Dude, Where’s My Car?

Dude, Where’s My Car? (2000)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Seann William Scott
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Extended Scenes, Music Video, Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots

They say that everything old is new again. This, of course, refers to the notion that societal and cultural trends, such as music and fashion, will come into style, die out, and then be in vogue again. This theory applies to movies as well. In 1989, Generation X was introduced to a movie which would create a new sub-genre of teenage films: "Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure". This mixture of stoner humor and science-fiction ushered in a new vocabulary for Americans, and a new kind of idiot hero. Now, some 12 years later, it’s Generation Y’s turn to get a taste of "Bill & Ted" with "Dude, Where’s My Car?" starring Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott. While this movie begins as an average teen comedy, it quickly swerves into never-never land, where anything can happen.

In "Dude, Where’s My Car?", Kutcher and Scott play best friends Jesse and Chester. Following a wild night of partying, the pair can’t remember where they left Jesse’s car, so they set off to find it. (Hence, the thought-provoking title.) Besides the obvious necessity of transportation, Jesse and Chester want to find the car because the anniversary presents which they’ve purchased for their girlfriends ("The Twins", played by Jennifer Garner and Marla Sokoloff) are in the vehicle.

Their simple search for Jesse’s car soon turns into a wild adventure. The pair soon learn that they went all over town and did many strange things, such as bringing home a lot of pudding and handing out huge amounts of cash, but they can’t remember any of the details. While trying to sort through the clues of their nocturnal exploits, Jesse and Chester soon find themselves in an inter-stellar conflict. It seems that the pair may be in possession of the continuum transfunctioner (which sounds like a Douglas Adams creation), a mysterious and powerful device. A Heaven’s Gate-like cult, a group of jumpsuit wearing super-models and two Nordic body-builders all confront the hapless Jesse and Chester demanding the return of the device. Of course, our moronic heroes have no idea what these strangers are talking about, but they soon learn that in order to discover the whereabouts of Jesse’s car and regain the memories of what their wild night entailed, they must solve the mystery of the continuum transfunctioner and quite possibly save the universe.

Based on the publicity materials which I’d seen for "Dude, Where’s My Car?" and comments from these who had seen the film, I expected it to be stupid. Well, I was not prepared to for the unprecedented stupidity of this film. But, buried underneath the rampant stupidity is a fun little movie. "Dude, Where’s My Car?" never takes itself seriously for one second (how could it with that title?) and director Danny Leiner keeps things moving along at a brisk pace. Despite the fact that the opening credits sequence gives one clues that the film is going to deal with some odd subjects, "Dude, Where’s My Car?" starts out like any other teen comedy. But, by Chapter 6, all sense of logic and restraint has been thrown out the window and the film just gets weirder with every scene after that. "Dude, Where’s My Car?" isn’t a laugh-a-minute riot, but it is consistently funny, with several scenes that invoke true belly-laughs (my favorite being Jesse’s definition of what constitutes a true "barn").

As mentioned above, "Dude, Where’s My Car?" owes a great deal to "Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure", and this may be what ultimately saves the film. Besides the fact that "Bill & Ted" has prepared us for such a film, Jesse and Chester share an important characteristic with Bill & Ted. If we met any of these four characters in real life, we’d probably want to smack them due to their laziness and thick-headedness. But, while watching the film, you can’t help but like Jesse and Chester, because they ultimately want to do what’s right. In the midst of all the craziness going on around them, they just want to make their girlfriends happy. (Similar to "The Princess’" in "Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey") The only real difference is the overt implication that Jesse and Chester are true "stoners". (We only assumed that Bill & Ted got that way because of drugs.) Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott appear to having a great time in this film, as does everyone in the cast. While Kutcher is only rehashing his Kelso character from "That 70’s Show" and Scott’s portrayal closely resembles his turn in "Road Trip", that doesn’t detract from the outlandish fun of "Dude, Where’s My Car?".

"Dude, Where’s My Car?" arrives on DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and represents another reference quality transfer from Fox. The film has been <$PS,letterboxed> at 1.85:1 and is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TVs. The image is extremely sharp and clear, showing practically no grain or onscreen noise. The picture shows basically zero signs of artfacting or edge-enhancement. This transfer particularly does justice to the colors in the film. "Dude, Where’s My Car?" is full of bright colors and pastels and they come across beautifully on this DVD. The fleshtones are consistently realistic as well. The framing appears to be accurate, as there is apparent loss of visual information at the top or bottom of the screen.

This DVD scores in the audio department as well. From the opening credit sequence, this <$DD,Dolby Digital> 5.1 track impresses. (Listen for the ostrich squawk during the credits, which sounds as if it is coming from a center rear channel!) The dialogue is consistently clear and audible and there are no shifts in volume. There is a generous use of surround sound and the soundtrack features a wide sound field with excellent screen-to-speaker sound effect placement. Most of the music in the film is of the alt-rock variety and sounds very good, as a nice, deep bass response is heard throughout the film. This soundtrack definitely helps to add to the viewing experience.

The "Dude, Where’s My Car?" DVD doesn’t offer that many special features, but at least one of them is worth checking out. The DVD features an <$commentary,audio commentary> with director Danny Leiner, and stars Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott. Now, I have a question: Did they know that this was being recorded and would be heard by millions (?) of people? This trio totally goes for broke on this commentary and talks about some crazy stuff. From working with strippers to advice on how to cheat on your girlfriend, nothing appears to be taboo in this conversation. During all of this, they are able to tell us about the making of the film and how the story was developed, but most of the time is devoted to laughing and telling shocking stories. After some of the boring and morose commentaries that I’ve sat through lately, this talk was certainly an eye-opener. (Be warned, there are some words used in this commentary, which could not have appeared in the PG-13 feature film!)

Speaking of what can or can’t be in a PG-13 film, we next have 7 extended scenes. Most of these scenes play almost exactly like their counterparts in the finished film, except for small or subtle differences. These usually concern dialogue (not how "oral" and "erotic" were switched) or mere seconds of footage. Of these 7 scenes, only one is entirely new. It would have been nice to have some commentary with these scenes, so that the obvious cuts made to get a PG-13 could be explained. Overall, there isn’t much new footage here and these scenes are best viewed as an alternate version of the film. There is a technical flaw with this section. On each scene, the audio continues to play for several seconds after the video ends (at times, going into a new scene), creating an odd effect.

We next have a 4 and a 1/2 minute featurette, which offers brief interviews with the cast and something called "Dude Cam" in which we get to see some members of the cast in the makeup chair (and most looking very annoyed). Next, there is the theatrical trailer for the film, which is presented full-frame, and 3 TV spots, which are <$PS,letterboxed> at 1.85:1. Finally, we have a music video from the band Grand Theft Audio for the aptly-title song "Stoopid Ass." While this song is is 2-channel stereo, I found the recording level to be very low and I had to adjust the volume greatly to even be able to hear the song.

If you’ve just watched a particularly heavy film, such as "Full Metal Jacket", or in my case, "Memento", then "Dude, Where’s My Car?" may be the perfect palette-cleanser. The film is mercilessly dumb, but it is funny in places and never tries to be more than it is. The DVD of the film offers a brilliant transfer with great picture and sound, and one of the wildest commentaries you’ll ever hear. Now, I just hope that I never hear the word "shibby" again.