**/**** Image A Sound A- Extras A
starring Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Sean Combs, Famke Janssen
written and directed by Jon Favreau
by Bill Chambers Even if Swingers were terrible, one would have to admire writer-star Jon Favreau for making a film about waiting around to be discovered instead of actually waiting around to be discovered. Made, his official follow-up effort (this time as full-on auteur), is not such a noble affair. A vanity project in the tradition of Under the Cherry Moon, Prince's pretentious encore to his starmaking Purple Rain, the film boasts of a more distinguished supporting cast, stronger tech credits, and a budget 20x that of its predecessor. And yet almost every scene lands with a resounding thud, due in large part to Made's alleged raison d'être: the anticipated reunion of Swinger Vince Vaughn with Favreau--who turns into a morose do-gooder whenever he's in Vaughn's radar. It's like watching "The Odd Couple" starring a tooth and a root canal.
Moreover, it's like watching a movie about an amphetamine-jazzed Eddie Haskell, with Favreau the Wally Cleaver to Vaughn's Eddie, a fly-by-night named Ricky who takes "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" to a new summit of obnoxiousness. As his best friend Bobby (whose loyalty dates back to abstract high-school circumstances), Favreau squirms and sighs edgily at every scheme and lie that Ricky blurts out, his non-confrontational demeanour keeping the loose cannon on a short but threadbare leash.
The plot concerns small-time boxer Bobby getting reassigned by his mob-tied boss (Peter Falk) after going ape for the last time while bodyguarding his own stripper girlfriend (Famke Janssen)--a job situation that couldn't be any more precarious if Bobby were her lawyer instead. He is to do some business in New York on behalf of east coast contact "Ruiz" (Sean "Finicky About Nicknames" Combs, just awful), and because Ricky is barely employable, Bobby "vouches" for him to tag along. Most of Made's middle section consists of Ricky skirt-chasing and dishing out high-decibel opinions, unsolicited, which might sound positively Trent-like (Trent being Vaughn's character in Swingers) were Ricky not a mere bundle of enmity.
The film is so dedicated to feeding your astonishment at Bobby's patience for Ricky that you begin to wonder if it only exists to finish the martyrdom of Jon Favreau that Swingers started. (Presenting oneself as long-suffering is as egotistical, in its way, as the cuts and bruises on Favreau's face throughout the film--the male equivalent of glamour lighting.) "Favs" does get a consolation prize at film's end for his fortitude in a sequence that incredulously transfers all of Made's contempt for Ricky over to women: In the final scene, Ricky is visually equated with His Benevolence, Chuck E. Cheese. The one thing Made does to perfection is a sardonic homage to the original Rocky--even the opening pull-back from the American flag that reveals a roped-off mattress below. Unfortunately, there's a long way to go from that prologue; for Made's remainder, a very different pugilist melodrama came to mind: Based on my enduring affection for Swingers, I'm bummed it's not a contender.
At least Artisan's Special Edition DVD of Made stacks up. The 1.77:1, 16x9-enhanced transfer is drool-worthy; a Christopher Doyle-shot film (he's Wong Kar-wai's regular cinematographer) has never looked this luminous at home. Colour and contrast are controlled and exquisite. There is slight artifacting during scene transitions (no wonder--there are copious supplements eating at the bitrate), though it's not distracting per se. While the 5.1 Dolby Digital audio forges a deep musical environment, dialogue detracts from it by being a bit low in relation to everything else.
Made is the second disc I've seen in as many weeks with bonus material by Alita Renée Holly (Rush Hour 2 is the other)--she seems to have sprung from nowhere to produce high-quality extras for two major titles. First off, we have three featurettes that combine into a 39-minute making-of. In "Getting it Made", it takes a few moments before we get accustomed to the appearance of a grown-up, goateed Peter Billingsley (a.k.a. Ralphie from A Christmas Story). The executive producer of Made, he explains the concept of a negative pick-up, how it allowed Favreau tremendous creative control (and thus required of him a tremendous amount of self-discipline) over the film sans interference from its backers. "The Creative Process" expands the discussion of the shoot, with Falk elaborating the similarities between Favreau and John Cassavetes. (That would be the Cassavetes of Big Trouble, not A Woman Under the Influence, if you ask me.) The third and final featurette, "Making the Music of Made", segues from a section on Favreau and Vaughn's devotion to their posse to a lengthy discussion of Made's score, which was composed by close friends of Jon and Vince.
"More Made Footage" offers five deleted scenes and nine "alternate" scenes (I'm not sure why this unseen footage didn't fall under the deleted category) with or without snappy commentary from Favreau and Vaughn--Favreau alone in the case of the overly precious alternate ending. A series of nine outtakes is also included here, one of which lasts a whopping five seconds but is notable for showing the rare unguarded smile loosed on Sean Combs's mouth. In "Scene Editing Workshop", you can rearrange the shots in the pottery-making sequence--although as editing is choosing how long a shot will run in addition to its placement, this exercise is strictly for people who want to press buttons. I felt less affronted by "More Music Cues", a veritable soundtrack of 38 used/unused cuts (in stereo).
During the feature itself, Favreau and Vaughn ("and on the couch is Peter Billingsley") provide optional screen-specific commentary with a twist: if you so choose, you can listen to them in "action mode," wherein they use a telestrator to highlight picture elements, à la football instant replays. They seem to forget they have the device for long stretches--both an objet d'art by Joey Lauren Adams and a humorous background gag are mentioned in passing but go uncircled. (On the other hand, perhaps it's a blessing that they use the pen sparingly.) The teaser and theatrical trailers, extensive production notes and cast/crew bios, a sleek insert booklet, and a highly interactive DVD-ROM version of the script rounds out the disc. Miraculously, it all fits on a single platter; to paraphrase a better Favreau film, this package is money! Originally published: November 27, 2001.