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Wellspring presents
Open House (2005)

"Cause I'm a Sexy Swiper
Voluptuous viper
A sultry sniper looking for her prey
I'm a Sexy Swiper
So don't soil your diaper
But I'll swipe your heart away"

- Debbie (Kellie Martin)

Review By: Jeff Wilson   
Published: December 06, 2005

Stars: Anthony Rapp, Sally Kellerman, Hedy Burress, James Duval, Kellie Martin, Jerry Doyle
Other Stars: Ann Magnuson, Daniel Hagen, Jenna Leigh Green
Director: Dan Mirvish

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for sexual situations, language
Run Time: 01h:33m:04s
Release Date: November 15, 2005
UPC: 720917547428
Genre: musical

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
D+ C-DC A-

DVD Review

I have to say that I really admire those folks who battle to realize their films via the indie route; struggling with low budgets and various other factors, it certainly can't be easy. A film like Open House is clearly a labor of love, as it's highly unlikely any large studio would touch an idea like this one. So while I admire their efforts, I can't say I liked the film; billed as a "real estate musical," it has mostly dismal songs, coupled with love them or hate them performances of said songs, by actors who mostly don't have singing backgrounds. This results in performances that range from passable to cringingly bad. A purposefully oddball script makes this a strictly limited appeal feature.

The interlocked plot threads of the film shape up as thus: realtor Barry (Anthony Rapp) is trying to sell a house. His first open house visitors of the day are Debbie (Kellie Martin) and Joel (James Duval), a young couple that we initially assume to be looking for a house but turn out to be "Sexy Swipers," folks who go from one open house to another to have sex and steal one item, which they deposit in the next house they visit. Next is jewel thief Dave (Jerry Doyle), who, after pulling off a mid-morning heist, has set off an alarm and is using the open house to hide out, while posing as a doctor. He is being pursued by two cops, Gloria (Hedy Burress) and Ron (Robert Peters); the cops are having an affair, and figure busting the thief will get them promoted, where they can have better hours to carry on their affair. Throw in yet more characters, including Sally Kellerman as a booze-guzzling competitor of Barry's, and you quickly have a movie that has too much going on for what it is.

Take the grotesque, Stray Cat Strut soundalike number, Sexy Swipers, which includes the tone deaf Brandon Williams as Debbie's ex-boyfriend. I assume it was meant to be funny, but it simply wasn't. Look at the quote above from the song; does that raise a chuckle out of you? Yes, it's taken out of context, but still, is that at all funny? If you think so, then you'll probably like the film. Otherwise, you've been warned. Or the opening number, Fantabulous, performed by Rapp. Rapp is at least an actual musical theater actor, but he can't do much with music and lyrics that, and I can put it no other way, largely stink. In an interesting move, the actors performed the musical numbers live. It doesn't necessarily help the performances, though the cast is at least game for the challenge. Rapp's final number, It's My House, is frankly too good for the rest of the film; his performance actually elicits an emotional response, something the rest of the numbers fail to do. Its abrupt change in tone (at least the way Rapp performs it) doesn't match the rest of the film, either, and once the song is done, the film quickly ratchets back into the forced quirkiness it had previously displayed.

Mirvish's direction, relying largely on a lot of handheld camera movement, is overedited at times and not especially attractive from a visual standpoint. Given the film's origins as a project shot—compared to a studio project—more or less on the run, it's understandable, but this doesn't make it any easier to watch. The script isn't especially clear on what point it's trying to make, if any; aside from a couple comments about the real estate field, was there any reason to make this the setting? At the end, we get a couple of anti-materialistic comments from Ann Magnuson's character, but they fall on deaf ears, as the rest of the cast make off with their various rewards. Much like this film's appeal will; those who are able to tune into the comedy wavelength of Open House will find some amusement.

Rating for Style: D+
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Shot on digital video, the movie has a dull, ugly, sterile look. Compounding the problems are a nonanamorphic transfer of the 1.85:1 picture, and frequent macroblocking.

Image Transfer Grade: D


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Shot live, the Dolby 2.0 soundtrack has some decent directionality, but overall this largely resembles the picture: dull and unimpressive. A second audio track features the film soundtrack with additional audience reaction sounds from a screening at the Slamdance film festival.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
7 Other Trailer(s) featuring Reel Paradise, Dear Wendy, Unknown White Male, Wild Side, Kings and Queen, Palindromes, The Beat That My Heart Skipped
6 Deleted Scenes
2 Alternate Endings
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Dan Mirvish, actor Anthony Rapp, assorted crew members
Packaging: Unknown
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Live audience soundtrack from Slamdance Film Festival
  2. Trailer with introduction by Dan Mirvish
  3. "Eye on LA" News segment on film
  4. Sing along subtitles for songs
Extras Review: If this disc shines anywhere it's here, as the producers loaded the disc with a variety of extra material. Let's start with the commentary track, which opens with a musical section in which the production staff sing their titles and opening statements. There is a filmed introduction (01m:29s) to this track as well, showing the particpants perparing to record it. They do the rest of the track normally, and provide a good deal of information about the making of the film and its various stumbling blocks and problems. Another alternate soundtrack is an audience track from the Slamdance Film Festival, where your viewing of the film is accompanied by the audience's reactions. Cute, but not something I would ever choose to sit through.

A "Behind the Scenes" section (09m:53s) has two parts, one a look at the filming of the Fantabulous number in which Rapp tries to finish the scene in one take, and the other a news show segment from KABC in Los Angeles discussing the film. Along those lines, a "how-to" section (00h:54m:50s) covers several elements of the film's production, including casting, the musical numbers, and making finger sandwiches. They're all selectable individually or playable en masse, and they all have something of note.

A handful of alternate scenes are provided (14m:59s), and given the actors' stated appreciation for being able to do multiple takes with ad libbing, I'm sure there were plenty more to choose from, but the scenes here cover new material and alternate endings, and none of it, like most deleted scenes, is material that would have signifcantly improved the film. Lastly, there is a sing-along option that provides subtitles for the songs, and this is selectable during the film via the subtitles button on your remote, as well as from the special features menu. Unrelated to the film are seven trailers for other Wellspring properties, titles listed above.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

Love it or hate it, Open House will no doubt win some small audience that enjoys funky, offbeat movies. An ugly transfer doesn't help, but the disc is packed with extras for the fan.


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