February 19, 2007

DVD Review: The Tom Hanks Comedy Favorites Collection

Tom Hanks has had an interesting career, not that I am an expert or even know all that much about it. However, if you look at the films that he has starred in, more often than not they are movies that are well worth your time. He is one of those actors that I find very hard not to like. Sure, there is the occasional film that he is not right for (I'm looking at you Da Vinci), but by and large they offer up great entertainment. He began in comedies, after cutting his teeth starring in the series Bosom Buddies, you remember, the one with the guy that no one seems to remember, before jumping to the big screen in Ron Howard's hit Splash. That brings me to this collection from Universal, it contains three of Hanks' comedies in one package on two disks.

The Money Pit
I cannot recall if I have ever seen this before. I remember commercials for it when I was a kid, but do not remember seeing it. It is a one note comedy that rests squarely on Hanks' shoulders. When it comes to Hanks, this is a winner, everything else just sort of just there.

Imagine, if you will, buying your first home. Not having much in the way of money, and needing to find a place quickly, you buy something of a fixer upper. A large country home, a suspiciously low price, and a seller wanted by Israeli Intelligence, yes sir, everything in perfect order. So, deed in hand, Walter Fielding (Tom Hanks) and Anna Crowley (Shelly Long) move into the home, ready to make a go of their life together.

What follows is that one note, repeated over and over again. They try to do something in the house, something breaks, they do something else, something breaks, they hire someone to do something, something breaks. Sound repetitive? In a way it is. Still, there is something inherently likable about Hanks, he elevates the material beyond its thin roots. There is something about him as he slowly gets crazier and crazier about nothing working that just works for me.

The direction by Richard Benjamin is rather lackluster. The movie is filmed in a rather point and shoot manner, Benjamin does not help his case by adopting such a static method. Another oddity is the way it is lit. For a comedy, there are a lot of shadows and harsh light, it is kind of odd looking for a comedy, as they tend to be a little brighter looking, or at least the slapstick style films like this usually are.

Overall, this is a fun movie. It is no classic, and nothing particularly special, but Hanks saves the film. It is fun.

The 'burbs
Now here is the gem hidden in the middle of the collection. I felt like I was watching a children's story, only all of the characters were adults. A story where there is a creepy house, inhabited by strange people who never seem to leave the house, unless it is under cover of darkness. There was an animated film with a similar story out last year, Monster House. Both of them are horror stories for kids, despite the adult denizens of The 'burbs.

Tom Hanks is Ray Peterson, a guy who has decided to take a week off from work and lounge around the house. The plan doesn't work out so well, as his buddy, Art, gets going on the weird people next door. No one ever sees them, although there has been evidence of grave digging, and a suspicion of murder.

Before you know it, the whole block is involved in investigation into the weird house next door. I am sure many of you have memories of a house on your street that had creepy people in it, or that you thought was haunted, or something along those lines, this is that story on film. The execution is a lot of fun, particularly Hanks' inspired goofiness as he tries to hold everything and everyone together. Then there is the presence of Corey Feldman as some sort of punk cheerleader, watching the neighborhood go through its off kilter motions.

The movie was directed by Joe Dante with a light touch. Sure, it may feel a tad stretched, but it is just a fun movie. It also has the distinction of being Tom Hanks first big film following his success with Big.

Dum De Dum-Dum. The classic "Just the facts" cop show got the big screen treatment back in 1987. The end result being a fun little film with a goofy plot and funny, straitlaced comedy. The pairing of Tom Hanks and Dan Akroyd yields fine results, as the two have good chemistry as they do the buddy cop thing.

Akroyd is Joe Friday, nephew of the original Joe. He is a by the book detective, humorless, and completely lacking in subtlety, a true fact based individual. He is teamed with the much looser attitude of Pep Streebeck, played by Hanks. The duo have to learn to work together as they become embroiled in the mystery of a series of murders committed by a mysterious group of Pagans.

With Akroyd's incredible delivery leading the way, the duo uncover a phony preacher, corrupt politicians, and rescue the Virgen Connie Swail from a goofy Pagan ritual sacrifice. Along the way they come across the usual cop show cliches, including being stripped of their badges after embarassing the department, as they scream towards the standard chase conclusion.

Overall, it is a fun movie, with Akroyd stealing the show with his spot on Joe Friday. With a stronger story this could have been excellent, but as it stands it is a fun movie to deliver 80's flavored goods.

Audio/Video. All three of the films are presented in anamorphic widescreen, preserving their original aspect ratios. This is the big thing that had worried me, usually these low price collections mix it up with at least one MAR title. All of them look pretty good as well. The audio is also quite good, all of them have Dolby Digital 5.1, with The Money Pit including a DTS track.

Extras. All three have their original trailers, while The Money Pit adds a 6 minute EPK featurette.

Bottomline. Looking to add a few Hanks movies to your collection without spending much? This will do it. It is a nice trio of movies. Nothing outstanding, but still, they make for a fun evening.



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