HOW DO "DICK TRACY" AND "HEAVYWEIGHTS" HOLD UP TODAY? @ 19 December 2012 06:07 PM
"Dick Tracy" and "Heavyweights" seem to have little in common except that they were both just reissued on Blu-ray disc. But their very differences are fascinating, especially in view of how the movies and mainstream entertainment in general have changed.

Like a child born of great privilege and pedigree, 1990's "Dick Tracy" was given every advantage and afforded some of the finest talents. It shows especially in the crisp definition of Blu-ray that this is an Art Director's dream come true. Every square inch of the film is meticulously crafted, each color chosen and tested for how it would appear on film and contrast with other tints.

Academy Awards were given to "Dick Tracy" for Art Direction, Make Up and Song (though with nothing but respect to Stephen Sondheim, would "Sooner or Later" have won if it was written by Fleetwood Schrum and sung by Shirley Woffenthaler?

There's little dated at all about "Dick Tracy;" pains were taken to keep it looking classic and authentic to its period. However, this may be lost on today's viewers as much as it was when the film premiered to box office that did not make it Disney/Touchstone's answer to "Batman."



Ironically, "Dick Tracy" may have been an attempt to capture the success of the dark "Batman" of the '90s, yet its look (including canted camera angles) harkens more to the 1966 camp "Batman." Yet "Dick Tracy" tries to be so many things at once, it doesn't quite find itself -- while the '66 "Batman" reveled in its own inanity.

Warren Beatty's best scenes seem to be the simple ones, like those with young Charlie Korsmo, the actor with whom he has the most chemistry. One wonders what the rest of the film might have been like if the mood of these brief scenes had the same blend of color and heart.

One theory might be that, with the stakes for a mega-hit being so high, too many people saw too much footage too many times and kept honing and tightening the film to the point to where the viewer cannot land on any one thing. "Dick Tracy" has all the ingredients of a great film, but either the ingredients needed to be restrained or there were too many chefs.

The "Dick Tracy" Blu-ray contains no bonus features whatsoever, which is odd because so much promotional coverage at the time of its release. However, permission to use this material may have proven too costly. Would have been nice to have at least a trailer or two.

"Heavyweights," a small, low-budget adolescent comedy about ugly ducklings, may have emerged over time as a little swan. Not a classic by any stretch, but a solid, entertaining romp with little fat (sorry!)

The creative team behind "Heavyweights" has gone from a small fraternity of struggling actors and filmmakers to some of today's movers and shakers, including Judd Apatow ("The 40-Year-Old Virgin") and Paul Feig ("Bridemaids").

Listening to the brand-new Audio Commentary is akin to visiting their school reunion, in which the once young, tireless and hungry rebels are now middle-aged, successful, but a little disillusioned. It's also interesting to hear how the pecking order of the past snaps back when they get back together, just from the way they all talk -- or don't talk as much -- on the commentary track.

Like Gene Wilder's "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and Walt Disney's "Alice in Wonderland," 'Heavyweights" was considered too dark and sardonic on its first release, but gained a loyal following over the years.

This was only Ben Stiller's second feature film. At the time, he had come off "The Ben Stiller Show" and accepted the role of psychotic Tony Perkis (a twist on "Perkins?"). He literally threw himself completely into the role, but according to the director, was disappointed when an audience of kids didn't find him funny, just mean. His image was not on tthe VHS or DVD release covers. Apparently he has reconciled his feeling about it -- he is prominently featured on this new Blu-ray package.



17 years later, with the tone of kid's cartoons like "Spongebob" and "Phineas and Ferb" presenting adversaries even nuttier than Perkis, the film seems to better fit the mood of today's times.

Often teetering beyond its PG rating, "Heavyweights" may still strike some as very strange indeed, being sort of a comical "Lord of the Flies" where all the boys are like "Piggy." It has deliberate nods to things like "Gone with the Wind," "Apocalypse Now" "Platoon" But so do "Spongebob" cartoons, just as Bugs Bunny classics contained references lost on kids but still funny to them. My son, who never saw it until now, finds it imminently quotable ("I am Lars!" "I come from far away!" "Repulse the monkey!")

Some parents may not be so enchanted, though. Foreshadowing their later, more raunchy movies, Apatow and company tread very close to the edge of bad taste and inappropriate material for young children, and Disney films in general (depending on your point of view, they fall off the edge at times, even in "Heavyweights" -- particularly in the alternate scenes).

But the filmmakers are not historically accurate in their comments that they were bringing an "edge" to Disney films. Lots of Walt's films had more "edge" than they sometimes get credit for. And even some basic humor. Pop in a "Fantasia" disc and you'll even spot one or two tushies.

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