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Cameron Crowe
Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, Bruce McGill, Judy Greer, Jessica Biel, Paul Schneider, Loudon Wainwright III
Writing Credits:
Cameron Crowe

It's a heck of a place to find yourself.

After costing his company millions of dollars, Drew Baylor (Bloom) travels back to his Kentucky hometown for his father's funeral. Along the way, he meets Claire (Dunst), a flight attendant who becomes very assertive in her quest to hook up with Drew. Meanwhile, he's gotta deal with his painfully quirky family of yokels.

Box Office:
$57 million.
Opening Weekend
$10.618 million on 2517 screens.
Domestic Gross
$26.838 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 123 min.
Price: $29.95
Release Date: 2/7/2006

• “Training Wheels” Featurette
• “Meet the Crew” Featurette
• Extended Scenes
• Photo Gallery
• Trailers
• Previews


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Elizabethtown: Special Collector's Edition (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 23, 2006)

Maybe Cameron Crowe can’t have it both ways. 2000’s Almost Famous received consistently positive notes from critics but failed to find much of an audience. 2001’s Vanilla Sky did much better at the box office, but it earned little critical affection.

At least one side or the other liked each of those films. In the case of 2005’s Elizabeth, critics and moviegoers agreed: it was a dud. The flick earned mostly weak reviews and took in a mere $26 million at the box office.

I really like and respect Crowe, so I’d like to say that he deserved better. Unfortunately, I fully agree with the majority on this one. Elizabethtown stinks.

Creative whiz kid Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) works for a major shoe company and bombs with his unusual design for the “Spasmotica”. Shajkdsak causes the company to lose $972 million and leads Drew to the brink of suicide. Literally about to off himself, his sister Heather (Judy Greer) calls to tell him their father Mitch (Tim Devitt) just died while on a visit back to his family home of Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

Their mom Hollie (Susan Sarandon) is too upset to make the trip, so they entrust Drew with the duty to retrieve Mitch’s body and bring it back to Oregon for cremation. On the long flight, Drew meets chatty flight attendant Claire Colburn (Kirsten Dunst). The extroverted Claire forces Drew to spend time with her on the nearly-empty flight and leaves him with a card that includes her number.

While Drew finds himself surrounded by family – albeit folks he barely knows – he ends up lonely back in his hotel room. He reaches out to speak to someone and takes a stab in the direction of Claire. They end up having a mind-blowing all-night conversation. This leads fitfully to a romance and many other adventures as Drew tries to deal with his failure and come to terms with his father’s death.

If you like musical montages, then Elizabethtown is the flick for you! Crowe started as a music writer, and his love for rock remains well-established. He fills his movies with music and usually uses it to good effect.

However, he also usually finds a way to make the music embellish the story and not just act as filling. In the case of Elizabethtown, I get the impression Crowe picked a lot of songs he liked and created a film around them. The tunes never serve the scenes, as the scenes seem to exist to feature to songs.

My God, this is a movie that climaxes with a musical montage! I don’t think it’s a spoiler to indicate that the final act features a long road trip in which Drew drives home to the accompaniment of a collection of mix CDs created for the occasion. Not only does the film suffer from the inclusion of yet another montage, but also it drops a few points due to the absurdity of the whole enterprise. The CDs are timed to perfectly coincide with each part of the road trip. What if Drew gets in a traffic jam or gets lost?

Never mind logic, though - Elizabethtown tosses that out the window. It’s never very clear why Drew’s shoe is such a monumental failure; after all, wouldn’t they test out the thing before they invest so much money in it? And isn’t it hard to believe that one shoe could lose almost a billion dollars? I’m not a businessman, but that seems hard to accept.

We also get a scene in which the seriously poorly behaved son of Drew’s cousin Jessie (Paul Schneider) apparently immediately changes his ways after he watches one short instructional videotape. Damn, I need me a copy of that tape! I work with kids like that – I wish I had such an easy solution.

That’s the problem with Elizabethtown: it lives in some bizarre world of fantasy, just chock full of unrealistic characters. The movie never bothers to attempt to explain why Drew became so distant and detached from saintly father, a man clearly beloved by all and seemingly a fine dad to Drew. I guess we’re supposed to accept that Drew simply became obsessed with his work, but I don’t quite buy that.

