Text Box: DVDsleuth.com

Text Box:   


DVDSleuth.com is your source for daily DVD news and reviews.


Away We Go (2009)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/29/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/22/2009

Unless they're the kind who lie about only being in it for the art, most directors want to be recognized for their work. Unfortunately, success in the film industry can come with an unexpected accessory: pigeon-holing. When a director is successful in a given genre, they are often identified only with that genre. There are very few directors (Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg) who can easily move from one kind of movie to another. Despite this phenomena, there are still directors who try their hand at something different. A good example would be Away We Go, the latest film from Sam Mendes.

Away We Go introduces us to Burt (John Kraskinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph), a couple who live together, but aren't married. Verona works as an anatomical illustrator, while Burt sells insurance. Verona is pregnant, and they live near Burt's parents (mostly due to the preganancy). However, their lives are thrown into turmoil when Burt's parents announce that they are moving to Europe. Suddenly, Burt and Verona aren't sure what they want to do with their lives. They decide that now that parental proximity isn't important, they can live anywhere which they want. So, they travel to Phoenix, Tucson, Madison, and Montreal to see if they can find a new place to live. While traveling across North American visiting old friends, they realize that everyone has their own idea of family and that Burt and Verona aren't the only confused people out there.

Away We Go comes from Director Sam Mendes, who first made his mark in 1999 with the Academy Award winning American Beauty. Since then, he had directed Road to Perdition, Jarhead, and Revolutionary Road -- all of which fall squarely into the drama category. So, clearly, Mendes was looking for a change of pace with Away We Go, which was written by Dave Eggers and his wife Vandela Vida (with whom's work I am not familiar). While Mendes has explored tragic couples in American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, Away We Go is much liter fare.

The question here is, "Is Mendes up to the task of trying something different?" And the answer is, "No." Again with American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, Mendes proved that he is a master of permeating a movie with a sense of doom and riding that until the conclusion. However, Away We Go is a different breed of animal. This is a movie which mixes very serious ideas with absurd comedic moments, and this creates problems for Mendes. The story is a series of highs and lows, as Burt and Verona encounter funny, bizarre things and very depressing things. First of all, the highs and lows are never balanced. While the opening and middle of the film contain some funny scenes, the last three segments (the movie is split into vignettes designated by location) are all quite sad and what was an intriguing road movie turns into a total downer. Secondly, the funny scenes feel very restrained, as if Mendes was holding back (was he worried about his reputation). The scenes where Burt and Verona visit Madison have the potential to be truly laugh out loud funny and the kind of thing which you would immediately relate to a friend. However, what could of been the kind of uncomfortable, yet hilarious scene which once would find in a movie like Meet the Parents. Instead we get some droll chuckles and a feeling of disappoint.

This is going to sound awful, but I hate Maya Rudolph with a passion which borders on criminal, and yet, she isn't the worst part of this movie. (In fact, her relative calmness makes her much more likable than usual.) Her partner-in-crime, John Krasinski is hidden behind a beard and moppish hair, and this robs him of his usual charm. However, the biggest problem with the movie is the inconsistent tone and the unshakable feeling that a director who was more familiar/comfortable with comedy could have created a much better movie here.

Away We Go gets transient on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a mild hint of grain at times and no defects from the source material. The picture shows a great amount of depth, and the landscape shots look great. The level of detail is impressive as well. The colors are realistic and the image is never overly dark or bright. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.8 Mbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and show a nice amount of detail and stereo separation. But, keep in mind that this is a somber dramedy, and you'll understand that we don't get a lot in the way of subwoofer or surround effects. The music in the film comes from the rear at times, as do some effects from crowd noise.

The Away We Go Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Sam Mendes and Writers Dave Eggers & Vandela Vida. "The Making of Away We Go" (16 minutes) contains comments from Mendes and the cast. Mendes discusses the script, how he got involved in the film, and his approach to the material. The actors discuss their characters, interacting with the other actors, and their views on the story. The piece contains a nice amount of on-set footage. "Green Filmmaking" (7 minutes) explores how the movie was made with an environmental consciousness in order to cut down on waste.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long