Rushmore CE (1998)
Cast: Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman
Extras: Audio Commentary, ’Making of’ segment, Cast Auditions, Trailer, Storyboards and more
"Rushmore" is one of the best comedies that I’ve seen in years (for more gushing and a full plot synopsis, please see my full review for the Touchstone DVD release of the film), so I was delighted to hear that the Criterion Collection had been authorized to do a special edition of the film. (Although, I was a bit bummed, as this was announced shortly after I bought the Touchstone movie-only edition.) Being an owner of many Criterion Laserdiscs and several of their DVDs, I am familiar with the caliber of work the publisher can produce, and looked forward to their edition of "Rushmore."
For those of you unfamiliar with the film, "Rushmore" tells the story of Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman). Max attends the elitist Rushmore academy, where he is a member of every club and is failing every class. Max befriends bored tycoon Bill Murray, and they both turn their affections on a young teacher. "Rushmore" is a very subtle comedy — featuring a very dry and acerbic wit. And while the film has a leisurely pace, the infectious energy and enthusiasm of the Max Fischer character invades every frame of the film, making it very enjoyable.
Unfortunately, this energy did not make it into the extra features on the Criterion Edition of "Rushmore." While we are presented with a nice transfer of the film, and a slew of features, the overall package is very disappointing. "Rushmore" is presented in an <$16x9,anamorphic widescreen> and is letterboxed at 2.35:1. The picture is very clear and is somewhat sharper than the previous Touchstone version. Besides some dust here and there, the source print is free from defects. The film is nicely framed and the color balancing appears correct. The DVD’s <$DD,Dolby Digital> <$5.1,5.1 channel> audio track works very well, especially with the 60’s rock soundtrack in the film, and the audio is generally well-balanced with very clear dialogue.
While the film features some great dry humor, the extra features are just plain dry. There is an <$commentary,audio commentary> featuring Director/co-writer Wes Anderson, Writer Owen Wilson ("The Haunting"), and star Jason Schwartzman. Instead of having the three together, their commentaries were recorded separately and then edited together. So, what we get is a commentary in which the three speakers do not interact or play off of one another. (For examples, see any Kevin Smith et al or Sam Raimi/Bruce Campbell commetary.) And, we are hearing the comments that the editor deemed the best. Many of the comments are scene specific (as is often the case when commentaries are done this way). So, what we get is a very stiff and stale audio commentary, that inevitably doesn’t teach us all that much about the film.
To add insult to injury, the DVD features a "Making Of" featurette that features footage shot on the set by Eric Chase Anderson, the director’s brother. This is one of the most boring "behind the scenes" features that I’ve ever seen, and Anderson’s monotone narration doesn’t help. (My wife kept looking over at me to confirm that this wasn’t all one big joke!) This segment does have a few nice pieces, the best being the comments by Bill Murray, but ultimately it’s short running time (about eight minutes) seems like hours. Eric Chase Anderson also contributed the DVD box cover art and a small poster, which shows the important locations in the film.
There are three short vignettes that feature the "Max Fischer Players" which were shown during the 1999 MTV Movie Awards. In these, Max adapts "Armageddon", "The Truman Show", and "Out of Sight". While these are cute (I especially liked the paperboy in "Truman"), they are very short and don’t have the same magic as the film. There are also detailed photos of the handbills for the "Max Fischer Players" plays from the film. Included in this section are also short audition videos featuring some of the cast.
There is an episode of the PBS talk show, "The Charlie Rose Show", which features interviews with Bill Murray and Wes Anderson. While this is enjoyable, it drags at times, and Rose wants Murray to talk more about Hollywood agents than the movie.
There are also film-to-storyboard comparisons and a collection of Wes Anderson’s storyboards from various scenes in the film. The film’s theatrical trailer (which has a great opening) is also included.
While I can’t recommend "Rushmore" enough, I can’t recommend this Criterion Collection edition of the film. While some of the extra features are OK, they aren’t the kind of thing that you would watch over and over, and they definitely aren’t worth the $40 price tag. This edition may be director approved, but I have a feeling that Max Fischer wouldn’t have liked it.