I also can’t accept the caricatures that populate the movie. Poor Dunst gets stuck with possibly the most absurd character of the bunch. Claire is arguably the most whimsical piece of quirkiness to grace the screen since Johnny Depp’s lead role in the sickening Benny and Joon. Dunst makes the character palatable, but she’s so ridiculously whimsical that she could only exist in the mind of a writer. And where in the world did she find the time to burn 42 hours of CDs?

At least Dunst fares better than Sarandon. Her character has nothing to do but look foolish until her One Big Scene. Even though she insists that she won’t come to the memorial for Mitch – longtime animosities keep her from Elizabethtown – she pops up at the last minute anyway. Then she gives a speech that includes a standup routine complete with a joke about a neighbor’s erection and some tap-dancing!

Add to that the memorial’s conclusion: a rock band’s performance of “Free Bird” that finishes with a fake bird that catches fire as it soars over the ballroom. How is it possible that the same man who created the sweet, memorable “Tiny Dancer” scene in Almost Famous can thrust such absurd, idiotic nonsense on us? I don’t know, but I can say that Elizabethtown stands as a major blemish on Cameron Crowe’s career. Silly, stupid and almost unwatchable, I hope the film doesn’t point toward a filmmaker in decline.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio B-/ Bonus D

Elizabethtown appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Like the movie itself, this transfer came as a disappointment.

Sharpness was the main problem. Close-ups looked fine, but much of the rest of the movie came across as awfully ill-defined. Edge enhancement created some of these problems, as I noticed rather prominent haloes at times. The general impression the transfer left was of a soft image. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but I noticed a few specks.

Colors looked a little overblown at times, but they usually stayed with a natural palette. The movie favored greens a bit, though it mostly was pretty clear and clean. Blacks were acceptably deep, but shadows tended to appear somewhat muddy and heavy. Too much of the movie seemed messy and murky to me. I didn’t think a brand-new flick like this should present such mediocre visuals

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Elizabethtown failed to present similar flaws, but it also didn’t demonstrate many strengths. That’s because it was a decidedly low-key affair. Not much happened to bring the soundfield to life. Music was omnipresent and offered reasonably good stereo imaging. Effects played a minor role. They added some specifics at times but I’d be hard-pressed to name any scenes that made them stand out in a memorable way. This was a music-centered movie that didn’t do much with its soundscape.

Audio quality was fine. Speech seemed natural and concise, and I noticed no problems with the dialogue. Effects were clear and accurate, even if they did stay in the background. Music varied dependent on the source but remained consistently good at worst. The songs were clean and distinctive. This was a serviceable soundtrack.

A surprisingly tepid set of supplements fills out the DVD. In keeping with the movie, a two-minute and 18-second featurette called Training Wheels presents a musical montage. We hear a song demo as we see video footage from the shoot and rehearsals. It offers a mildly interesting glimpse behind the scenes and nothing more.

Next comes a two-minute and 36-second piece entitled Meet the Crew. Yet another musical montage, it shows us folks on the set and tells us their first names and jobs. It’s nice to give them this form of credit, but that doesn’t make it very compelling.

Two Extended Scenes pop up after this. We get a full look at “Rusty’s Learning to Listen Part 8” (3:35) and more of “Hanging with Russell in Memphis” (7:28). The latter lets us see additional chatting and improv as well as general outtakes. Neither of these seems too interesting.

A Photo Gallery splits into 10 smaller areas. We get some behind the scenes shots as well as collections of publicity photos that focus on the actors. All together, we locate 132 images. A few are good, but most are unmemorable.

In addition to two Trailers, the DVD includes a collection of Previews. We get ads for Charmed, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Yours, Mine and Ours and Aeon Flux.

One of the most absurd movies I’ve seen in some time, Elizabethtown comes as a major disappointment. I always root for Cameron Crowe, but this stinker flops in almost every way. It borders on parody much of the time and never remotely embraces any believable emotion. The DVD suffers from excessively soft visuals, lackluster audio, and a forgettable collection of extras. Skip Elizabethtown and watch Almost Famous again instead.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.8709 Stars Number of Votes: 31
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