Everyone remembers Steve Urkel. Címon, you know, the guy with the suspenders pulled up to... well, pulled up, and that really annoying voice? Yeah, thatís the guy Ė really dorky, remember? Well Steve Coogan is such a loser in this movie that heís basically a white British version of Urkel! Now, not that this is a bad thing, but as the movie goes on you can easily see how much of a dork Cooganís character really is, but quite funny nonetheless. Anyway... this British comedy really hits the mark on the Ďstupid comedyí target. Things are unrealistic, slightly predictable and of course oddball, but this is what makes it work so well. The characters are developed just enough to let the audience in and gain an understanding of their background and personality, and that is as deep as is required for a stupid comedy.
One of the funniest sequences involves the Pepsi Max 'Big One' steel roller coaster at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in Lancashire. Letís just leave it as the funniest and most nauseating roller coaster sequence since National Lampoonís Vacation...
The story is centred around Steven Garden (Steve Coogan), a parole officer in Manchester who is, well, not terribly good at his job (three out of 1000 cases didnít resort back to crime) and is very annoying (according to the three cases anyway). Shortly after being moved to his new position (his colleagues signed a petition for him to leave) he deals with Kirsty (Emma Williams), a young criminal known for arson and car theft... on numerous occasions. On this same day he meets Emma (Lena Headey), a young, beautiful constable he falls for, and as you do, asks her out the first time he sees her. Anyway, Kirsty appears to be dealing drugs too from the belly of a stuffed teddy Koala, but she claims not to know about them, and Steven is the only guy to believe her. But Steven sees Inspector Bunton (Steven Dillane) with this koala in his personal possession, so follows him. The next thing he knows he is witnessing Inspector Bunton murdering ďanother human being, well an accountant.Ē After being blackmailed to stay quiet to the police, what more could Steven do but go back to his three successful cases and ask them to convert back to a life of crime. Well not quite a life, but to break into a secured vault safety deposit box and extract the video tape of the murder captured on a CCTV camera. So this is where the fun starts, with the roller coaster repairman George (Om Puri from Gandhi), the fishmonger Jeff (Steven Waddington Ė the guy with the midwife wife in Sleepy Hollow), the computer salesman Colin (Ben Miller from Jimmy Grimble) and the thief Kirsty, as well as some help along the way from Omar Sharif as the best criminal of all time.
The video is presented in a widescreen ratio of 1.78:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.
On the whole, the video is reasonably good with some slight problems occurring intermittently. Aliasing is one such problem, which occurs every now and then, but when it does occur it comes out all guns blazing. Two of the more irritating examples are at 27:57 on a building wall, and then at 42:28 on a building that fills the entire frame. There are some other minor examples such as on Venetian blinds, but they are nowhere near as annoying as these two examples.
The sharpness of the picture is often very good, but at times it appears just slightly soft. This isnít a major quibble, just an observation. While the picture may at times be soft, the clarity in the frame is superb showing many details clearly. However, in the darker scenes such as the club sequences, shadow detail is severely lacking definition, and the blacks contain some (at times) large amounts of low-level noise. The blacks arenít terribly solid nor black and at times appear slightly blue. This is the largest downfall of the transfer, and it isnít overly annoying. During these darker scenes, film grain can be seen, which varies from barely visible to in-your-face. However, there are barely any film artefacts to be seen apart from the occasional speckle or fleck.
Colours appear realistic and lifelike for the duration of the film, and do not suffer from any bleeding. At times the colours are bright and vibrant, and at others dull and lonesome. The reds shine brilliantly; the British blue skies gleam magically. Whites are very bright, and contrast well to the deep blues of the police uniforms.
Being a dual layered disc, a layer change occurs at 46:23. This occurs smack bang in the middle of the screen and is mildly disrupting to the flow of the sequence.
There is only one film dialogue soundtrack, and that is a Dolby Digital 5.1 English track. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout, and easily understood.
The soundtrack gives every single speaker a heavy work out during the entire length of the film, with plenty of discrete effects to keep the picky true 5.1 fans happy (OK, OK, keep ME happy!) Music, ambience and effects fly at you from all speakers, and the rear channels are used superbly to create a masterful enveloping effect. The opening sequence features music building up from behind and washing over to the front end of the soundstage which sounds incredible.
The front left and right channels get their fair share of directional effects from cars whizzing past to simply door and footstep effects. The centre channel holds the dialogue cleanly, and has no signs of distortion. The subwoofer gets a heavy workout during the explosions, bangs and the rumbling of the roller coaster. Being an avid coaster fan, it is great to see the true thundering of a steel coaster creatively and accurately captured on DVD. Itís moments like these you really notice the subwoofer.
The score is funky, upbeat and alternative and beautifully suits the mood of the film. Alex Heffes was responsible for this comical score, and it complements the on-screen action so well.
There is one flaw with the soundtrack, and that is at 18:56 where a dropout occurs in the rear left speaker. This is during a piece of the score and isnít terribly obvious but still if you listen for it, you can easily hear it.
The extras are great and are featured on a creatively designed disc. The main menu is animated and features a fairly lengthy introduction, featuring Steve describing the elements of the DVD similar to the elements of robbing the bank. Itís humorous the first time, less so the next, and then the next, and so on. There is no way to skip the introduction and after many viewings it gets simply tedious. The scene selection page is animated to draw up the little boxes the scene pictures sit in, and then features static images of the scenes. The extra features page is statically animated, but when you change your selection to another, the image inside the vault changes. Very slick.
The Audio Commentary featuring Steve Coogan (actor), John Duigan (director), Henry Normal (script co-writer), Duncan Kenworthy (executive producer) is standard but nothing overly exciting. It features this group of guys talking about their experiences while making the film. Worth listening to, but once only.
The Featurette runs for 22 minutes and is very interesting and informative to watch. And, for once, a company has made a featurette longer than a few minutes...
The Deleted Scenes include six choices, with either production audio or commentary. The picture quality is disgusting and terribly unmastered, and the commentary audio may as well have been a silent track.
The Theatrical Trailer tells the story remarkably well, and is featured in a 1.78:1 aspect with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. While some funny bits and key points are shown in the trailer, it still leaves a lot to be discovered in the film.
Finally, thereís a music video for the group Atomic Kitten with their cover of The Banglesí song Eternal Flame. It features footage from the film as well as of the girls from Atomic Kitten. Itís an okay song, but The Banglesí version is better...
This film that nobody knows about contains the funniest roller coaster sequence, stupid one-liners and the biggest dork since Steve Urkel - so grab it for a nightís entertainment. The video transfer is reasonably good, and the soundtrack is superb, apart from one minor fault. The extras are great and the movie is quite entertaining.