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Mick Jackson
Adam Garcia, Rosario Dawson, Jake Busey, Enrico Colantoni, Ethan Suplee, Anjul Nigam
Writing Credits:
Jon Favreau, Gary Tieche, based on the novel by Po Bronson

Rated PG-13 for language and sexual content.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Standard 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround
English, Spanish

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 12/24/2002

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The First $20 Million (2002)

Reviewed by David Williams (January 15, 2003)

Adam Garcia (COYOTE UGLY) and Rosario Dawson (MEN IN BLACK II) star in this hilarious dot-comedy of errors about five social misfits who set out to make history and wind up making millions.

When burnt-out marketing exec Andy Caspar (Garcia) decides to “create something”, he recruits an oddball trio of dysfunctional geniuses to design the world’s first $99 computer. The project proves hopeless until Andy’s sexy neighbor (Dawson) steps in to rekindle his creativity and add a few sparks of her own.

Rich with laughs and side-splitting sight gags, THE FIRST $20 MILLION proves anything is possible if you believe in yourself and your friends … no matter how strange they are!

Boy, after reading the back of the DVD case that accompanies the film, you’d be a fool not to watch The First $20 Million. With all of its “laughs” and “side-splitting sight gags”, The First $20 Million sounds like a riotous good time. What you don’t know is that this is one of the most misleading covers that has ever graced a DVD. This film has got to be one of the worst-acted, least funny, and most laborious films that I have viewed in months and thankfully for you, I wasted my time watching it so you wouldn’t have to. (You’re welcome.)

The movie takes place in the mid to late-90’s – when the dot com boom was in full swing – and we are introduced to young marketing exec, Andy Casper (Adam Garcia). Even with his larger-than-life salary, super-fine Porsche, and super-fine girlfriend, life just isn’t fulfilling as it should be to him. He decides that he wants to make something meaningful with his life and therefore, Casper turns in his resignation to his boss, gets him to pull a few strings, and ends up working for the La Honda Research Institute in Silicon Valley – a low-paying research gig at a technology “think tank”. Andy then proceeds to load up his Porsche and ends up finding cheap, communal living quarters near his new job. It’s there that he meets Stanford art student, Alisa (Rosario Dawson) – a new source of inspiration for Andy.

At his new job at Le Honda, Andy meets Francis Benoit (Enrico Colantoni) – the leader of the technical “super team” Andy is assigned to work for and he’s somewhat perturbed that Andy has been added to his team without his knowledge. Benoit learns that Andy was behind the ad campaign for his last invention – some sort of chicken suit – and he is still somewhat disappointed with the results. In return, Benoit makes it his mission to make Andy’s life a living hell on earth. Francis immediately kicks Andy off of his team and assigns him his own team – one responsible for creating a $99 laptop computer. This is a “killer app” if there ever was one … one that is sure to kill the career of any young research guru at La Honda.

Andy accepts the challenge with unusual gusto and sets out to recruit the best programmers left that aren’t already working on a major project. We are introduced in short order to Salman (Anjul Nigam), a super-hacker whose laptop is strapped to his chest and someone who utilizes one of the Secret Service’s T1 lines for his own devices; Tiny (Ethan Suplee), a shy and ultra-geeky uber-programmer with little to no social skills; and Darrell (Jake Busey), the hardware god of the group who also happens to be a germ-o-phobe and refers to himself in the first-person. Andy takes these societal misfits and manages to do the impossible – get closer than anyone else has in creating the $99 dollar computer using a mish-mash and hodge-podge of components.

However, as the “$99 Laptop Computer” project comes to a close, the funding for the project is mysteriously yanked out from under them and Andy and company must find a way to continue the project without third-party funding. Will the project see completion without financing? You tell me. (Uggggh.)

The “little guy versus the evil corporate world” story is completely uninspiring and the talent vacuum that is the cast simply makes you want to turn off your DVD player. Jon Favreau’s unfunny screenplay (yes, that Jon Favreau) of Po Bronson’s novel and Mick Jackson’s lackluster direction don’t help matters much either. The “inside” computer nerd jokes fall completely flat and the film is a few years late in cashing in on the Silicon Valley hey day. Do I need to spell it out further? The First $20 Million quite simply leaves a rancid smell in your DVD player when it’s ejected.

The film is equal parts Revenge of the Nerds and Office Space and pulls neither off well. The title of the film is rather ironic, as I would imagine that this film making $20 million dollars would be not only hard, but practically impossible. It’s hard to make that kind of cash when you’re relegated to a video store rental bin.

The DVD Grades: Picture A- / Audio B- / Bonus F-

The First $20 Million is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and has received anamorphic treatment from the studio. Fox has also included a pan-and-scan version of the film on the flip side of the disc, but for purposes of my review, I’ll only review the widescreen version.

The source print looks immaculate and is free of any major flaws and/or errors. The image was finely tight and detailed with pleasant hues and excellent saturation. The palette used in the film was very natural and tended to accentuate the outdoor scenes quite nicely. There was nothing that really stood out one way or the other, as hues tended to be rather nonspecific – accentuating the actors’ outfits and generic indoor and outdoor sets. There was excellent shadow detail and delineation noted, with deep black levels that never seemed muddy or murky and fleshtones were consistently pleasing. The First $20 Million was properly balanced and saturated throughout and there was never any bleeding or smearing noted at any time.

Flaws were practically non-existent and about the only thing(s) I saw wrong with the transfer were a little bit of grain and a small amount of shimmer. Other than that, the transfer is just a few flaws short of perfection.

Fox’s transfer is immaculate – too bad it’s attached to a horrendous excuse for a film. Ultimately, The First $20 Million was as pleasing as they come. Excellent job.

Fox’s The First $20 Million receives a Dolby Digital 5.1 treatment that is very front surround heavy. The rear surrounds are rarely used during the film and there is absolutely no sense of ambience created during the film at any time. Effects were few and far between and were limited to general background noise, slamming doors, passing cars, and the like. The film was unfortunately dialogue-driven and never strayed far from the front soundstage although the proceedings were always crisp, clean, and easily understood. The LFE surprisingly came in to play on a couple of occasions, but was nothing to write home about. The film’s quirky score received quite ordinary dynamics and fidelity with nice stereo separation. The track was very unassuming and generic and if there were more metaphorical ways to say “got the job done”, I’d use ‘em here.

Fox has also included a Dolby Digital 2.0 track in Spanish, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.

There’s absolutely nothing on this disc at all – zero. If I could score this section lower, I would, but F- is as low as you can go. No trailers, no cast and crew bios, no nothing. Hopefully, the score will accurately reflect that.

If this film is trying to be the 21st century version of Office Space, it falls way, way short. Hell, it’s not even the 21st century version of Boiler Room or Antitrust. We care nothing about these characters or their dilemma and ultimately, The First $20 Million will end up being nothing more than a back-shelf video store rental. If you’re already familiar with the film, then by all means, pick up a copy as Fox has the A/V specs nailed down perfectly. If you’re not familiar with The First $20 Million, rent a copy first and save yourself the frustration of wasting your money.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.7407 Stars Number of Votes: 27
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