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The Curious DVD of Benjamin Button

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Brad Pitt is looking a little worse for wearOne of the leaders during the Academy Award race, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button came away with “only” three minor awards, its thunder reduced to a whisper by the underdog-that-never-really-was Slumdog Millionaire.  The movie, which stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett and is directed by David Fincher, is now available on DVD.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was a very good movie, but the more I think about it, the more overrated I realize it is. While the concept is ingenious and the performances excellent, the movie lacks real conflict and just sort of plods along without tremendous drama or humor. Written by Eric Roth, who wrote Munich and, more importantly, the very similiar Forrest Gump, the movie just pales in comparison. In other words, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button doesn’t live up to its full potential.

Still, the movie is certainly worth seeing, and The Criterion Collection DVD that I’m reviewing today has some of the best features I’ve seen in quite a while. Benjamin Button is one of those rare movies that is both a dramatic Oscar contender – films not known for dazzling bonus features – and a big budget picture requiring a fair amount of special effects and technical care. It also has a 15-year history of pre-production and idea generation.

While the back of the box will promote a variety of featurettes (unfortunately organized into a clutter of text that makes them hard to read), there are really only a couple true features, most notably a three-hour featurette that explores the film’s history, conception, pre-production, production and post-production phases. This featurette, which includes interviews with the cast, crew and director and offers some amazing detail, is one of the best behind-the-scenes documentaries I’ve seen since the second Pirates of the Caribbean DVD. The feature tackles everything, from the complications that the film had getting made to the technical requirements of aging the title character.

I did have to laugh about one thing, though. In a segment about the audio work, the guy responsible discusses how David Fincher didn’t like the voice of the young Daisy (Elle Fanning) so he decided to have Cate Blanchett dub the voice. The audio head didn’t think it would work, but “amazingly, it did.” Except that it didn’t; Blanchett’s dubbing of a little girl was one of the most jarring and painful parts of the film.

Other bonus features include an audio commentary by David Fincher and a stills gallery, which always begs the question, does anyone look at stills galleries on DVD sets?

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a worthy movie to see and if you’re interested in how movies are really made, the Criterion Collection DVD is worth owning.

Learn more about the movie or read my full Curious Case of Benjamin Button movie review.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: DVD Releases, Movie Reviews
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