that generates an atmosphere of theatrical comedy. Anderson and cinematographer Robert Elswit utilize bright colors and inventive techniques that resemble beautiful paintings more than film shots. This creativity also resonates in the story, which incorporates numerous small touches to enhance our enjoyment. Barry's fairly innocent call to a sex line gets him in trouble with their fraudulent activities, and four odd brothers are sent to cause trouble. Their boss is the scenery-chewing Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is memorable with limited screen time. Barry also devises an ingenious scheme to acquire millions of frequent flier miles through a faulty promotion. By purchasing loads of pudding, he can travel all over the world. Of course, Barry doesn't ever travel.

The remarkable qualities of Punch-Drunk Love are too abundant to mention in this brief review. Anderson, Watson, and Sandler have combined to reach a comedic level rarely achieved in recent years. Both joyous and difficult to watch at the same time, the story always keeps us guessing about its path. Virtually nothing is predictable, which is an especially rare attribute compared to many of today's comedies. Coming off the brilliant and serious drama of Magnolia, Anderson has again succeeded with a completely different type of film.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Punch-Drunk Love's shining colors spring very effectively from the 2.35:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer. Minimal grain exists on the picture, and few defects appear to dampen the presentation. The level of clarity is impressive, but it still falls a bit short of the best digital transfers. Everything looks great and nothing distracts you from viewing the film, but it lacks the awe-inspiring qualities of certain releases.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchno
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: This release contains two excellent audio options—a powerful 5.1-channel Dolby Digital EX transfer and a wonderfully complex DTS track. The second one is probably the best choice if you have that capability, but you lose virtually nothing with the EX version. Jon Brion's creative music jumps nicely from the entire sound field, which enhances the overall experience. This disc also contains a 2.0-channel Dolby Surround transfer, which lacks the depth but still provides a solid presentation.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues
3 Original Trailer(s)
2 Deleted Scenes
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: 2 disc slip case
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. 12 Scopitones
  2. Mattress Man Commercial
Extras Review: Although labeled a special edition, Punch-Drunk Love does not contain the extensive documentary or feature-length commentary normally associated with this type of release. Instead, it includes an original collection of supplements that should please its fans. The 12 scopitones are short features that offer quick clips from the picture and convey its impressive artistic style. This atmosphere is created even more on Blossom and Blood—a 12-minute short film starring Watson and Sandler. The material is a combination of film clips, deleted scenes, and vibrant colors. The most interesting new element is a lengthy sequence that takes place before Barry and Lena's date.

The remaining supplements include three theatrical trailers, an art featurette, two deleted scenes, and the Mattress Man commercial. The three-minute art piece nicely conveys the dazzling cinematography also present in the scopitones. The deleted scenes are alternate, extended takes of Barry's phone calls with his sisters and the ATM confrontation with the four brothers.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Punch-Drunk Love succeeded in both charming and alienating scores of viewers in extreme fashion. Less discerning fans of Adam Sandler were bewildered by its quirky aspects and not-so-easily digestible humor. On the opposite side, cinemagoers not accustomed to enjoying his pictures were amazed by his performance. Hopefully, Sandler will continue to test himself in the future and not revert to the lowest common denominator.

 


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