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Writer/director Kevin Smith (CLERKS, MALLRATS, DOGMA) does not make typical movies, and CHASING AMY ($20) is not a typical love story. However, Smithís offbeat story gets across the message that true love is a rare and precious gift that too many fools throw away and then live to regret after they realized what they have lost. CHASING AMY stars Ben Affleck as Holden McNeil, an artist who writes a cult comic book with his best friend Banky Edwards (Jason Lee). While attending a convention, Holden meets fellow comic book artist Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), with whom he is instantly attracted. Unfortunately, Holden soon finds out that Alyssa is a lesbian, dashing his hopes for romance.

Despite the let down, Holden decides to pursue a friendship with Alyssa anyway. Eventually, Holdenís relationship with Alyssa begins to have a detrimental effect on his friendship with Banky, who canít quite understand why his best friend is spending so much time with a woman with whom he has no chance of a future. Of course, the story takes the expected "unexpected" turn, which only serves to complicate the lives of the three main characters even further.

CHASING AMY has its share of hilarious moments; the scene in which Alyssa and Banky trade "war stories" is an absolute must see. Although CHASING AMY is a comedy, Joey Lauren Adams delivers such a moving and totally captivating performance that she single-handedly elevates the film way beyond the limitations of the genre. The cast of CHASING AMY also features Casey Affleck, Guinevere Turner, Carmen Lee, Brian O'Halloran, Matt Damon, Scott Mosier, Ethan Suplee and Dwight Ewell, who delivers a scene stealing performance as a gay comic book artist who hides behind a "militant black" facade.

CHASING AMY comes to DVD as a joint venture of Miramax/Buena Vista and The Criterion Collection. The DVD edition of CHASING AMY pretty much ports over all of the features of the Criterion Laserdisc, although the DVD does sport a brand new anamorphic enhanced wide screen transfer. CHASING AMY was shot in the Super 16mm format, so the image on the DVD is grainier and somewhat less detailed than a production that originated on 35mm film stock. Still, this presentation of CHASING AMY is the absolute best that the film has ever looked in the home venue. The image is reasonably crisp and boasts solid color reproduction. The film element used for the transfer displays some blemishes, but they never become distracting. Blacks arenít as deep as they are on more expensive productions, plus the image is lacking in depth during some of the darker scenes. There are no problems with digital compression artifacts on this nicely authored dual layer DVD.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack is sonically adequate, but remember that CHASING AMY was an ultra-low budget production. Since most of the film revolves around the characters talking, there isnít much going on in the mix in terms of directional effects. Music offers the only real stereo presence in the mix. Dialogue is intelligible, although it is a bit thin sounding. English subtitles are encoded onto the DVD.

The interactive menus utilize animation and sound, as well as full motion video. Through the menus one has access to the standard scene selection feature, plus the DVDís supplemental materials. As I stated above, the DVD ports over the supplements contained in the Criterion Laserdisc. Chief among the supplements is the infamous audio commentary, featuring director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier, actors Ben Affleck and Jason Mewes, associate producer Robert Hawk, and Miramax executive Jon Gordon. Retaining the disparaging remark about the DVD format, the Laserdisc commentary is still a whole lot of fun to listen to, in addition to being quite informative about the filmís production.

I should note that the DVD does include a new video introduction from director Kevin Smith, who does apologize for the remark about DVD, in a humorous way, of course. Ten deleted scenes with really funny video introduction from cast and crewmembers have made the transition over to the DVD as well. All of the scenes are interesting, but were cut from the movie for time considerations. A theatrical trailer and color bars fill out the DVDís supplements.

CHASING AMY is a gem of a movie that shouldnít be missed. The Criterion DVD is even better than their marvelous Laserdisc edition, since the new 16:9 enhanced transfer is kicks it up a few notches. Absolutely recommended.


Chasing Amy - Criterion Collection (1997)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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