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Best Man Down (2012)
Magnolia Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/21/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/4/2014
For decades, there have been funny big men in movies. Oliver Hardy, Lou Costello, Buddy Hackett are great examples. But, 1978's Animal House ushered in a new kind of funny big guy with John Belushi's character. Gone was the affable, jovial funny man -- replaced with a slovenly, goofy, and often inappropriate mess. (Although, if you really watch Animal House, I think that people falsely remember more Belushi than what actually appeared in the film.) This influence was clearly picked up by likes of Chris Farley and Jack Black. This raises the question: Are there now actors who set their sites on being the next in line for this tradition? It certainly seems that Tyler Labine fits this mold and he goes for broke in the odd Best Man Down.
Best Man Down opens in Arizona, where Scott (Justin Long) and Kristin (Jess Weixler) are having a destination wedding. Scott's best friend, Lumpy (Tyler Labine), wants to be the life of the party, as he gets drunk, dances with everyone, and generally makes a scene. That night, Lumpy falls out of bed, hitting his head on a piece of furniture, and then wanders into the desert, where he dies. His body is found the next day, and Scott and Kristin are shocked that their honeymoon plans have now changed. They arrange for Lumpy's body to be taken back to their hometown of Minneapolis, and they then begin to plan his funeral. This involves tracking down those who knew Lumpy and they soon learn that in recent years, he had abandoned most of the life which they knew and had been visiting another part of the state, where he had a secret friend.
At the outset, Best Man Down looks as if it's going to be a black comedy, along the lines of something which the Farrelly Brothers would deliver. When a drunken best man suddenly dies at a wedding, it's shocking, but, given our experience with modern films, we expect this to go in a darkly comedic direction. But, it doesn't. Best Man Down becomes a somewhat somber drama which explores how we may not know those who are closest to us. Scott has known Lumpy for years, but he quickly learns that he knew very little about the man's current life, such as his career situation. He certainly know that he'd taken up ice-fishing on a regular basis. This allows both Scott and the audience to get a much better idea of what was hidden under Lumpy's bawdy exterior. (This is all done in flashback, so we don't get to know him until after he has died.) The story also looks at how Scott and Kristin aren't as in-synch as they think they are. Kristin has hidden some of the wedding cost from Scott, and she's astounded when he decides to forego the honeymoon in order to bury his friend.
The problem with Best Man Down is that it's never engaging. In the few minutes which we see Lumpy alive at the beginning of the film, he certainly isn't endearing, so it's hard to be upset that he is dead. We then question why Scott would go out of his way to oversee Lumpy's funeral. From this point on, the film is quite somber. It alternates between Scott's detective work in putting Lumpy's life together and scenes involving a 15-year old girl named Ramsey (Addison Timlin), who lives with her mother (Frances O'Connor) and her mother's boyfriend (Evan Jones), both of whom are more interested in meth than Ramsey. The movie becomes quite bleak at times, and is sorely in need of some levity. As we watch Scott and Kristin bicker or Ramsey dream of running away, we realize that what we thought was going to be a dark comedy is simply a dark movie.
The ending of Best Man Down is somewhat uplifting, but I can't help but feel that Writer/Director Ted Koland squandered some opportunities. Tackling drama for a change, Justin Long is good, but he looks more and more like Anthony Kiedis everyday. Weixler is good as well, and she must be appealing, because there are certainly scenes where we should hate Krsitin, but we don't. Timlin brings a real strength to her role, and we often feel her pain. Labine clearly gives his wild fat guy routine in the opening scene, but shows more layers later on in the film. These noteworthy roles are placed inside of a movie which ultimately feels very hollow and manipulative. The viewer walks away feeling somewhat moved by the finale, but certainly unsatisfied, like a small desert after a disappointing meal.
Best Man Down wins this week's award for "Most useless sidestory involving a priest" in Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Magnolia Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is OK, but I noticed a few soft shots, and the depth is average. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. Overall, this is a somewhat quiet movie. The opening scene delivers good surround sound and subwoofer effects thanks to the dance music. The stereo effects show good separation, but they are a bit discreet. The in-film music sounds fine and never drowns out the dialogue.
The Best Man Down Blu-ray Disc offers just a few extras. We open with a 6-minute reel of OUTTAKES, where we learn that the film's original title was "Lumpy". There are "Interviews" with Justin Long (3 minutes) and Director Ted Koland (5 minutes), who discuss the story and the production. "AXS TV: A Look at Best Man Down" (3 minutes) is a brief promo which contains clips from the film and footage from the above interviews. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long