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A Little Help (2010)

Image Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/25/2011

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/24/2011

Who was the first television star to make the leap to the big screen? Well, I'm old, but I'm certainly not old enough to remember when that happened. But, I can say that for as long as I can recall, it seemed that every TV actor was just biding their time until the movies came calling. (Of course, these days, many actors are making the reverse trip.) What can make this transition even more interesting is when an actor not only changes mediums, but genres as well. That's what we get with A Little Help.

Jenna Fischer stars in A Little Help as Laura, a dental hygienist who is having a tough time. Her husband, Bob (Chris OíDonnell) is working late more and more. Her son, Dennis (Daniel Yelsky), is sullen and never seems happy. Her sister, Kathy (Brooke Smith), and her mother, Joan (Lesley Ann Warren), are always criticizing her and telling her how to live her life. The only person to whom Laura seems to relate is Paul (Rob Benedict), her brother-in-law. Laura finds herself smoking and drinking more. When Bob is no longer around to help her, things get worse for Laura. Dennis becomes more distant, and Kathy and Joan become more meddlesome. Laura canít decide what to do with herself, and things keep getting bleaker.

Jenna Fischer is best known to most for her portrayal of Pam Beasley on TVís The Office. That performance has shown that she can do understated and jittery comedy. But, can she handle drama? The role of Laura is a tricky one, as sheís the lynchpin of the movie and the audienceís connection to the story, but sheís also a woman with a great many problems. And itís at this intersection which we encounter the first problems with A Little Help. Fischer may have the market cornered on playing insecure receptionists, but sheís in over her head in her portrayal as Laura. Sheís believable in the role, but her performance is very flat and doesnít generate any emotion. We want to get involved with Lauraís issues, but nothing about her performance pulls us into the story.

Which leads us to the other major problem here. Laura is the center of the movie and she isnít very likeable. Yes, sheís a very flawed person, and she has very real human problems. But, despite all that happens to her, I could never find myself pulling for her or feeling sorry for her. We donít want to see these bad things happen to Laura, but we donít care either. The same goes for the other characters as well. No one here is likeable in the least. The closest which the movie comes is Paul, and heís too henpecked to get behind. The movie wants to portray real people with real problems, but it goes too far in that direction, making things too negative.

Now, I know that there canít be drama without drama, but A Little Help is one of those movies which piles on the unfortunate events and awkward moments. Sure, real life is full of down times, but people are also occasionally happy as well. A Little Help is one of those moments which rarely lets the sunshine in, and the dour mood combined with the unlikable characters makes for a movie which is neither fun nor moving. The movie tries to make amends for this at the end, but the ambiguous and sudden ending only makes things worse. This movie could have used a lot of help.

A Little Help has one of the most random and unimpressive celebrity cameos that Iíve seen recently on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Image Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing basically no grain and no defects from the source material. I was very impressed by how crisp the image was, as it looks nearly flawless, save for a few shots. The colors look very good, most notably blues and reds, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, as we can see textures on objects, and the characters are nicely separate from the background. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As A Little Help is a drama, we donít get a lot of attention-grabbing audio effects here. The stereo effects are pretty good, as we get some nicely done off-screen sounds in a few scenes. There are some crowd scenes which offer mild surround sound effects.

The A Little Help Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. We begin with a series of "Interviews" (12 minutes) with the principal cast -- Jenna Fischer, Chris O'Donnell, Kim Coates, Brooke Smith, Rob Benedict, Ron Leibman, Daniel Yelsky, and Jim Florentine -- along with Writer/Director Michael Weithorn. The cast talk about their characters, while Weithorn talks about a special cameo and having Jakob Dylan compose the music for the film. Speaking of which, we get a MUSIC VIDEO for a song by Dylan. The final extras are a TV SPOT and the TRAILER for the movie.

Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long