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Dedication (2007)

The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 2/12/2008

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2
Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/12/2008

Can movies have doppelgangers? (I once had a German man tell me that "doppelganger" didn't mean "evil twin" in German, but I'm sticking with the American colloquial use of the word.) I'm not referring to intentionally dark versions of previously existing films ("What we're making here is a darker version of Snow White.", an imaginary director might say.). My question is, can two similar films suddenly exist as two sides of the same coin? Maybe I'm the only one who sees it, but to me, Dedication is the dark and brooding sibling of the upbeat and light Music & Lyrics.

As Dedication opens, we meet Henry Roth (Billy Crudup) and Rudy Holt (Tom Wilkinson), partners who create children's books together. Both are surly and somewhat misanthropic, but of the two, Rudy is much more outgoing. Henry has a number of severe issues, such as panic attacks, insomnia, and crippling phobias, and thus it makes it difficult for him to relate to others. Rudy is his only friend. When their book featuring "Marty the Beaver" becomes a hit, their publisher, Arthur Planck (Bob Balaban), demands a sequel. But, before they begin work on the book, Rudy suddenly dies. Planck hires struggling artist Lucy Reilly (Mandy Moore) to illustrate the book. Henry, distraught over Rudy's death, dismisses and insults Lucy, as he doesn't want a new partner. However, Planck threatens legal action if Henry doesn't fulfill his contract and deliver a book. Can the dysfunctional Henry find a way to work with the insecure Lucy?

Is it just me? In Music & Lyrics, Hugh Grant is a washed-up pop star who must work with first-time lyricist Drew Barrymore. He's charming and she's perky and they soon find themselves attracted to one another. In Dedication, Henry is a suddenly hot children's book writer who must work with first-time book illustrator Lucy. He's mean and hateful and she's distrusting and shy, and they soon find themselves attracted to one another. It would be completely incorrect to say that these movies have "opposites attract" stories. Henry and Lucy are both damaged people, only he's far more damaged than her. Once they are left alone, it's inevitable that there's going to a connection.

But, is this a romantic comedy? The DVD box says so, but I disagree. Granted, there are a few funny moments, the highlight of these being Henry's rant about all of his phobias. (Actually, Rudy's line about pigeons and Genoa salami is the funniest line in the film.) Otherwise, the movie is fairly serious. While he can make light of his afflictions, Henry is portrayed as someone deeply in need of mental health care. I was thoroughly surprised that he never became suicidal in the movie. Due to a failed relationship with an academic, Lucy is unsure of both her personal and professional future and she hides herself under a big coat and gobs of eye-liner. The fact that Rudy's death is not only a pivotal moment in the film, but an ongoing part of the story pushes this into the drama category.

All of that aside, Dedication is almost a good movie...well, the middle section is at least. Once Henry and Lucy begin to work together, the movie really clicks and becomes quite enjoyable and charming. It's very interesting to watch these two wounded people begin to open up and trust again. The problem with the movie is that the beginning and ending don't work. At the outset, the movie seems to be daring us to watch as Henry insults and alienates everyone around him, except for Rudy. It's always a daring move for a film to introduce us to an unlikable character, and Henry is a doozey. But, diligent viewers should be able to make it over that hump. And everything is fine until we get to the third act, when suddenly, Dedication turns into every other romance movie! I don't want to give anything away (because that's not who I am), but when the final plot point was announced, I sat there slack-jawed, shocked that this little movie would insert the story device which has been used over and over throughout movie history. This really zapped the film's energy.

Dedication was directed by Justin Theroux, and actor who has appeared in films directed by David Lynch, Danny De Vito, and Ben Stiller. He clearly paid attention to those directors, as he's inserted some artistic touches here, while not drawing too much attention to the filmmaking. Indeed, he almost succeeded in creating an anti-romantic comedy. However, the trite ending really kills the film. Still, Crudup and Moore are very good in the movie, and if you can make it through the opening, and stomach the ending, I think that you'll enjoy the quirky nature of the middle-portion. It would take a great deal of Dedication to buy this movie, but it's certainly worth a rental.

Dedication acts incredibly strange on DVD courtesy of The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. This is a serviceable transfer, as the image is sharp and clear, showing no extraneous grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good and the image is well-balanced, in the sense that it's never overly dark. However, the image is very flat looking and never comes to life. In addition, some shots lack in detail. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5. 1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. We get some nice stereo effects from the street scenes. The scenes involving Henry's "visions" provide some noticeable surround sound effects. I didn't note any subwoofer action.

The Dedication DVD has no bonus features.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long